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What a fantastic year for SW Topper sailing 2023 was. With the outstanding highlight being the ultimate success in Ireland for one of our sailors.


The year began with plenty of wind and snow for ITCA training at Paignton and the Andrew Simpson Performance Academy (ASC) in January, plenty of new sailors practiced their swimming as well their sailing.

The highlight in February was the launch of the ‘new’ roto-moulded Topper at the RYA dinghy show in Farnborough and the class awarded the 2022 traveller series prizes. Thomas Semmens (Brixham YC / Paignton SC) and Ollie Rawlings (Lyme Regis SC) were presented jackets as reward for being the SW 2022 5.3 and 4.2 series champions by British Olympic hopeful Sam Whalley. Thomas would end up sailing against Sam in October in the annual Endeavour trophy for National Champions.

The first competitive event of the year was NS2 in March on our own hunting ground of Portland. Harry Mills (Saltash SC) kicked off what was a brilliant year for him with 2nd place in the 4.2 fleet. Our top sailors in the 5.3 fleet were Alex Jones (Parkstone YC) 5th and Zac Chapple (Parkstone YC) 6th.

The ASC hosted another winter training camp focussing on boat speed. Rory Wilson did a great job catering for both the more experienced and the newer sailors.


Moving into April

NS3 was a drive to Grafham in the Midlands and it was freezing cold. However SW class legend Lucy Purrier brought the ‘Purrier’ cool box with lots of yummy goodies to keep SW sailors and parents fuelled. How well it worked! The cold weather could not slow Holly Norton (Parkstone YC) down who had a fantastic weekend to be our top sailor (5th) with Olly Smith our top boy (7th) and Thomas also making the top 10 in 9th position.

Our SW Traveller circuit kicked off with some lovely English Riviera weather in Paignton. We welcomed some new sailors to the program. Mark Ripley and Issy Smith ran an excellent days training in light winds. On the second day which was a race day Thomas and Harry began what was to become a close rivalry throughout the season taking 1st and 2nd with Ed Lee (Saltash SC) 3rd, and Ollie Rawlings taking the 4.2 win.

At the end of the month the SW RTG (Regional Training Group) squad sailors headed up North to Rutland for the Eric Twiname Championships (ETs). The ETs are the largest youth regatta in the country with RTG sailors from Toppers, Optimists, RS Fevas, ILCA 4s, and multiple windsurf classes. The ETs is unique in that while sailors sail for their own results it is actually a inter-regional team regatta where each class takes the top 4 sailors in each class to score against the other regions. TEAM SW Toppers nailed it to win all bragging rights as officially the best region in the UK with Alex Jones (Parkstone YC), Olly Smith (Poole YC), Tom Semmens and Zac Chappell (Parkstone YC) being the scoring sailors. The SW Topper also helped the SW come tied 1st overall for all youth classes. After racing our sailors had the opportunity to try out some keelboat sailing on RS21s something they all enjoyed. The RYA seem to book light winds and a heatwave for this weekend every year, which was great news for the local Ice cream vans.



Saltash SC hosted our first tidal Traveller. Visiting coach and recent top Topper sailor Oli Hale from Poole supported Mark Ripley, Issy Smith and Club Commodore James Mills putting our sailors through intense tidal sailing drills. Sunday dawned to perfect Cornish weather and race day is where SSC really excelled, a race track strategically placed on a bank to minimise tide, the club put on a spectator boat so parents could watch the racing from close quarters. At prize giving rumours of the generosity of the club proved true, literally every sailor wins a prize. In the 5.3s Thomas won with Victory Montgomery (Dittisham SC) 2nd and local club member Edward Lee 3rd. In the 4.2s Tom Smith (Stoke Gabriel BA) won with Ollie Rawlings coming 2nd.

