Toolkit Web Designers

BKA show their steel at the RORC Easter Challenge

Testing gusty winds and a comprehensive IRC Class Three fleet proved a challenge capable of the British Keelboat Academy’s (BKA) two Development Squad J80 crews this weekend (2-4 April) as they each posted top five results at their first event as part of the squad.


The RORC Easter Challenge, held on the Solent, saw over 60 boats compete across six classes over the two days with the Academy entering two J80 crews in IRC Three fleet and a TP52 crew in the IRC Super Zero fleet.


Conditions were tricky throughout the weekend with heavy squalls gusting in excess of 40 knots on Friday. Saturday and Sunday however brought less wind but continued to pose a considerable challenge for competitors with shifty and gusty conditions.


Making a great start to the regatta in the 12 boat IRC Three fleet, J80 helm 18-year-old Mark Lees (Poole), and his crew, posted a second and third on the opening day beating a whole raft of bigger and more experienced boats and their crews. They followed it up with two fourths and a fifth on Saturday and a sixth and fourth on the final day rounding the event up in third place overall.  


Lees comments; “We’ve been concentrating on training over the past few months, but that’s been subject to weather and availability so it was great to sail over three consecutive days in a range of conditions and test ourselves against each other but also against some other good Solent sailors.”


“The racing was really exciting and we are very happy to have put in a result in a very competitive class especially as it’s our first event sailing together,” he concluded.


Ex-multihull Youth Worlds gold medallist 21-year-old Tom Phipps (Plymouth), and his crew, posted another great result for the Development Squad at the event also picking up two good results on the opening day, a fourth and a second. Keeping it more consistent they went on to rack up a fifth and two sixths on Saturday then another fifth and sixth on Sunday finishing them in a respectable fifth place overall.    


Phipps remarked: “Friday was awesome, constant planing downwind in a J80 really is great fun. All the team sailed really well and we’re now looking forward to fully settling into the Europeans campaign.”


Treating the event very much as a process regatta, testing their manoeuvres under pressure and communication in a competitive environment, the three crews were eager to get some racing under their belts and get their first taste of competition together as a squad. Identifying areas to work on was the real focus and the end of weekend result secondary.


The more experienced National Squad had some early-season teething problems on the TP52 John Merricks II, with engine problems rendering racing impossible on Friday and a broken jib tack fitting forcing the crew to miss out race four on Saturday. However competing against the likes of Skandia Team GBR star Ben Ainslie on Team Origins TP52, the squad picked up a respectable third and then three fourths along with some valuable experience, finishing them fourth overall in their class.    


BKA Head Coach Luke McCarthy commented: “The guys were sailing the boats really well. All the manoeuvres went really smoothly, which was really satisfying after the training the guys have put in over the past months. We were able to work really hard on our boat tuning and sail trim and the big areas we improved over the weekend were changing mode when the wind increased or decreased, and the communication between the helm and trimmers.

The BKA is actively looking for additional funding to help support an even more effective programme of training and events for the rest of the year and beyond.


BKA’s partners include B&G, Wild Graphics, Hamble Yacht Services Harken, Henri Lloyd, North Sails, Ocean Safety, Premium Liferafts and RORC. For more information about the Academy and how you can help with fundraising visit


For full race results visit .


J80 Crews



Tom Phipps


Lizzy Foreman


Matt Reid


Kirsty Matthews


Matt Haslam


Mark Lees


Toby Yeabsley


Josh Irons


Sam Garforth/Mark Yeabsley 


Nikki Curwen


TP52 Crew



Tom Smedley


Aaron Cooper


Guy Filmore


Chris Noble


James Brown


Jo Coad


Sally Olsen


Linford Rees


Tom Forrester-Coles


Becky Scott


Luke McCarthy


Rachel Scarfe


Katherine Whitley


Hamish MacDonald

Mid bow

Phil Miller


Chris Dorey


© Copyright 2019 John Merricks Sailing TrustWeb Design By Toolkit Websites