The annual Topper Challenge was held on Sunday at Mooragh Park. The Topper Challenge is a junior sailing event and has been running since 1994. The idea was conceived by Nigel Hendy of the Manx Sailing & Cruising Club and was traditionally a team racing event between the Isle of Man Yacht Club and the Manx Sailing & Cruising Club. This year five teams entered representing the Manx Sailing & Cruising Club, Isle of Man Yacht Club, King Williams College, 7th Wave and a new entry from the Venture Centre.
Unlike most sailing championships where individual results are counted, the Topper Challenge is a team racing event where the points for the whole team are totalled to conclude the winner in each heat and therefore the overall winner. A total of ten races were sailed, allowing each team to sail each other team once.
Mooragh Park provided its usual light and fluky conditions with the wind eventually filling in from the south later in the day. The first race was contested between the IOMYC and 7th Wave with 7th Wave scoring their first win by just a one point. Race two ended in a dramatic photo finish (caught on camera of course by Dave Kneale) with Greg Kelly (7th Wave) just sneaking past Guy Wood (KWC) on the finish line to beat him by a inch! Race three saw Ross O’Sullivan (Venture Centre) off to a flying start but an unfortunate incident and the windward mark allowed the MS&CC to claim victory in this heat. Race four was won by Juan Hendy (MS&CC) however his team-mates only managed fifth and sixth places giving IOMYC the victory. Race five saw yet another photo finish, this time Amy Shute (Venture Centre) just pipped Nick Parkes (IOMYC) to the post.
Race six was a meeting between the lightest and heaviest teams! The Venture Centre team weighing less than fifteen stone between them should have been the favourites here against the 32 stone KWC team. However it was not to be and KWC were the only team to score 1, 2 & 3 in a race during the whole tournament.
By race seven the wind had begun to fill in allowing the race committee to set a longer course for the final few races. The course change resulted in a more challenging beat to the finish for the competitors. 7th Wave battled it out with the Venture Centre in the testing conditions with 7th Wave scoring the win.
As race eight began it was still anyone’s tournament with IOMYC, MS&CC, 7th Wave and defending champions KWC still all in with the chance of the overall win! MS&CC were beaten by KWC in race eight knocking them off the list of potential winners. The pressure didn’t appear to affect Luke Collins too much – who won the race sailing with his feet up! Going into race nine 7th Wave needed to score one final win here to secure the trophy. MS&CC put in a good fight here but Tom Howitt (7th Wave) couldn’t be caught as he finished almost one leg ahead of the trailing boats, 7th Wave won the heat by one point.
Race ten decided who came second and was a closely contested battle between IOMYC and KWC. Laura Green had another excellent start for IOMYC while Chris Hill (KWC) parked up in the light wind and gave the fleet a head start. Luke Collins (KWC) and Nick Parkes (IOMYC) fought a close race on the last leg with IOMYC winning the heat to finish in second place overall.
The final results reflect the overall high standard of sailing, close results and a tough competition, only one point separated each team at the end of the competition. It was truly amazing to watch the results unfold and for the overall title to be decided on the second to last race. Congratulations to the 7th Wave team Tom Howitt (age 15), James Kelly (age 10) and Greg Kelly (aged 9) who were the overall winners and the only team to score a win in every race they sailed!
1st: 7th Wave (Tom Howitt, James Kelly, Greg Kelly) 4 points
2nd: IOMYC (Laura Green, Alex Cave, Nick Parkes) 5 points
3rd: KWC (Chris Hill, Luke Collins, Guy Wood) 6 points
4th: MS&CC (Juan Hendy, George Rawlinson, Connor Christian) 7 points
5th: Venture Centre (Amy Shute, Ross O’Sullivan, Matthew Read) 8 points
Thanks to all the teams and supporters for a close, well sailed and exciting tournament! Thanks also to the Race Committee, the Manx Sailing & Cruising Club for their hospitality and a huge thank you to Simon Read of the Venture Centre for providing the Toppers and safety boat for the event. We look forward to seeing you all again next year.