Next came NS4 in Whitstable with the 4.2 fleet based a mile down the road in Tankerton Bay SC. A strong SW contingent headed to the SE for glorious hot weather and strong winds. For Saturday, too strong as it turned out, as massive waves made launching from Tankerton impossible so the poor 4.2 fleet had to drag their boats and sailing kit by hand along the foreshore to Whitstable. Oh the face on James and Harry Mills face when they arrived!!! Soon after it became obvious anchoring Committee Boats was impossible let alone sailing, so the walk was in vain Team SW had a great day playing football and our more adventurous sailors trying out the local Oyster bars. The pressure was on the club to sail on Sunday and a slight moderation allowed the fleet to head out and boy were the waves big! The walk did nothing to slow up Harry who stormed through the waves and won his first NS event in the 4.2s. Our top sailors in the 5.3s clearly liking the waves and the wind were Alex Jones 3rd, George Burden (Parkstone YC) 7th and Thomas in 9th.



More glorious weather descended upon the Castle Cove for the next traveller and training. Saturday’s training lead by Oli Hale and supported by Olly Fellows focussed on boat handling skills. The sailors then put into practice their newly honed skills for Sunday’s racing. Racing was super close and went to the last leg on the last race to separate the top 3. Thomas eventually took the win from local sailor Nicola Richards (Castle Cove SC) with Victory coming 3rd. In the 4.2s Amelie Ballantyne (Starcross YC) participating in her first traveller took the win from Tom Smith who came 2nd . What a great venue Castle Cove SC is, sat on the north side of Portland harbour with a beautiful garden, decked terrace and private beach. A sneaky G&T on the terrace is a fantastic way to watch the kids race! At prize giving every sailor got a water bottle and prize giving was conducted by Olympic ILCA legend Jon Emmet and prizes presented by Olympic 2012 Gold medallist Xu Lijia. CCSC has to be a contender for venue of the year!

SW RYA Regional Junior Champs in Torquay brought typical English Riviera weather of lovely sunshine but sadly not much wind. Very shifty winds resulted in plenty of abandoned races for ILCAs and Fevas who started before the Toppers, so patience was order of the day. Torbay experience clearly helped Thomas romp off to a big lead after day 1, but day 2 Alex began one of his now familiar charges up the fleet. However, a mess up in race management resulted in redress for Thomas in race 1, then a U Flag disqualification in race 2 Alex meant Thomas won with five 1st places and a 3rd. Alex claimed 2nd place with Felix Harle 3rd just 1 point ahead of Holly Norton our top girl. In the 4.2s Tom Smith, despite a U Flag disqualification in the last race, did just enough to hang on to 1st place from Isla Willis and Holly Williams (both Parkstone YC) claiming excellent 2nd and 3rd places respectively.

The RYA also put on an On-board fleet for beginner sailors which enabled new sailors to borrow boats and join in and this was enjoyed by all who participated. There was also the regatta fleet aimed at new racers and this was an amazing success with Olly Skelton (Starcross YC), Leo Phillips (Yealm YC) and Lottie Wood (Starcross YC) making up the podium 1,2,3 respectively in the 4.2s. In the 5.3s Gabriel Northop-Bromley (Paignton SC) came 1st, Jasmin Darcy (Starcross YC) 2nd and Oliver Furby (Exe SC) 3rd. We hope to welcome these new sailors into the SW family next season.

The conclusion of the national Series was NS 5 at Rutland with light and shifty winds. In the 5.3s Olly Smith despite not being the lightest sailor proved brain power is what really matters and regularly found himself in phase with the shifts and claimed an excellent 4th overall. Alex Jones quietly continued his good results to come 7th overall. After a promising start and a race win, failure to tally out hefty penalty cost Thomas dear as he dropped to 20th overall but was our 3rd placed sailor. In the 4.2s Victory claimed a 7th while Harry a 10th in what was a tricky weekend.

The final NS series results saw Harry Mills coming 4th overall as our top 4.2 sailor. Our top 3 SW sailors in the 5.3 fleet were Alex 5th, Olly Smith 6th and Thomas 7th.



