95 boats defy a nasty forecast to enjoy a great final event in the GJW Direct Sailjuice Winter Series


23 February 2015

Of the 130 entries, 95 boats came to contest the Grafham Grand Prix despite a horrible forecast. The day started frosty, with bright sunshine. But as the day got older, the breeze increased and the rain arrived.

The volunteers at Grafham Water set three courses and held three races for each fleet. There was 12 to 14 knots of breeze for the first race, 15 to 17 knots for the next, and by the final race it was gusting into the 20s.

Lasers, RS800s and Fireballs revel in a windy Grafham Grand Prix

After being rescheduled from its late December date due to a lack of water at the time, the Grafham Grand Prix became the concluding event of this season’s GJW Direct Sailjuice Winter Series (also supported by Gul, Trident, Overboard and Lennon Sails). For the overall Series prize, Nick Craig and Oli Wells couldn’t be caught in their Merlin Rocket.

Even so, Craig and Wells came to Grafham to battle for the final of the eight events in the Medium handicap fleet. They were best of the Merlins, but once again this windy winter it was the Fireballs that proved too good in the strong breeze, with Ian Dobson and Dan Schieber winning the division with two 1st places and discarding a 2nd. That said, Stuart Jones did steer his Contender between the top two Fireballs, winning the final race and relegating reigning Fireball World Champions Christian Birrell and Sam Brearey to 3rd place overall. Another notable performance came from Olympic squad members, Ben Saxton and Izzy Hamilton, taking time out of their Nacra 17 and RS-X campaigns to race together in a National 12, and finishing 7th in their fleet.

Meanwhile in the Asymmetric division, Ben Saxton’s brother, Tim, was winning with Fiona Hampshire in their RS800, despite never having sailed the boat together before. They won two races and discarded a 2nd to beat fellow RS800 team, Ralph and Sophie Singleton who took the middle race off Saxton. Behind the dominant twin-trapeze teams were a couple of sportsboats. Multiple national champions Roger Gilbert and Ben McGrane raced their SK2 to 3rd overall, with 4th place going to Tom Castle’s VX-One, also crewed by Duncan Hepplewhite and Nathan Batchelor.

In the Slow handicap fleet, Craig Williamson won the first two heats in his Laser and discarded a 9th in the windier concluding race. Instead it was Grafham’s own Rhiannon Massey who took the final race in her Laser Radial, placing her 2nd overall ahead of Jamie Lea in a Solo. Rutland’s Val Millward also raced well in the challenging south-westerlies to finish in 6th place in her Challenger trimaran.

The day went incredibly smoothly despite the cold, the rain and the wind. Racing was complete by 2pm and the prizegiving held at 3.30pm. In his victory speech, Ian Dobson thanked the organisers and volunteers at Grafham for an excellently managed event. Next winter’s Grafham Grand Prix takes place on the Bank Holiday Monday after Christmas, 28 December 2015

For overall results from the 2014 Grafham Grand Prix:


The prizegiving for the GJW Direct Sailjuice Winter Series takes place at 1.50pm on Sunday, on the Main Stage at the RYA Dinghy Show at Alexandra Palace in London next weekend.

For results in the GJW Direct Sailjuice Winter Series after six events: http://events.sailracer.org/eventsites/content.asp?id=39820&eventid=195890


Thanks to generous support from Series sponsors, we have some great prizes for competitors, and also for spectators and photographers. More details to follow in the coming weeks...

In addition to title sponsor GJW Direct Insurance ( www.gjwdirect.co.uk/dinghy ), the UK’s largest direct boat insurer, our silver-level sponsors are:

Gul - Experts in Performance Apparel        www.gul.com  

Lennon Sails - A new brand with a great heritage        www.lennonsails.com

Overboard - The Leaders in Waterproof Bags & Cases      www.over-board.co.uk

Trident - The Dinghy & Yacht Shop on the Web      www.tridentuk.com