All posts by Jean-Louis Simons

69th Wilson Trophy Preview by Andy Cornah.



The Wilson Trophy is widely regarded as the premier team racing event in the world, attracting some of the world’s most skilled exponents of the discipline, along with many fleet racing and match racing world champions and Olympians. This years’ event, the 69th, takes place on the 4th 5th and 6th of May at the ‘theatre of dreams’ that is West Kirby Marine Lake. The venue is perfectly suited to team racing with (usually) uninterrupted winds blowing across the Dee Estuary with racing taking place meters from the shore, complimented by commentary and a grandstand for spectators. This is the stadium racing that so many other disciplines are trying to re-create but West Kirby have been doing it and doing it well for nearly 70 years.

For the un initiated 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.

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.

As ever the cream of UK team racing will be in attendance. Birdham Bandits from Itchenor Sailing Club were last years’ winners and have continued their winning ways on the UK circuit and will certainly be in contention – their team includes super crew ‘Tobytastic’ Toby Lewis who is now the most decorated Endeavour Trophy winner. Last years’ runners up have switched allegiances from Royal Thames to Oxford & Cambridge Sailing Society; they are a formidable and young team who include Yachts and Yachting’s amateur sailor of the year Fiona Hampshire. Other names who regularly make it to the knockout phase and are back for more include 2013 winners Wessex Exempt, Southampton Male Voice Choir, Paddington Bears, Itchenor SC, and Society Exodus. Amongst the Itchenor SC team is Olympian Ben Saxton who will be taking a break from his Nacra cat sailing to compete in the Wilson, as he has for many years. Ben comments ‘I love the Wilson and want to come every year. It is an easy way to get great boat on boat racing against some awesome sailors. Combine that with brushing up on rules and it’s a great thing for my Olympic campaign’ Other Olympians competing include Luke Patience and Stu Bithell who will be competing for the ‘Northern Clydes’ and hoping to again reach the knock out stages as they did last year.

The overseas teams look particularly strong this year. Royal St George who have a long association with the event are sending a senior and a youth team over to compete. The powerhouse of team racing that is the US of A is sending over four very strong teams including 2016 runners up Days of Thunder alongside New York Yacht Club, ‘Big Whoop’ who represent the College of Charleston Yacht Club and Yale Corinthian Yacht Club, who include two helms from the ‘Team Extreme’ team that won the Wilson in 2010 and 2011. Comfortably winning the award for the furthest travelled team will be ‘The Kiwis’ representing Kerikeri Cruising Club and lead by Reubun Corbett who is a recent World Match Race Tour card holder.

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. This year the event is also going to be captured by VR Sport and a new website is set to be launched which will hopefully stream races and video content live from the event along with up to date race results.

As we head into the 69th Wilson Trophy attention is already very much focused on the 2019 event which will be the 70th anniversary event taking place on the 10th, 11th and 12th of May 2019. West Kirby always go flat out for the anniversary events; the 50th saw 50 teams take part with two race courses and the 60th saw the event switch from 2 to 2.5 days which has stuck ever since. Plans are taking shape for 3 full days of racing, international themed evenings and even a UK/Overseas Team Racing Challenge preceding the event on the 9th May. The hope is that many teams that have graced the event in the past will return to renew old rivalries and to pitch themselves against the new generation of Wilson Trophy competitors. The 70th Wilson is set to be a huge event which will hopefully set the famous trophy on course to go from strength to strength for another 70 years and beyond.


69th Wilson Trophy – 10 teams now entered, including one team from the USA, Ireland and one team from New Zealand…

10 teams have now entered the 69th Wilson Trophy, including last years winners the Birdham Bandits, as well as SMVC and Wessex Exempt Sailing Club.

From the USA, Days of Thunder, runners up at the 2016 Wilson Trophy. From Ireland, we welcome once again a team from Royal St George Y.C. and from New Zealand we welcome team “The Kiwis” from Kerikeri Cruising Club, led by Reuben Corbett, New Zealand Open Team Racing Champion.

The latest entry comes from team “Edinburgh Express”, who have competed in 7 Wilson Trophy and are previous winners of BUSA, Angel of the North and in 2017 BSDRA.



