The first winner of the Royal Southern Match Cup Final was the event itself because with the scheduled racing days surrounded by gales and the Pelican SB20s stuck in Cowes, would the event at the Royal Southern YC in Hamble take place at all?
In the end, as the boats couldn’t get to the event, the event would go to the boats which is why after the briefing at the Southern, a flotilla of RIBs and Committee Boats set off through the Solent chop to rendezvous with the boats in Osborne Bay.
With a stiff south-westlerly but in sheltered water, PRO David Arnold hoisted the ‘Yankee’ flag – no spinnakers – and racing began with the competitors undeterred by the conditions. ‘Keep going’ they all said as they showed great skill in the challenging conditions. Despite full-on engagement in the pre-starts and some really tight matches, there were no boat on boat collisions and just the one gentle hand-off with the Committee Boat. Qualifiers from the earlier heats including last year’s winner Sam Pearson, Ali Hall, Andy Shaw and Allan Higgs, were joined by Pete Nicholas and ‘Team Freshie’ from the Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club in Western Australia and the highest placed in the ISAF rankings.
Going through to the semi-finals Andy Shaw beat Ali Hall in the first semi-, while in a dramatic change of fortune in the second semi-, Sam Pearson went into a mighty broach as his boom caught on the backstay while gybing. Heading back to the weather mark is not a quick way to get downwind and so Pete Nicholas charged by to enter the final against Andy Shaw.
In the match winning race Shaw and Nicholas, after some very aggressive manoeuvres, were fast off the line with Shaw just a boat’s length to weather. The lead changed hands several times as they tacked their way up the first beat and gybed down the leeward leg. A good leeward mark rounding gave Shaw the critical space that he needed to get ahead and stay ahead to win the 2012 Academy Match Cup in this, the Royal Southern’s 175th Anniversary year. His win also qualified Shaw for entry into the RYA’s National Match Racing Final. In the petit-final where the lead again changed hands several times, Ali Hall’s ‘major move’ on the last downwind leg saw him home ahead of Sam Pearson, who commented wistfully, ‘Just not our day today’.
Chief Umpire David Battye congratulated the competitors on their boat handling and added, ‘You certainly gave the umpires a lot to do!’. Presented with the Bill Foulkes Aladdin’s Cave Trophy by Academy Chairman Karen Henderson-Williams, Andy Shaw thanked the Club, its race team and the umpires for a good challenging event. ‘I know that it was touch and go whether to hold it at times’, he said, ‘but we all enjoyed the competition and are glad that it went ahead.’
And so Andy Shaw and team, supported by the Royal Southern YC Trust, prepared well for their next visit to the World Student Match Racing Championships where they are the reigning Champions. On this form, they should do well.
1. Andy Shaw, Royal Southern Academy
2. Pete Nicholas, Royal Freshwater Bay YC
3. Ali Hall, Royal Southern YC
4. Sam Pearson, Team Wight Racing, Royal Southern Academy
Images by Mike Foster.