Bristol Corinthian YC hosted a training day led by Imogen Kemp which was also an RTG selector and it was fantastic to see so many new sailors to the SW Topper family. Sadly the weekend was blessed with lots of rain! Sunday’s race day was a bit breezier and if it were not for the rain it would have been perfect conditions. In the 4.2s Eloise Harford-Tapp sailed brilliantly to be up with most of the 5.3s to win overall from Holly Williams 2nd and Oli Rawlings 3rd. In the 5.3s Thomas had to work a bit harder when his bailer fell out the bottom of his new boat, and after winning his 3rd race he chose to sail home rather than sink, his previous scores enough to take the win from Nicola Richards (Castle Cove SC) 2nd and Isobel Williscroft (Paignton SC) 3rd.

Obviously, the World Championships is not really a SW event but plenty of SW sailors headed to the Emerald Isle, and what a wonderful place Cork is, but “spoiler alert” it does sometimes rain in Ireland, and boy did it rain that week. A massive fleet of 198 5.3 boats from UK, China, Brazil, Australia, Malta, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Spain, Belgium and of course Ireland were split into 4 groups to sail off in qualification flight series. After Wednesday the top half would sail the rest of the event in the Gold fleet, with the remaining boats sailing in a silver or bronze fleet. Most of our sailors were hoping to make the Gold fleet. After a tricky 3 days of light, medium and stronger winds to test everyone’s weaknesses Alex Jones, Thomas Semmens, Huw Beare, Luke Edwards (Sutton Bingham SC) and Isobel Williscroft and did amazingly to make the Gold fleet. While Oscar Filtness (Castle Cove SC) dipping back into the Topper from his ILCA will feel unlucky to miss the cut and will surely have made Gold if he had practiced more recently in his Topper. As the week went on attrition became order of the day with a breezy Wednesday, followed by a desperately light wind Thursday. The fleet was launched and kept afloat for over 7 hours! Even then they only completed 1 race. Finally a windy last day, resulted in a true test of sailors skill. In the 4.2s Victory Montgomery was an early pace setter in the top 3 at the beginning of the week, eventually slipping slightly but did fantastically to finish the World championships 6th Overall in Gold fleet! While brothers Daniel & Dylan Cullen (Parkstone YC) had a great series to come 11th and 22nd overall in Silver fleet.

As the 5.3 series progressed tension was mounting as Alex hit the front of the results table, Cometh the hour Oscar had a great final series to come 7th in Silver. In Gold Isobel came 92nd, Luke 73rd, with our top 3 sailors being Huw clearly liking the windier weather rising to 64th, Thomas will be pleased with 26th in his first season in a 5.3 but there is only one story in town, take a bow… ALEX JONES from Parkstone YC – 2023 TOPPER 5.3 WORLD CHAMPION!



Not officially a SW ITCA event but Parkstone Youth Week aka ‘Parkstonbury’ was a massive festival of youth sailing. Parkstone YC converted to Glastonbury for the week and what a week it was. Fantastic sailing with mostly big breeze. With 31 5.3s and 39 4.2s entered, it is a big topper event. It was shame that Alex and Thomas brought the Irish rain home with them. So yes, this is a sailing event but the emphasis was always on fun, fun, fun! Each day began on stage with the daily welcome from ‘Candy Man’ followed by a ‘Parkstonbury live performance’ with Beyonce making a special appearance although she and the dancers do not half look like some Parkstone Topper Dads if you look closely, followed by the previous days Prize giving. The shame was that they actually had to go sailing! The regatta fleet enjoying the boisterous winds as well. Afternoons fun of crabbing, climbing walls and all sorts of festival activities ,as well as a trip to watch Barbie and waterslide fun Splashdown when the wind caused the days racing to be cancelled, finally gave way to the evening entertainment. These were ‘headlined by’ live performances on stage from topper sailors Alex Purrier and Zac Chappell in quite brilliant bands. A most fantastic week culminated in the closing ceremony after the end of week prizegiving with prizes presented by Team GBR and Olympic legend Chris Draper. This was not really a week for worrying about results, but for the record Thomas ruined a perfect score of first places with a hilarious capsize leaving his mast stuck in the mud. Louis Voss started the week very well but eventually Zac and Felix Harle pipped him for 2nd and 3rd. The 4.2 fleet was so strong these were split into gold and silver fleets with James Broad (Poole YC), Daniel Cullen and Isla Willis making up the 1,2,3 with Ben Knapper, Gariel Levis-John and George Greeno (all Parkstone YC) making up the 1,2,3.

