The Mirror Class African Championships - that sounds exotic - it certainly was! Theewater Dam, the South African version of Lake Garda, where the wind clocks in at 20-25 kts every day at around 12:00. Wake up every morning to sun and wind, followed by a leisurely breakfast, squad briefing at the club, rig on the beach and out onto an enormous reservoir that makes Rutland look like a little pond. Sail, return to shore and party with the fellow South African and Australian Mirror sailors - and they know how to party, particularly on New Year's Eve! What a great way to spend Christmas and New Year.
The GBR Mirror Class shipped out 11 boats to South Africa for the Worlds, with the African Championships forming the pre-Worlds regatta. A strong South African team was the main opposition, with reining World Champion, Ryan Robinson, crewing for his sister Michaela, being the hot favourites; with other RSA squad 420 and Optimist sailors known to be quick. The AUS team included some very experienced parent / child combinations who had a strong pedigree from the last Worlds in Ireland. Team GBR stamped their authority in the Practice Race with a resounding win for the 12 year old pairing of Eleanor Keers and Izzy Pugh (GBR/Itchenor SC) - prospering in their favourite 12 - 15 kt wind range. The next two days had 6 races in 20 + kts that tested boat handling skills, teamwork and fitness. Michaela and Ryan Robinson showed a cool head in the conditions with 2 race wins and nothing outside the top 5, while Henry Heath and James Dickinson (GBR/Itchenor SC) showed early promise in the heavier conditions with a win in race 3 and consistent top 10 positions. Simon and Tyson Barwood led the Australian charge with a win in race 1 and Eban Vivier and Johan Vivier, an RSA 420 team, were also very consistent. Scarlett and Esme Shepherd (GBR/Restronguet SC) had a win in race 4 but a few results outside the top 10 affected their overall position. Gemma Keers and Imogen Bellfield (GBR/Itchenor SC/Torpoint Mosquito SC) showed great consistency and ability to move through the fleet, with a win in race 6 and a number of top 3 places. The podium places were still up for grabs on the final day which dawned with a light breeze and cloud covering the mountains and a Cape Cobra (snake) swimming across the race course. No sharks - just deadly snakes! Eleanor Keers and Izzy Pugh came back to the fore with an outstanding race to win by a large margin, with Michaela & Ryan and Gemma & Imogen in second and third. The pressure was on for the final race with the South African pair having a 4 point advantage over Gemma & Imogen but the loss of the thermal effect and massive wind shifts across the course led to the race being abandoned and Michaela & Ryan being crowned the inaugural Mirror African Championship winners.Photographs by Rob Bellfield
- Cape Cobra swimming across the lake!
- Rigging in Africa
- Gemma Keers and Imogen Bellfield - 2nd place
A fantastic regatta that has set up the fleet nicely for the World Championships that start on Sunday, with 12 races running through to Friday. Around 60 boats are expected, with more top sailors from France, Japan and South Africa. Team GBR has adapted to the fantastic sailing conditions and with 5 boats in the top 10 in this regatta there is potential of a UK World Champion again.
- RSA 70411 Michaela Robinson & Ryan Robinson
- GBR 70715 Gemma Keers & Imogen Bellfield (Itchenor SC/Torpoint Mosquito SC)
- RSA 70414 Eben Vivier & Johan Vivier
- GBR 70714 Henry Heath & James Dickinson (Itchenor SC)
- AUS 70599 Simon Barwood & Tyson Barwood
- GBR 70716 Scarlett Shepherd & Esme Shepherd (Restronguet SC)
- GBR 70821 Tom Weston & Paddy Jefferies (Itchenor SC)
- AUS 70800 Douglas Raftesath & Charlotte Raftesath
- GBR 70713 Eleanor Keers & Izzy Pugh (Itchenor SC)
- RSA 70433 Kai Leslie & Alex Falcon