Sailing duo feeling just champion

Champions Gemma Francis-Burnett and Rachel Grayson.
Champions Gemma Francis-Burnett and Rachel Grayson.

Fifteen-year-old Rachel Grayson from Pontefract and 11-year-old Gemma Francis-Burnett from Doncaster have been crowned National and European Mirror Champions this summer.

Events were held over two weeks at Brixham Yacht Club in Devon.

The nationals took place over four days of the first week and the fleet consisted of all the top junior sailors in the country along with some hardened adult competitors.

The sailing conditions were a mixture of moderate winds with heavier winds as the showers came in.

Due to the shape of the bay and the wind direction, the wind was shifty and unpredictable.

The top five positions went to northern boats, with Rachel and Gemma in first place.

During the second week, the competition stiffened even further as nine boats from Ireland and one from Australia joined the fleet.

Some very tactical sailing took place in beautiful conditions with a wind more constant and the sun shining.

By halfway there were only three boats that had shown consistency through the early races and were now fighting for the championship.

Gemma Keers and Imogen Bellfield from Itchenor Sailing Club fell foul to protests on the water which saw their score tumble.

The penultimate day saw four races take place and Rachel and Gemma showed great consistency at the top of the fleet scoring a second and two firsts.

In the last race, Gemma tore her calf muscle but still was determined enough to finish the race.

On the final day with a replacement crew, Rachel claimed the competition with a race to spare.

Both Rachel and Gemma are members of Beaver Sailing Club which is on Southfield Reservoir, to the north of Doncaster.

Both learned to sail through the RYA Sailing School which takes place on Saturdays between March and November.

Rachel thanked Pinnel and Bax for their sponsorship for sails, Navigators and General for sponsoring the event and her parents for taking her.