So, to the UK Nationals Championships – Always a highlight for the UK Topper program and Plas Heli in Pwllheli certainly delivered, with a massive 168 in the Championship fleet. It was great to see the return of the regatta fleet giving our less experienced sailors the opportunity to compete with similar other sailors away from the intensity of the championship fleet. Organised by Dittisham SC legend Arthur Marshall there is an the emphasis on fun and games. There was of course some racing with Grace Montgomery (Dittisham SC) and Alice Lee (Saltash SC) both competing in their first big event.

In the Championship Fleet 4.2s. Harry and Victory were flying the SW flag, aiming to repeat the results of Thomas and Holly’s 1st and 3rd overall from last year. Harry started the week slowly, perhaps now a bit big for the 4.2 in light winds, but Victory started the week well with a couple of 3rd places, a 2nd and a race win. As the week went on Harry improved and clearly enjoyed Big Friday (more on that below). Harry came 2nd and then 1st only to be left disappointed that the RC abandoned the last race, with the conditions right up his street. Harry would surly, have done enough to match Holly’s result last year had they sailed the last race. As it turned out Harry finished 5th overall with Victory 6th. 

In the Championship 5.3 fleet, the sailors sailed in flights for the first 3 days before breaking into Gold and Silver fleets. Thomas clearly liked the lighter winds and the sea to win 2 races and qualify out of flights 2nd overall with Zac also excelling in the top 5, and our new World champion Alex 7th. Joel Tidey (Parkstone YC) did amazingly well to qualify for Gold fleet in his first big event and he was joined by Ollie Smith, Felix & Theo Harle and Isobel Willliscroft.

In Silver fleet Holy Norton (Parkstone YC) did well winning a race and was our top SW sailor in 7th overall. Louis Voss (Parkstone YC), Mille Smith and Ed Lee narrowly missed the top 10 in 11th, 12th and 15th respectively. Amelia Gilboy (Paignton SC), Helena Mills Bowers (Parkstone YC), and Tayah Gilboy (Paignton SC) made up the rest of team SW.

Moving back to the Championship Gold Fleet. As the breeze built, Alex Jones went on a charge with 2 first and 2 second places to mount a serious challenge to add the Nationals title to his World title and soon overtook Thomas as lead SW sailor. Zac sailed very consistently to stay in the mix with Thomas hanging on to the top 5 with 1 day to go…. Then, welcome to big Friday! The forecast was windy and sailors launched with a little trepidation. With half the fleet reefed it was the increasing seaway that was a bigger challenge than the 20 knots of wind. As racing began, Alex was in a winner takes all shoot out with Jess Powell from the Midlands and was looking in great shape up the first beat, only to push a little too hard on the run and surfed down a wave to go for a swim. Although this was not game over for Alex, he will have known he had to beat Jess in the last 2 races. By now the breeze and the waves were building…. Sadly for Alex, in race 2 of the day Jess nailed the first beat and loose covered Alex to claim a well earnt Championship win leaving Alex 2nd overall. After Race 2 the safety fleet were getting stretched and the RC signalled no more racing today for the 4.2 and Silver fleets as there was now well over 20kts and 5m waves. It took a while for Thomas and Zac, both shattered to realise that they had to race again, neither was particularly amused! Despite the setback and being only 13 they both sailed fantastically to not only hold their positions overall in massive waves but also gain a place or two. Thomas completing the Nationals in 4th overall, Zac, proving a reef was a sensible call, claimed a 10th overall. A particular mention goes to Felix Harle, despite only being 13 and not being very big, who nailed his best race in the Nationals in the biggest conditions of the week with a 13th place.



