Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Cherry Picks RYA Match Race Hat Trick

J/80s sailing in RYA Match Race regatta on Queen Mary Reservoir- London, England
(Queen Mary Reservoir, London, England- Oct. 22-24)- Racing in a matched fleet of J/80s, Nick Cherry picked up a third Royal Yachting Association National Match Racing title, scooping victory in a thrilling final showdown.

It went right down to the wire with a maximum five race final but it was two-time National title holder Nick Cherry (2007,2006) who finally walked away victorious this past weekend, walking off with the coveted crown for a third time at the 2010 RYA National Match Racing Championship Grand Final held at Queen Mary Sailing Club, Staines (about 15 minutes southwest of Heathrow Airport).  Nick had to overcome double defending champion Mark Campbell-James (2009, 2008, 2005), who was also looking likely to rack up a three straight wins hat-trick this year sailing with his newly crowned Extreme 40 Series Champion brother Paul.  Cherry kept his nerve right up until the last possible race clinching the 2010 title in the "thrilla from Manila" final "rope-a-dope" race.    

Entering the quarter finals on Saturday in pole position with a 100% unbeaten record Campbell-James retained his perfect score right up until the third race of the finals. But it didn’t take long for Cherry, who suffered defeats to Sam Pearson and Campbell-James early on in the round-robin phase, to find his winning pace. The Southampton based sailor stepped it up a gear and cruised through the quarter and semi-finals having not dropped a race, boosting his team’s confidence ready for the trophy deciding duel.

It was Campbell-James who took the first two wins looking to have all but sealed the crown. However race three saw a come-back from Cherry who edged ahead and forced the result to a fourth contest. Holding his nerve in impressive style Cherry and his crew, Matt Adams, Ed Hill and Connor Myant, pushed through with another win, this time more convincing, profiting from a lucky split on the start line enabling him to stretch out ahead.

With two wins a piece tensions were running high between the old rivals as they went into the fifth and final clash. Neck-and-neck right up to the second windward mark, the race could have gone either way. But pushing in front after a head-to-wind luffing match, Cherry rounded the mark first sealing the deal and crossing the line ahead of his opponent to swipe the title in an enthralling climax to the event.

A chuffed Cherry commented: "It feels really good to win again. When we were two races down we just said to each other we knew we could do it and we’re sailing pretty well. We didn’t get too down and just carried on and got stuck in! I think we got in tune with the shifts and started to sail the race course more effectively than our opponents and it came together for us. There was plenty of overtaking, hanging around head-to-wind at the windward mark and there was lead changing in almost every race. We’ve raced Mark a lot over the years and it’s always close. It’s what we know so we knew if we could just hold it together there was every chance we could win. We really enjoyed it!" he concluded.

A disappointed Campbell-James was eager to sing his opponent's praises: "It was good racing out there – we're a bit gutted but we were unbeaten until the last three races and those were the three that counted. Nick sailed well and we had a good fight on pretty much every race of the final."  With half his crew hailing from the same town as Cherry he joked: "My crew Paul and Nick are a bit upset about the Southampton rivalry but they’re good mates and they’ll get over it!"

The petit final saw Women’s World Match Racing Champions Lucy Macgregor and Annie Lush, plus crew, beat higher ISAF ranked skipper Ali Hall in three straight wins ensuring a well-deserved podium spot for this week’s Busan Women's International Match Race, (Korea) bound team.  The girls were a potent force in this year's event.  Even Campbell-James was treating them with the upmost respect and awe, stating that, "I think the girls are going to be on form – they’ve obviously been sailing well all year and they are World Champions. The interesting thing will be how much the level has moved on since last year with the girls having done so much and how the guys are going to fair against them. It’ll be interesting to see who comes out on top."

Racing was tight across all ten teams sailing at the Grand Final, and youngest competing skipper, James French, made a great event debut beating World University Match Racing Champion Andrew Shaw in one of his races.      

Long standing Umpire, Chris Simon, joined Cherry in taking home an accolade from the weekend picking up the Paul Banner trophy for his sportsmanship and outstanding contribution to International Umpiring; the event marking his retirement from his international role.  Final results and sailing information for J/80 RYA Match Racing.   Preview of the J/80 RYA Match Race sailing event.