The Wilson Trophy, West Kirby

I had a walk around West Kirby marine lake on Sunday morning on the third day of the annual Wilson Trophy which is organised by West Kirby Sailing Club.  The 2012 event is the 63rd Trophy race and it is being held over 11th, 12th and 13th of May when around 200 sailors in 30 teams compete on the marine lake.  The majority of teams competing this year are from the UK, but three come from Ireland and two have made the journey across from the USA for the three day long event.  The event takes the form of 300 short races in three-boat teams jostling on an area the size of a football pitch to earn the coveted title: “Wilson Trophy Champion”.

The marine lake is set on the very tip of the Wirral peninsula with stunning views of the Welsh Hills and the Dee Estuary.  It is a man-made saltwater lake 52 acres in size, 5 foot deep and totally enclosed and it is used for a variety of water sports.

Friday’s races were cancelled due to strong winds.  But with the ultra-short team races they caught up on Saturday and Sunday morning.  Wessex Exempt and Royal Thames Red led the event overnight on Saturday both claiming nine victories out of 11 races.

The teams sail using the event’s uniquely colour-coded Firefly sailing dinghies.  The Firefly is a two-sail dinghy with no spinnaker and is raced as a double hander.  It has high manoeuvrability and is easy handling.  Watching the teams on Sunday morning it was quite a spectacle as the dinghies jostle each other as they head around the marker buoys.  As they are all closely grouped together it is no surprise that there were a number of ‘comings together’ with the umpires who follow each race in speedy inflatable dinghies imposing penalties on the offenders.

The Firefly class is popular for the British Universities Sailing Association who have two teams in the event a long with a number of other competitors from university teams.  As I left the event at midday on Sunday the top places in the initial ‘round robin’ event had changed; West Kirby Hawks were leading with the New Forest Pirates in second place.

This was how it finished as the race committee decided that as the wind speed had risen to 30 knots and building, the event must be postponed with the finishing positions for the 2012 Wilson Trophy being those at the end of the round robin races rather than going ahead with the top eight teams competing head to head.

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