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24th Oct, 2021

Nautical Rugby youngsters have wind in their sails after championship win

NAUTICAL youngsters from the Rugby area have the wind in their sails after dominating a national sailing championship.

Millie Irish and Jess Powell sailed brilliantly to win the double-handed class of the Feva Class sailing National Championships at Hayling Island Sailing Club on the south coast – fending off 170 other competitors including double Olympic medallist Simon Hiscocks.

Millie, 16, from Stretton-on-Dunsmore, and Jess, 11, from Rugby, are both members of the Youth and Junior division at Draycote Water Sailing Club – where Millie was recently elected the club’s first Youth and Junior Commodore, and first female Commodore.

During an initial qualifying series of six races, the duo started slowly with 11th and 16th place finishes, but then turned on the pressure the next day by winning the four remaining races to qualify in third place for the gold fleet.

In the final series of six races, they finished in the top six in every race – winning three – meaning they were a massive 11 points clear of the second placed boat.

Millie and Jess have contrasting backgrounds in sailing.

Millie’s has sailed all her life, as have her parents. Her father Steve is a previous world and national champion and he coaches Olympic sailors around the world.

Jess doesn’t come from a sailing family, but came to a club open day in 2018 and got hooked, mainly sailing her single-handed Topper dinghy in which she has won a number of events.

The chance to team up with Millie was a wonderful opportunity for Jess and, as well as winning the open and ladies’ national championships, they won the Pro Am title which had been newly introduced.

Millie said: “It was great to be able to take Jess to her first nationals and we made a great team.

“The conditions were tricky and in such a big fleet we had to stay focused across the four days, but we worked really hard and it’s brilliant to have been able to win the title.”

Jess said: “It was really exciting to win the Feva National Championships with Millie. It was an amazing experience for me.

“Between us, we sailed consistently strong throughout the whole regatta. The support and congratulations from our club has been amazing.”

Lucy Jameson, Secretary of the Feva Class Association, said: “Millie and Jess entered the event as a Pro Am team – the idea being that experienced Feva sailors enter the National Championship with a new-to-Feva sailing partner.

“The newbie sailor would have a boost of confidence knowing that they are in the very capable hands of an experienced friend who knows the boat well and also understands the format for racing.

“It was clear that under Millie’s excellent guidance, and with her boundless energy and confidence, this team would be a force to be reckoned with.”

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