Fireball World Champion wins the GJW Direct SailJuice Winter Series


After three hard winter months and six great dinghy handicap events, reigning Fireball World Champion Tom Gillard and Simon Potts sailed to victory in the GJW Direct SailJuice Winter Series. Among many impressive results was their fleet victory at the windy Grafham Grand Prix and outright victory with two bullets at the Yorkshire Dales Brass Monkey, another windy event.

This was a best-four-of-six series, but the top-placed competitor to complete the full set was RS600 sailor Pete Nelson who won the first event in November, the Draycote Dash. The Northampton Sailing Club representative continued to lead the Series although Gillard and Potts were starting to threaten once the discards kicked in. Ironically Nelson was undone by a lowly performance at his home club, the RS600s not faring so well in the light winds of the final event last weekend, the Steve Nicholson Memorial Trophy. 

Tom Gillard
© Ian Smith: Tom Gillard and Simon Potts in the winning Fireball

Instead it was the 49er sailed by Rick Peacock and Nick Murray, representing Bartley Sailing Club, that moved into second place overall. Peacock, a silver medallist in the 49er World Championships, has recently retired from full-time Olympic campaigning having narrowly missed selection for the London 2012 Games, but his attendance at these tough winter events shows Peacock has lost none of his passion for the sport.

So RS600 sailor Peter Nelson finished a very respectable 3rd overall, with a number of other competitors who ran him close for the podium. Craig Williamson’s Laser just edged out the Merlin Rocket sailed by Matt Biggs and John Hackett. Williamson’s performance follows in the wake of a strong performance by Ian Morgan who sailed a Laser to 2nd overall in last year’s SailJuice Winter Series. 

Over the past four years of the SailJuice Winter Series, the hard work of the Great Lakes Group has produced a set of numbers that much more accurately reflects the performances on the water in these big handicap events. For the second year running, the overall top 10 finishers came from nine different classes, with the Merlin Rocket being the only to feature twice. The International Moths dominated the Bloody Mary, taking the top three places in conditions tailor-made for their foiling abilities, so there is still work to be done in balancing up the handicap numbers even further. This weekend the Great Lakes group is convening again for its customary Dinghy Show round-table meeting to decide on any adjustments for next winter’s Series. The increasing accuracy of the Great Lakes is also attracting interest from ever more sailing clubs around the country who want to provide fairer racing for their members.

In the 2012/13 Series, the top youth boat was the 420 sailed by Ben Hazeldine and Rhos Hawes representing Frensham Pond, and finishing 17th overall with their high point being victory in the competitive slow handicap division at Grafham. Ladies winner was Brenda Hoult who sailed her Laser 4.7 into 16th overall. Not only that - she started this Series as a competitor but by the finish had joined SailRacer and has become a key organiser for next year’s GJW Direct SailJuice Winter Series, which will include some exciting innovations and new venues in the line-up.

Many of the events were filled well in advance of race day, and entry levels were up significantly on previous years. The biggest turnout was the Bloody Mary with 340 boats, the event’s largest since the turn of the century. In total, 781 boats competed at one or more of the events in this Series, proving the British bulldog spirit for going racing in even the toughest of conditions is as alive and well as it ever was.

The six organising clubs deserve huge thanks for running and management of such complex events. The sheer number of competitors and different types of boat of such varying sizes and speeds makes for a very challenging scenario with plenty of scope for things to go wrong. Add to that the toe-numbing demands of standing on a freezing committee boat or rescue boat, volunteering for a winter handicap regatta is the kind of challenge that only someone with the constitution of Sir Ranulph Fiennes would attempt. So, thanks again to the volunteers and club staff that made this winter’s Series possible.

Overall Results from the Series here:

Are you signed up to Sailjuice Essential? It's our free monthly newsletter full of advice, tips and techniques from the world's best sailors. What's more, we'll send you a free copy of our ebook Sail Different – guaranteed to bring some fresh ideas to your sailing.

Click the button below and take your sailing to the next level!