Ben Saxton and Toby Lewis have won the 2018 Endeavour Trophy for the fourth time in succession with an impressive scoreline of six wins writes Sue Pelling.
Although Christian Birrell and Sam Brearey representing the Merlin Rocket class were the ones who managed to break Ben Saxton and Toby Lewis' complete domination of the event, they could do nothing to affect the overall standings of the super-fast serial Endeavour champions, and had to settle for second place overall, while Maria Stanley and Alan Roberts (RS200) took third.
After leading at the first windward mark, and winning every race yesterday, on the opening day of the 2018 Endeavour Trophy championship series, Saxton and Lewis were forced to take a third place in the second race of the day (race 6) after a startline error, and consequential penalty turns.
Although it didn't take long for them to work their way up the fleet into third place in today's lighter airs, they were unable to catch, Birrell and Brearey who finished nearly a minute ahead of Tom Morris and Guy Fillmore (RS800) in second. Saxton and Lewis also nearly missed the first race of the day while carrying out running repairs to their gooseneck but again, it didn't seem to affect their speed and they went on to win that one too.
A happy, smiley Saxton talking about his win, said: "I am really happy. It is great to have competed here once again in what was another seamless event. Good racing and good shout out to Christian and Sam, and Maria and Alan who pushed us and kept us on our toes all the time.
"The key to success at the Endeavour is to work hard but keep the tactics simple. We don't do anything special but we just try to keep the right side of the tide and wind and pick a few boats off here and there."
Chatting about his startline incident, Saxton explained: "Doing a 720 on the line is not fast! I tried to double tack and as I went round at about 20 seconds to go my transom swung out and hit the boat to leeward of us, which happened to be Birrell and Bearey."
Christian Birrell who has competed at the event nine times now said the best bit of the weekend was breaking the Saxton/Lewis domination and winning the battle of the rest of the fleet: "Him [Saxton] hitting us on the startline, gave us a bit of luck and we are absolutely chuffed to have been the ones to beat him this weekend, and win the battle of everyone else"
Talking about what it takes to succeed at this east coast venue, Birrell added: "Burnham is like no other place. You have massive tide movement and different channels of tide, so getting your head around how the tide works and how you can use it to your advantage is probably the biggest gain anyone new to this event can make."
Third placed Stanley, the sole female helmsman, and former two-times Endeavour winning crew, Roberts, sailing a brand-new boat were delighted with their result. Stanley commented: "It is a very impressive fleet so we are really pleased with third. Having now completed my first Endeavour I am hungry for more, so the aim now is to try to get here again."
Roberts talking frankly about what to expect as a competitor at the Endeavour, said: "You soon learn the top sailors you are racing against don't give an inch and you learn how aggressive people can be on the water. They will luff, they will push for the overlap and, because they have a good knowledge of the rules, it is less verbal, which is a good thing."
Six-time former Endeavour champion, Nick Craig, sailing with Emma Clarke, who finished fourth overall said they were just a bit off the pace all weekend, even in the windy conditions yesterday. "It was tough because I just feel a bit big for the boat, so we couldn't really get going. In today's conditions I was never hiking but the crews in all the boats around us were. However, it is always great racing and it was good to be racing with Emma who certainly knows how to sail an RS200."
With considerably less wind today, it was ideal conditions for the lighter weight, young teams including William Pank and 14 year old Seb Getto (RS Feva) who scored an impressive fourth and an eighth, and the all-girl Optimist team of Emily Mueller (15) and Flo Brellisford (15). The girls, who sailed well and survived yesterday's big winds, went out today and scored their best result of the weekend – a seventh. Mueller said it was all about getting a good start: "Today we were able to sail a bit more tactically and we felt we had really started to gel with the boat."
Sunday's prizegiving at the Royal Corinthian YC attended by competitors and guests, including Keith Musto – the winning crew of the first ever Endeavour Trophy in 1961 – marked the end of another highly successful champion of champions series. In his summing up of the event, Musto commented: "It is great to come back to the event to meet all the enthusiasts. To see that 30 boats are competing, shows just how strong the event is, and how much it is respected."