Wilson Trophy 2018 – 4th, 5th & 6th of May.

69th Wilson Trophy.
After an outstanding event this year, with some of the closest racing ever recorded, the entry for the  69th Wilson Trophy is now open.

Plans are also well under way for the 70th Wilson, which will held between the 9th/12th of May 2019,  with the possibility of a GBR/USA challenge match on the opening day. This will be one to remember, in the true tradition of WKSC. As well as the closely fought team racing on the water, there will be events ashore for everyone to enjoy, including  American and Irish themed evenings open to everyone, competitors and club members alike. Can we live up to the parties during the 1995 Worlds at WKSC ? It has got to be worth a try. It will be a great way to thank our visitors from Ireland and the USA, both long standing supporters of the event, and we already have had very positive feedback from both countries about this next landmark in the history of the Wilson Trophy.

2017 Blueoak Estates Wilson Trophy at West Kirby Sailing Club – Report by Andrew Cornah

by Andrew Cornah on 23 May 2017

Fabulous sailing conditions on Sunday at the 68th Wilson Trophy © Alan Jenkins

The Blueoak Estates Wilson Trophy, held at West Kirby Sailing Club, is widely regarded as the premier dinghy team racing event in the world, as well as being recognised as the British Open Team Racing Championship.

The 68th edition, held over the 5th/7th May, was considered by all involved to be one of the best ever. 30 teams, including three from the US and one from Ireland, competed in a Swiss League round robin format for the first stage, which would see the top 8 teams progress to the knockout stages in front of the grandstand on Sunday afternoon.

Friday and Saturday were not the usual West Kirby conditions with the wind instead coming off the land and producing some very challenging and shifty conditions. Saturday night saw the formidable Wilson dinner take place with this year’s guest speaker, Ben Saxton, swapping Olympic catamarans for the thrills and spills of Firefly team racing. GJW Direct presented their annual Outstanding Achievement award to umpire Richard Thompson for his long term support of the Wilson and his services to team racing, including his Chairmanship of the UK Team Racing Association.

Sunday really delivered – the wind filled in from the north and with sun all day (it’s always sunny in West Kirby) it really was champagne sailing. Stage one finished after an incredible 330 races with each team racing 22 times. The competitiveness of all teams really showed with just 3 race wins separating the team in 6th with the team in 25th place in the Swiss league.

This is when the magic of the Wilson really kicks in; the sailors who haven’t made it through to the quarter finals line the grandstand and the shore, with live commentary on the races that are taking place just meters away on the ‘Theatre of Dreams’ that is West Kirby marine lake. The knockout stages produced some amazing races; in quarter final 1, number 1 seeds Birdham Bandits defeated Northern Clydes, a team which included Olympic silver medallists Luke Patience and Stu Bithell; Royal Thames Blue saw off SMVC, Wessex Exempt dispatched the remaining American team ‘Days of Thunder’ and defending champions West Kirby Hawks narrowly overcame traditional rivals Spinnaker. In the semi- finals Birdham kept up their momentum defeating 2013 winners Wessex Exempt in 2 straight races. The 2nd semi pitched local favourites and four time winners West Kirby Hawks against a young Royal Thames Blue team who had impressed everyone over the event. Over the best of 3 it was the youngsters who prevailed over experience, showing great boat speed and team work to win 2-1.

The final was, as Wilson finals often are, epic and went the full distance of 5 races with the Birdham Bandits, representing Itchenor Sailing Club who were winners of the first ever Wilson way back in 1949, coming from 2-1 down to claim the much coveted Wilson Trophy. The Birdham Bandits sailors were: George Yeoman, Tim Saxton, Sam Littlejohn, Holly Scott, Toby Lewis & Sophie Ormsby.

The under 21 trophy was won by Old Waynfleet representing Oxford Sailing Club.

As the teams of club volunteers and visiting umpires relaxed with some well-earned refreshments, conversation soon turned to the plans for the 70th Wilson which will soon be here in 2019. It will be difficult to beat an event like this year’s Wilson but the dream is to make the 70th an epic celebration of the event, the sailors past and present and team racing in general. WKSC would welcome ideas on how to make the 70th Wilson really special.