A snapshot of this year's champion of champions race at Burnham-on-Crouch

The Royal Corinthian Yacht Club in Burnham, Essex, has been running the Endeavour Trophy since 1962. Now 41 years on, it remains a prestigious and highly contested event.


Initially the brain child of Robin Judah and Beecher Moore, the Endeavour Trophy championship is an annual event for national champions from most of the popular racing dinghy classes. It gives them a chance to pit their wits against one another for the converted title of ‘Champion of Champions’.

The Royal Corinthian Yacht Club has a long standing link with the America’s Cup of 1934, which has given rise to the event’s title of the ‘Endeavour Trophy’. Sir Thomas Sopwith’s plans to campaign Endeavour against Rainbow in the 1934 America’s Cup were brought to an abrupt end, when the professional crew withdrew over a pay dispute. The commodore of the Royal Corinthian stepped in to assemble an amateur crew from among the club membership. So when the idea to find a ‘Champion of Champions’ was born, the scale-sized solid silver model of the J-Class yacht Endeavour seemed the natural choice of trophy for the event.

The sailors

Every year the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club issues a fresh round of invitations to each of the specified dinghy classes. The number of classes offered a place at the championship has grown from 12 at the first event to over 40 today. It is, however not automatic that each new class will be offered a place at the event. The club will assess any requests from classes wishing to send their champion on an individual basis. They must comply with a number of criteria, including a sufficient number of entrants at their own national championships.

The list of past winners reads like a Who’s Who in small boat sailing. The first event was won by the International Cadet Class Champions, Bateman and Musto, since then a succession of renowned sailors such as Richard Estaugh, Mike Macnamara, Geoff Carveth and Mike Holmes have taken the title. Some more than once!

Weapon of choice

It was the initial intention back in 1962 to sail the Endeavour Trophy in the Royal Corinthian’s One-Design class, but this idea was soon rejected as the boats were thought to be too specialist. Instead various classes have been used including the GP14, Laser 2, Lark, Enterprise and, for the last six or seven years, the RS400. And not surprisingly, this year’s event was dominated by the current RS400 national champions, and the majority of the top five places we taken by sailors with a significant amount of experience sailing RS400s.

This year’s (2003) event

The event this year was contested by 20 champions, who arrived at Burnham on Friday the 3 October and early on Saturday morning with their borrowed RS400s.

The first three races were to be run for a minimum duration of 30 minutes each. A crowed start line proved to be an interesting prospect for race officer Kim Allen and the pin end line marker, who were able to confirm a clean getaway by all competitors. Reigning RS400 champions Gilbert and Stewart certainly started as they meant to go on, with a clear first in race one. They were followed across the line by RS700 rockstars Bayliss and Martin, for whom this result proved to be the best of the series. Representatives from the OK class Craig and Bedborough took third place. Spurred on by this success they sailed consistently throughout the second race to claim first place.

Race three threatened to shake up the pack with retirements from Craig and Bedborough and Europe sailors Gill and Carveth, two teams that had both been demonstrating winning potential. This left the way clear for Gilbert and Stewart to take their second first of the day, with Barton and Kenyon of the Laser 4000 class chasing at their heels.

Once the last of the competitors had completed the final lap of race three, the rescue boat drivers delivered a quick snack to the sailors and race four was soon underway. This time, 45 minutes were on the clock, and with the leaders passing the line at forty three minutes all the competitors were sent round again for another lap. Tiredness was clearly beginning to set in, as the capsized boats were taking longer to right and boats were beginning to take early retirement, heading in for a hot shower. Craig and Bedborough were back on form after retirement from race three and crossed the line ahead of Gilbert and Stewart, with B14 champions Hayes and crew securing a third place.

By race five, only 14 competitors remained; the cold and wind really were going to prove who the ‘Champion of Champions’ was going to be. Clearly eager to be heading for home, the start was crowed and a general recall was issued with the next sequence starting with a black flag in place. On the second run, they were all away with Gilbert and Stewart seemingly unstoppable. Once again they claimed the line honours, this time followed by champions from the 49er class, Morrison and Rhodes. As soon as racing was completed for the day, competitors wasted no time in returning to the warmth of the clubhouse for a pasta supper before the evening’s formal dinner.

A short postponement held up Sunday’s start, but it was already clear it was going to be a difficult task to break Gilbert and Stewarts grip on the lead. Craig and Bedborough were however, keen to give it a go with a quick succession of firsts in races six and seven. But when it came to race eight they were forced to settle for second place, as Gilbert and Stewart re-established their winning form for the final race of the day, claiming the 2003 title of ‘Champion of Champions’ ahead of Craig and Bedborough.

Meanwhile, Morrison and Rhodes snatched third place overall, as they produced a fifth and a sixth from races seven and eight. Barton and Kenyon settled for fourth having battled for a fourth, sixth and third on day two. Bayliss and Martin also seemed to have found their form once again, with a third and fourth in races seven and eight respectively, securing them a fifth place overall.

Overall results

1st Roger Gilbert and James Stewart RS 400 10pts

2nd Nick Craig and Bedborough OK 13pts

3rd Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes 49er 24pts

4th Peter Barton and Robin Kenyon Laser 4000 26pts

5th Paul Bayliss and Nick Martin RS700 34 pts

A chat with the champions

RS 400 national champions Roger Gilbert and James Stewart have sailed the Endeavour four time and have finally won the event. This is what they had to say

What is it about the endeavour that keeps you coming back?

In some ways it’s the ultimate. Its also very different racing from what we would normally do. If it was a big nationals event, it would probably be quite dull with big open courses it would be dominated by the local sailors. But you are sailing against all the great guys and no one ever gives an inch and no one ever gives up. So you might be leading but people are always trying things behind you, always trying to get past. There’s never a procession. It’s full on, all the way round, and you never get a break! Its also the short courses that make it all about boat handling and very different from normal racing.

Do you do much by way of preparation for the event?

To be honest not really, as there is not a great deal you do to prepare for it. We know the boat anyway which helps. I have not sailed the RS400 that much this year, just sort of jumped in for the nationals and that’s pretty much all I have done, because I have been sailing other things, its all the same.

This years was bit different it was very steady winds, shifty but it was a much more open course so it was more uncertain. Often winning the start is everything but this year we were being more conservative. We were only round first round the mark once and most of the races we pulled through from being seventh or eighth at the first mark.