What is Team Racing?
For the uninitiated team racing is all thrills and spills and there’s not a foil or a wing sail in sight. Races last typically 8 – 10 minutes round a short course in colour co-ordinated boats with 3 boats on each team, manoeuvring to get their team into a winning combination of 10 points or less. The discipline really pushes all the sailing skills; to win you need to excel at boat speed, boat handling, starting, tactics, rules and team work. The event also adopts the ‘swiss league’ format for the first stage of the competition, which pitches teams on equal or similar number of wins against each other to ensure the best racing for everyone. Then come Sunday lunchtime the top 8 advance to the quarter finals and the magic of the event really kicks in as the remaining competitors and spectators crowd the grandstand and shoreline to cheer on their heroes and friends in the knockout phase of the contest. Races are umpired on the water with boats penalised during the race so there are no protests ashore; the team that wins across the line is the team that takes the glory.
History of the Wilson Trophy
The first event in 1949 took place both on the lake and on the estuary and was won by Itchenor sailing club and was then known as the ‘The North West Firefly Championships.’
Since then the event which got its Wilson name in 1953 and the title of ‘British Open Team Racing Championship’ in 1995 has grown into a full on international contest and this year will see teams coming from all over the UK, Ireland, the US and as far away as New Zealand to compete. The home club West Kirby has the most wins with 18 titles claimed by one of its home teams and they will be entering four teams this year, including four time winners the West Kirby Hawks who will hope to be once again boosted into the final stages by the home support.
The Wilson Trophy is a phenomenal event on the water with typically close to 300 races being run over the two and a half day event but it is equally well regarded for its off the water activities where long standing friendships are rekindled from around the world and the infamous Wilson dinner which now always includes a mystery guest speaker, the awarding of the Joyce Evans Trophy to the crew deemed most worthy and the now traditional singing of Jerusalem lead by Wilson stalwarts the Southampton Male Voice Choir. Fierce racing, fiercer socials and the 8am start times on Saturday and Sunday really make for one unforgettable event.