Seldén SailJuice Winter Series survives two tough seasons

Seldén SailJuice Winter Series survives two tough seasons

by Andy Rice 18 Mar 09:26 PDT

(L-R) Rich Thoroughgood of Seldén with Ben McGrane and Roger Gilbert who won overall in the Seldén SailJuice Winter Series © Tim Olin /

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It’s almost two years to the day since the UK entered its first Covid lockdown. Every aspect of the world has changed since then, including the sailing world and the UK dinghy scene specifically.

Thanks to the unwavering support of Seldén Mast throughout the pandemic, the Seldén SailJuice Winter Series has come out the other side in pretty good shape. Yes, some events were cancelled due to Omicron, and the Oxford Blue called off in the midst of that wave of February storms, but there were plenty of high points too.

The long-established events that begin the Series in late November/ early December – the Fernhurst Books Draycote Dash and the Datchet Flyer – took place without a hitch. Even 49er Olympic Champion Dylan Fletcher made a Datchet appearance at the helm of a National 18. After Christmas the brand new Burghfield Breezer proved itself as a worthy addition to the Series followed by another well-attended King George Gallop in North London.

The Tiger Trophy lived up to its fierce reputation, the Rutland Water race crew delivering a barnstorming weekend of high-speed action that will live long in the memory for all those that ventured on to the water.

The prize-giving was the first event on the Main Stage at this year’s RYA Dinghy Show, where the attendance and the atmosphere proved that enthusiasm for the sport is perhaps higher than at any time in the past 20 years. To take a look back at the prize-giving go here:

There were some great prizes handed out on the day, including a year’s boat insurance from Craftinsure for Nigel & Andy Bird in their Enterprise, the winners in the family ranking competition; a £350 voucher from Trident for Lymington Town SC winning the Trident Top Club contest; Seldén presented a selection of gear from its deck hardware range to the third and second placed boats overall (Tom Gillard & Rachael Gray – Merlin Rocket in third and Luke Fisher – RS Vareo in second).

And it was a brand new mast from Seldén Mast for the overall series winners in their impeccably sailed 505, Roger Gilbert & Ben McGrane.

The Seldén SailJuice Winter Series continues to promote diversity in every sense of the word, in terms of the type of sailors who take part, and the huge range of boats that it encourages on to the water. Thanks to the ever-evolving Great Lakes handicap numbers, a refined version of the standard RYA numbers, the events in the Series continue to deliver arguably the fairest version of handicap racing in the country.

Yes, Gilbert & McGrane won an unprecedented three events on their way to overall victory in the Series, but they have won the 505 European and National titles in the past couple of years. It takes a world-class performance to win this national winter series.

Even if they made it look easy, McGrane points out that the Five-Oh isn’t really set up for short-course racing on reservoirs against a multitude of other, mostly slower, classes. “The 505 is geared up for long legs where the focus is on boatspeed, but doing the Seldén SailJuice Winter Series forces us to sail the boat in different ways, which is all good for when you come back to your class racing during the summer.”

For McGrane, the high point of the winter was that stormy weekend at Rutland. “There are two rules for the Tiger Trophy: Rule One, it’s always windy! Rule Two, gybe at the church! I don’t know why it’s always gybe at the church, but there were plenty of spectators there to watch the action this time.

“We were following Mike Sims in his 505 and he gybed and capsized, right at the point where we wanted to gybe. There was about 100 meters of water before we were about run into the shore at high speed. So we said ‘let’s drop and tack round’. You have to be quick and adapt to the situation in the Sailjuice events. Hopefully when we get back on a big course with with the 505 fleet it will seem a bit more laid back. But probably not, it will just be hectic in different ways.”

To soak up some of the action from the Tiger Trophy, watch this compilation of videos from Jon Williams and photos from Tim Olin:

At 82kg, Ben McGrane is about 10kg lighter than the typical 505 crew, but great teamwork and a methodical approach to their campaigning guarantees ongoing success for this long-standing partnership with Gilbert. If they hadn’t won a Seldén mast, they probably would have bought another one at some point. “Being as light as I am, there are softer rigs in the market that might suit our crew weight better, but the great thing about Seldén rigs is their consistency and repeatability,” says McGrane, who used to work at Seldén but is now with Hyde Sails.

Now, like the other competitors in the Seldén SailJuice Winter Series, McGrane is looking to convert that off-season racing experience into an advantage on the championship race course this summer.

You can find out more about the Series here:

Next season

Simon Lovesey of SailRacer, one of the co-organisers of the Seldén SailJuice Winter Series, is continuing to run multiclass handicap events throughout the summer as part of the GBSC, the Great British Sailing Challenge. Meanwhile, with Seldén Mast continuing to support the Winter Series for a fifth season, the Seldén SailJuice Winter Series is inviting expressions of interest from other clubs looking to host handicap racing events. Contact

Meanwhile, here’s a summary of overall winners and category winners from the 2021/22 series.,,

Overall rankings

Roger Gilbert and Ben McGrane (505 – Netley SC) won three events, and were second in the fourth. It was the most dominant performance yet seen in the 13 seasons since the Winter Series first began. It’s the first time a 505 has taken the top spot, but seeing as Gilbert & McGrane have won the National and European Championships in the past couple of years, there’s no doubting the quality of this talented and hard-working duo.

For the second year running, Luke Fisher (RS Vareo – Emberton Park SC), finished in the runner-up spot with Ben Flower (Laser ILCA 7 – Paignton SC) in third. Just outside the podium by less than two points were previous winners of the Sailjuice Winter Series, Tom Gillard & Rachael Gray (Merlin Rocket – Staunton Harold).

Overall rankings

RestartSailing Top Club

The Laser Radial (ILCA 6) class had a strong showing at the breezy Tiger Trophy and jumped three places to the top of the class rankings, knocking the Laser (ILCA 7) class from the top spot. The RS200s complete the podium. Rankings based on the best three results for each class across every race.

RestartSailing Top Club results

Trident Top Club

Lymington Town SC sailors had some good results at Rutland and won the Trident Top Club, with Draycote and Burghfield not far behind.

Trident Top Club results

CraftInsure Family Rankings

It is great to see more family teams, either sailing together or in separate boats, competing for CraftInsure Family Rankings at Seldén SailJuice Winter Series events. Nigel & Andy Bird (Enterprise) came out on top in the CraftInsure Family Rankings, with father and daughter team, Chris & Abigail Larr (RS400 – Draycote SC), moving up to second place after a great result at the Tiger Trophy. Roger and James Blake (Osprey) complete the podium.

CraftInsure Family Rankings

Top Lady

Ellie Craig (RS Aero 7 – Starcross), competed in all the events and took top spot in the Top Lady rankings. In second place was Serena Stewardson (Supernova – Emberton Park SC), with last year’s champion, Val Millward (Challenger – Rutland SC), in third.

Top Lady results


Maddie Childs (Laser Radial ILCA 6 – King George SC) took the top youth spot, with last year’s champions Harry George & Ralph Cawthorne (420 – Lymington Town SC) not far behind. In third were Megan Farrer & Iain Blake (420 – Emsworth SC).

Youth results

Full results

A comprehensive list of results can be found here.

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