Grafham Grand Prix


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

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.

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 Watersports, 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.

Grafham Grand Prix 2015 - photo © Nick Champion /
Grafham Grand Prix 2015 - photo © Nick Champion /
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.

Grafham Grand Prix 2015 - photo © Richard Janulewicz /
Grafham Grand Prix 2015 - photo © Richard Janulewicz /
Gul prizes went to Abigail Larr, the youngest competitor at 10 years old, crewing for her dad Chris in an RS200, and who completed all three races. Gul prizes also went to mid-place in the biggest fleet - 21st on the Bravo course - going to the Merlin Rocket sailed by Colin Anderson and James Dawes.

Next winter's Grafham Grand Prix takes place on the Bank Holiday Monday after Christmas, 28 December 2015.

Overall results from the 2014 Grafham Grand Prix can be found here.

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.


25/2/2015 18:27


Photo © Champion

2015/16 Series
Draycote Dash22/23 November
Datchet Flyer13/14 December
Brass Monkey27 December
Oxford Blue3 January
Bloody Mary10 January
Steve Nicholson Trophy24 January
Tiger Trophy31 January/1 February
Grafham Grand Prix28 December 22 February



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The GJW Direct SailJuice Winter Series is based around the UK's biggest winter handicap events. Sailors from many different dinghy fleets now consider this series as one of the main goals of their winter racing. With great prizes on offer, it attracts some of the best sailors in the country to compete against each other. The series is managed by SailRacer.

Series Info