Burnham on Crouch, Essex : Nick Craig and Alan Roberts, representing the Merlin Rocket class, have won the 2013 Topper Sailboats-supported-Endeavour Championship at the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club. After finishing second to Christian Birrell and Richard Anderton (Fireball) in the opening race of the eight-race dinghy champion of champions series yesterday, Craig and Roberts achieved an impressive run of seven straight wins.
This overall win also marks an historic occasion for Craig, who now enters the record book for winning the Topper Sailboats-supported-Endeavour Trophy six times, ahead of previous record holder Geoff Carveth. The winning team is also arguably the first to have won the event with seven first places.
For Craig and Roberts it was a huge achievement not least because they were able to prove their dynamic skill in both light and breezy conditions. Although Craig confesses he is no fan of light airs, he and Roberts managed to pull off a fine display of tactical, light wind sailing yesterday. Today, they did it again, but this time the weather couldn’t have been more perfect for the champions; torrential rain, and a stiff breeze with gusts reaching over 25kts.
While some of the lighter weight crews struggled in the gusty conditions, Craig and Roberts were extremely comfortable despite a slow start in the first race of the day when they found themselves buried in ninth place at the first mark after a committee boat startline pile-up.
Birrell and Anderton (Fireball) led the race but by the second beat Team Craig/Roberts had reverted to default and once again led the fleet to the finish and won by just over a minute. They didn't have it all their own way however, because James Date and Toby Wincer (RS800) sailed equally well in the breeze and managed to clinch second place – their best result of the weekend.
Craig commenting on his win, said: "The key to winning was without doubt Alan (Roberts). He nailed every tack, gybe, hoist and drop, and everything was just perfect. It is exceptional to have a crew that works so consistently over eight tough races. Plus, he made really good calls and added a lot of good information."
Commenting on the choice of boat – the Topper Xenon – used for the event, Craig added: "It is a good boat for the event because it can take a really wide weight range. In the light winds the heavy guys don't suffer too much, and the light guys get a good shot of it. In the heavy stuff, yes, you need more weight, but ideally you should choose a bigger crew for the event. If the Endeavour was sailed in smaller boats it would exclude all the bigger helmsmen, which would be a shame."
Roberts, who won the Endeavour Championship last year, crewing for Ben Saxton (RS200) and therefore no stranger to the Xenon added: "The boats are what they are, they are all the same, which makes it a fair playing field. I do prefer sailing them in a bit of breeze because they are more fun downwind, and it is essential to have fun."
Jasper Barnham and Graham Sexton (2000) continued to sail consistently today and, with a final race second place, managed to secure second overall from Birrell and Anderton.
Having finished third last year their aim was to improve their overall result. Barnham commented: "We are delighted to have achieved our goal. We tried to keep mistakes to a minimum, a sort of low risk strategy but kind of frustrated we weren’t able to break Nick’s (Craig) run of first places. To be fair, he was completely dominant. He just seems to get better and better and more difficult to beat. We are working on the assumption he might get worse. He certainly can't get any better, that’s for sure."
At 15-years-old, Crispin Beaumont (Topper 4.2), was one of the youngest/lightest helmsmen at the event. As a solo sailor he took the wise decision to opt for a taller/heavier crew – 31-year-old Chris Bownes. Although they suffered in the lighter breeze yesterday, they sailed well in the breeze today and in the last race scored an eighth place, their best result of the weekend.
Beaumont commenting on crew weight and experience as a first timer to the event, said: "On average I would say you need a bigger crew. We lost out in the lighter breeze but we were improving. And the good thing is we finished in the top 20, which is what we were aiming for. It was a great experience to attend this event and I learnt a lot. If ever I am fortunate enough to be invited again, I will definitely make sure I practise river sailing because it is so tidal here, and I am not used to that. Also we made it up as we went along really, which highlighted the fact I need to plan things more."
At this afternoon's prizegiving at the Royal Corinthian YC, Craig and Roberts were presented with the stunning solid silver scale model of the J Class yacht Endeavour. In his acceptance speech, Craig said he was delighted to have had the honour to sail at this special and unique event once again, and thanked the club's commodore Robert Coyle, all the sponsors and the race team, including Edwin Buckley and Kim Allen, the organisers and race officers.
Overall Results (after 8 races and 1 discard)
- 1st Merlin Rocket - Nick Craig and Alan Roberts (7pts)
- 2nd 2000 - Jasper Barnham and Graham Sexton (21pts)
- 3rd Fireball - Christian Birrell and Richard Anderton (37pts)
- 4th RS200 - Matt Mee and Emma Norris (40pts)
- 5th Scorpion - Steve Hall and Oliver Wells (51pts)
- 6th Streaker - Tom Gillard and James Dawes (57pts)