Back into the Travellers and next stop Salcombe. Always a highlight of the SW program, Salcombe YC has probably the best view of any club in the country, with the sailing area literally 100m from the club terrace wall so perfect to watch our darling sailors strutting their stuff. And with the town only metres away, what Mum does not enjoy window shopping in Salcombe High Street? Saturday’s training from Mark and Issy complemented by home club coaches brought plenty of new local sailors into our fleet. Most being brave enough to compete in their first race series on Sunday. Everyone performed amazingly especially the Race Officer who somehow manged to identify 8 boats OCS in the last race. Harry won overall with Imogen Green travelling down from Draycote Water for the weekend having a great weekend in 2nd place, and Amalie Ballantyne (Starcross YC) moving up from 4.2s coming a brilliant 3rd overall. In the 4.2s Finlay Kirkby (Bristol Corinthian YC ) started an incredible run in travellers winning overall, with Leo Kaneko (Dittisham SC) 2nd and Annabel Moyes (Parkstone YC) 3rd.

Next event was Super South, which is a 2 day Traveller with SW, South and London / SE all combining into one big traveller. Hosted by Poole YC, this was the biggest event in the SW this year with over 80 boats entered. Poole YC were excellent hosts, with a great club, great sailing, shame that they are not so good at ordering the weather. Saturday was light and flukey from the North and only 1 race was completed but the RO was certain it would be OK as there was going to be wind on Sunday. What was not factored in was a) quite a lot of wind and b) probably the most torrential rain the sailors will have experienced accompanied by a lightning storm forcing sailors ashore while the lightning passed, but boy the rain was harder to shift. Thomas was our top sailor on Saturday but Zac powered away from the fleet on Sunday to take the win overall with Millie Smith (Parkstone YC) also making the podium (3rd), Louis Voss (Parkstone YC) (7th) and Harry (10th) all made the top 10. Further proof that Team SW are top dogs. Finlay Kirkby (Bristol Corinthian YC) was our top SW 4.2 sailor in 8th while Sasha Gerra (Parkstone YC) doing his 1st traveller also made the top 10 (10th). Next year the Super South heads to Warsash, let’s try to repeat our results there and stop the South bleating about home advantage!

NS1 – Draycote Water SC. The first of the 2023/2024 National Series saw a long drive to the Midlands. Sadly a few of our older sailors have moved onto new fleets, but we started to see a new guard coming through. Racing was very tricky in light and shifty winds Finlay Kirkby continued his good form by coming 6th overall in the 4.2s. While in the 5.3s Thomas was our top sailor in 4th overall with Zac 8th and Felix Harle (Parkstone YC) just missing out on the top 10 in 12th.



Starcross YC is a fantastic club set on the River Exe in the backdrop of Powderham Castle and they hosted the penultimate event in our program, with the traveller on the Saturday sharing an event with Fevas. In the 4.2 fleet Finlay Kirkby continued his storming run in the travellers, with Aiden Hall (Bristol Corinthain YC) doing his first event coming 2nd. The 5.3 fleet Tayah Gilboy came 3rd overall and top girl, a very well done to Leo Griffiths (Chew valley Lake SC) having his best event of the year to earn a fantastic 2nd. Harry Mills now in the zone and capitalising on his river sailing skills won the event to take the lead in the traveller series. Sunday’s training saw Issy Smith and Olly Fellows put the young sailors through their paces learning about the influence of tide, no doubt having learnt the hard way the day before.

The famous ‘Final Fling’ in Plymouth was the last event of the year and concluded our traveller series. The event is a 2 day dinghy regatta in Plymouth Sound and had over 80 entries across the fleets making Plymouth Sound a real spectacle, especially with yacht racing, warships and ferries all vying for the same waters. The Race management challenge was to get off the water soon enough to watch the Rugby World Cup Quarter finals! Day 1 was breezy and a challenge for our new sailors. Thomas now back on the traveller circuit won all 3 races with local lads (well Saltash is just up river from Plymouth Sound) Harry and Ed chasing (the important bit was Wales lost the rugby). Day 2 saw a significant drop in winds, in fact they launched into nothing. Victory was boat of the day with 2 seconds and a win. However, the scene had been set the day before with Thomas winning from Harry and Ed. In the 4.2s Leo Kaneko won his first event of the year from Grace Montgomery having gained the experience from regatta fleet at the Nationals now joining her first traveller. Better rugby news was that England beat Fiji.

