A TRIO of Weymouth youngsters were among the 290 contenders who took on the Bloody Mary Pursuit Race – the country’s largest inland dinghy race.
The 41st running of this iconic annual event took place at Queen Mary Sailing Club on the Surrey-Middlesex border under blue skies and light winds.
Competitors in all kinds of dinghies, from Toppers to Moths, lined up to compete on the reservoir in the two-and-a-half hour pursuit race.
The slowest boat started at noon, followed in stages by the faster boats depending on their handicap rating set by the race committee.
The trio of cadet sailors from Weymouth Sailing Club who took part included Osmington sisters Emma and Alexandra Stevenson and their friend James Limb.
Sixteen-year-old Emma, who was competing for the second time on her Laser Radial, enjoyed the event, finishing third female youth overall and 129th in the whole fleet.
She said: “It was a great experience and quite a sight with so many different boats on the reservoir at once.”
Emma also noticed that the unusually high water level in the reservoir really improved the launching of the boats in comparison to the previous year.
The younger junior sailors also found the event to be good fun, racing against so many other sailors of all ages and boat types.
Topper sailor Limb, 13, finished 239th overall and 66th among the 90-strong junior fleet.
He said: “I would definitely like to take part again next year.”
Alexandra, 14, who finished 263rd overall in her Topper dinghy and 20th junior female, added: “It was very different from our usual sailing conditions in Weymouth Bay.”
The smart money was on the winner of the pursuit race being either a high-performance Moth, which has won the past five years, or a Topper because of the very advantageous handicap which they had this year.
However, although a Topper dinghy successfully held the lead in the race for the first 40 minutes, it was eventually caught by the much faster boats.
After two hours of the race and close battles between a Merlin, Osprey and National 12, it was the latter that won, sailed by Graham Camm and Zoe Ballantyne.
The Weymouth cadets said they were looking forward to the new sailing season.
Emma’s next big event will be at the beginning of March with the first of the 2014 Laser Radial World and European qualifiers.