Saturday 27th November 2010 marked the inaugural Manchester Challenge for the Big M trophy, held at West Kirby Sailing Club under the burgee of the Manchester University Sailing Club. The event featured Manchester University alumni, current members of the team and those who have just completed the club’s RYA Level 1 course, in a ‘Challenger Series’ of mixed-team team racing of epic proportions.

10 boats, each comprising of a helm and crew, were provided with one of WKSC evenly matched fireflys to compete against one another in a series of three boat and two boat team races. The teams for each race were selected on a swiss league basis ensuring that each boat sailed with and against a variety of others, each of a similar ability. The three highest placed boats in the series would then be given the opportunity to go head-to-head with the Manchester Old Boys Team in a best of three final. The winners would take home the Big M Trophy from the now defunct Manchester Big M event, donated by the last ever winners, the Old Boys.

Racing kicked off at a civilised 11.00am and incorporated an hour’s break for lunch followed by a short afternoon session. Despite the limited time on the water (necessary as a result of the sub-zero conditions!) exemplary race management ensured that each boat had completed 15 races by 15.30. The racing proved incredibly close and became more intense as the day wore on as the competitors adjusted to sailing with their new helms/crews and the Alumni sailors rediscovered their sailing ability.

Eventually Tom Key and Sophie Redlin (current team member/alumni) rose to the top of the table winning 11 races as well as the non-counting all boat fleet race. In second place, showing great resilience after a decidedly shaky start, here Alex Norman and Alice Pinkney (alumni/current team member) with 10 wins. Third place was hotly contested with three boats winning 8 team races a piece, leading to a fleet race tie-breaker. Chris McLaughlin and Monica Olcina (current team member/alumni) calmly started at the favoured end of the line to win the final place in the challenging team. With the Challenger Series completed, the Manchester Old Boys hopped out of the start and finish boats and into fireflys to show the challengers how it should be done.

As the daylight faded, taking with it much of the breeze, the stage was set for the best of three final. In the first Tim Vick and Rob Smith (Honorary Old Boy/Old Boy) were over the line and had to return. By contrast the challengers, who were nicely in the groove, started with pace and established a 1,2 combination at the first mark which was never threatened. The second race was filled with controversy, this time Jack Banks and William Snow (Old Boys) were caught the wrong side of the start, however differences of opinion between the race committee and the umpires as to who else may have been too eager resulted in the race being restarted. The Old Boys appeared to have squandered their chance to level the score when the challengers again arrived 1,2 at the top mark. Yet a blistering burst of speed from the Old Boys allowed them to catch the challengers on the final beat and force one of the greatest turnabouts in the history of the event. The final race produced some of the finest team racing of the day with positions constantly changing. Penny Jeffcoate and Rosie Pickford (Old Boys) carried out a sublime conversion which allowed the Old Boys to lead home in a 1,2 combination to retain the Big M trophy. The prize giving was hosted by Spicy Hut in Rusholme, where the combination of good food, free beer and dodgy cava led to a night of revelry at Subspace nightclub in Manchester.

Many thanks to West Kirby SC, in particular Jamie Marston and Chris Riley, for the loan of boats, facilities and supporting the race management. We hope to see more of you at next year’s event ? if there any Manchester Sailing Club Alumni out there, no matter form how many moons ago, please feel free to contact

NB. The winning team then went on to win the Loughborough Lemming event on the following weekend with a few crew changes, with Al Alston and Becs Marks.


1. Tom Key (1st team) + Sophie Redlin (Old Boy)

2. Alex Norman (Old Boy) + Alice Pinkney (2nd team)

3. Chris McLaughlin (1st team) + Monica Olcina (Old Boy)

4. Ali Grennan (1st team crew) + Alex Catlow (Beginner)

5. Rich Hague (1st team) + Rich Wild (Beginner)

6. Will Snow (Old Boy crew) + Catherine Orchard (Intermediate)

7. Sam Collins (Old Boy) + Rob Smith (Old Boy)

8. Rosie Pickford (Old Boy) + Daniel Jamieson (Intermediate)

9. Tim Capper (2nd team) + Emily Clark (Yachting)

10. Eve Campbell (1st team crew) + Michel Schammel (Old Boy)

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