So, the Traveller Series ended in Plymouth but with lots of sailors elsewhere the prizegiving was deferred to the next RTG and Topper Teams camps. We broke the series down into a summer and autumn sub series as well as the overall series. In the 4.2 fleet, the summer series was won by Ollie Rawlings, with Tom Smith 2nd and Eloise Harford-Tapp 3rd. In the autumn series Finlay Kirkby was 1st Leo Kaneko 2nd and Grace Montgomery 3rd. Overall, the top 3 sailors all missing the last event due to a clash with the 4.2 team which denied them an opportunity to change places leaving Finlay 3rd, Tom 2nd and Ollie winning for the second year running.

In the 5.3 fleet, the summer series was dominate by Thomas winning all 4 events with Nicola Richards 2nd and Victory 3rd. In the autumn series Harry Mills dominated with 2 wins a 2nd and discarding a 4th. Tayah Gilboy was a comfortable 2nd overall while Toby Colls had a great end to come 3rd overall. For the overall series it was tight at the top with Victory coming 3rd, Thomas not quite able to catch up enough ground on Harry so Harry became our very worthy SW area Traveller Champion 2023. Many thanks to Rooster and Allen Brothers for supplying prizes for our series.


We would like to welcome all our new sailors to the family but it is with sadness that we wish farewell and all the best for their future sailing to our sailors transitioning on. Apologies if we miss anyone but the class will miss Oli Smith, Theo Harle, Thomas Wills, Alex Purrier, George Burden, Amelia Gilboy, Luke Townsend, Oscar Filtness and Alex Jones it has been a privilege having you in the SW Topper family.


Not so Top 10 Moments of 2023

10 -      The Chinese takeaway – Pwllheli. After a hard day’s sailing a few of the coaches took some well errant time away from the kids to have a beer and a Chinese. As it turned out a bad move from our SW lead coach Rory Wilson who was decidedly not well for the next 2 days. Lesson learnt – North Wales is not the epicentre of Oriental cuisine. Many thanks to Lorna Phipps, Tom Goodburn and Dougal Wilson for looking after Rory’s sailors while Rory was getting acquainted to porcelain.

9 –       Race Committee moving leeward marks while boats rounding them at RJCs in Torquay

8 –       The Ice cream vans running out of Ice cream at the ETs

7 –       Parking attendants in Salcombe.

6 –       Multiple abandoned races at RJCs in Torquay due to unstable winds

5 –       Lightning show and Biblical Rain at Super South in Poole

4 –       The weather at the Worlds. They do not call Ireland the Emerald Isle for nothing.

3 –       The 4.2s based at Tankerton bay for NS4, not able to launch due to massive waves having to pull boats half an hour along the foreshore to Whitsatble, only to see racing abandoned for that day!

2 –       Amphibious landing craft almost running over the Regatta Fleet on coming ashore at RJCs in Torquay

1 -        Thursday in the Worlds. 8 hours afloat, coming ashore at 7pm. Only 1 race completed….


Top 10 moments of 2023


10 -      G&T on The terrace and beach at Castle Cove.

9 -        So Boys do do make up…. Holly and Millie ordering the boys to sit still while the girls apply the zinc suncream

8 -        Parkstone Youth Week layday – cinema to see ‘Barbie’ and Splashdown

7 -        Super South in Poole – Lightning show and biblical rain…..

6 -        Regatta Fleet at the nationals. Pirates Ahoy with class and Dittisham legend Arthur

5 -        NS4 Whitstable – Oysters and Epic waves!

4 -        Parkstone Youth Week – Parkstone Topper Dads do Beyonce

3 -        ETs – Team SW win the team event – proving the SW is top of the tree for Topper sailing!

2 -        Nationals in Pwhelli – Big Friday! The look on Zac and Thomas faces when they learnt that 4.2s and Silver fleet are heading in but the Gold fleet had to sail the last race in 25kts and massive waves. Exhaustion & Pure fear!

1 -        It could only be ….. Alex Jones from the SW - WORLD CHAMPION!


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