WEYMOUTH heralded the start of the new RYA Match Racing season as it played host to the Moody Decking Schools Match Racing Championship.

The event was joined by the Winter Match Racing 1 in Port Edgar in being the first events of the season.

Oliver Perkins led Royal Grammar School, Guildford to victory against eight other teams in strong winds in Weymouth to take the Moody Decking Championship title.

Taking on schools from all over the country, Perkins held a narrow lead at the end of the first day of competition but was undefeated on day two to take the win, while Barty Gray, from Cokethorpe School, was second with James Percival-Cooke, from Royal Hospital School, in third.

At the other end of the country, eight teams from both north and south of the border were contesting Winter Match Racing 1 at Port Edgar.

Alison Morrish, one of three female helms, won all three of her races in the shortened round-robin taking victory over, Brendon Lynch in second, Matt Lloyd third and Sophie Taylor in fourth.

All the teams were supported throughout the event by RYA coach Kate MacGregor who represented Team GB at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

This followed a thrilling climax to the 2018 RYA Match Racing season which saw Mark Lees take the title at the National Match Racing Championship Final, the new and expanded RYA match racing season is already underway.

The year will see an increased number of opportunities for sailors of all levels to get involved and entries now open for the 2019 Championship.

Lees, sailing with Toby Mumford, Toby Yeabsley and Tom Forrester-Coles, took the national championship crown for the first time following a nail-biting contest at Queen Mary Sailing Club with a five-way tie at the end of the round-robin.

Taking their places in the knockout stages, Christian Hamilton led Lees on a tie break with Tarra Gill-Taylor in third, Matt Whitfield fourth and Nicholas Wilkinson fifth. Hamilton, Lees, Gill Taylor and Whitfield all swept their quarter-final matches 2-0 to take their places in the semi-finals.

Hamilton beat Whitfield 3-0 to progress to the final while Lees had a tougher battle against Gill-Taylor, slipping behind 2-1 before coming back to win 3-2.

Buoyed by that victory, Lees was decisive in beating Hamilton 2-0 to seal victory in the final.

Lees said: “It’s been a long time since we’ve been match racing so it was good to get lots of racing in on the first day and we spent a lot of time getting better,

“We were always looking forward to the next race and thankfully we did get better. Everyone we raced in the knockout stages presented different challenges so this was the first time we managed to get it all right which was great.”

Entries are now open for the 2019 National Match Racing Championship with an increased number of opportunities to take part on offer.

Three open winter match racing events will be taking place at Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy in January, February and March and a women’s winter match racing event has been added to the programme in March to meet an increased demand from female sailors.

Next year will also see the National Match Racing Championship move to the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club in Burnham racing in the club’s new fleet of 707s.