Late switch proves Bloody fortuitous for Gillard and Anderton

Tom Gillard & Richard Anderton’s change of horse from Five-Oh to Fireball pays dividends at a blustery Bloody Mary

16 January 2015

Queen Mary Sailing Club resisted eleventh-hour calls to cancel the Bloody Mary and, as it proved, were right to do so. The 71 finishers (from an original entry of 235) tells a story in itself, and indicates just how tough this year’s pursuit race classic proved to be.

Now in its 42nd year, the Bloody Mary has become one of those must-do events during the harsh months of the British winter, particularly for those competing in the GJW Direct Sailjuice Winter Series, of which this was the fifth of eight events. Entrants came from as far away as Luxembourg and, in the case of reigning 505 World Champion Mike Holt, California.

Late switch proves Bloody fortuitous for Gillard and Anderton

Race director Andrew Craig and principal race officer Bob Joce made the decision to postpone the midday start by 20 minutes, with the forecast for the Force 8 gusts to diminish rapidly during the afternoon. It proved to be a good call, and it was looking sailable - albeit still close to survival conditions for some - as the Toppers got the race underway.

Of the 19 Toppers entered, nine made it to the start and only two were to finish. The early leader was William Cook (45710), overhauled by Molly Sacker (42040) after one lap, but taking the lead back when Molly retired. By this time the leading Fevas of Iain Bird and Jake Hardman (5029) and Will and Matt Taylor (5028) were closing fast - seen to be doing 14 knots on one spinnaker reach, according to the live GPS tracking - eventually overtaking the Toppers half way into the 150 minute race.

Half a lap further on, the Radials of Steve Cockerill (181920) and Dan Martin (203973) and the Solo of Michael Sims (5491) overtook the Fevas. Their lead was only brief since the Fireball of Tom Gillard and Richard Anderton (15081), having had a blistering first lap, overtook them at the end of the second lap, 90 minutes into the race. The 505 of Mike Holt and Tim Needham (9072) was steadily making up ground until they came up against the Contender of Stuart Jones (2465). It took them half a lap to overtake the singlehander and get clear.

By the finish, Tom Gillard and Richard Anderton had extended their lead, another Fireball of Dave Edwards and Vyv Townend was secure in second place, the 505 of Mike Holt and Tim Needham had climbed into 3rd place and Stuart Jones in the Contender had hung on to 4th, ahead of a chasing 505 and Fireball.

Finishing in 7th was Steve Cockerill in the Radial just ahead of William Warren and Mark Oakey in the first Merlin, beating fellow Merlin racers Nick Craigand Oli Wells by four places. Of the other early leaders, Michael Sims in the Solo finished 10th, Will and Matt Taylor in the Feva 20th and William Cook 38th in his Topper.

Gillard and Anderton have been campaigning on the GJW Direct Sailjuice Winter Series in their 505 this season, but a bent rudder pin forced them into a Fireball for the Bloody Mary. As it turned out, it proved to be a good change of steed. If the reigning 505 World Champion, Holt, could only manage 3rd against the Fireballs, it’s reasonable to assume Gillard and Anderton would also have struggled to keep the Edwards/Townend Fireball at bay. It’s worth noting that all of the top three teams are current or past World Champions in their respective classes. But it was a fast boat day, which makes the performances of Cockerill’s Laser Radial and Sims’ Solo particularly impressive. Among the spot prize winners were Matt and Ellie Sheahan who were the only RS400 team to complete the course and received some goodies from Gul, as a celebration of the company's 47 years of providing ‘innovative solutions to keeping you warm’.

Next, the GJW Direct Sailjuice Winter Series moves on to Northampton Sailing Club for the Steve Nicholson Memorial Trophy which, at 148 advance online entries, is already booked to capacity. In the current overall standings, Craig holds the lead in his Merlin, followed by last year’s Series winner Sims in his Solo. Gillard’s Fireball victory won’t count towards his Series standings, although even discounting last weekend’s triumph, Gillard and Anderton still hold 3rd overall in their 505.

The photographers were out in force at the Bloody Mary, notably Tom Gruitt and Tim Olin, who has been travelling the length of the country covering every event in the Series thus far. But the backbone of these events is the volunteers, and Queen Mary SC is a great example of volunteer power at work. Race director Andrew Craig’s review of events leading up to the race start last Saturday indicates some of the stress involved in running such an iconic competition.

“Arriving at the club to be greeted by a F5-6 breeze blowing dead onshore was reassuring in that the forecast had proven accurate for 8:00. The issue that Race Officer Bob Joce faced was that the forecast was for the wind to swing from south-west to west at about the scheduled race start time as a cold front arrived. Bob had the course laid to a westerly wind and waited. By 10:00 when the course was due to be posted, the wind was still from the south-west. Bob held his nerve and went with his planned course on the basis that the wind would swing.

“At 10:45 the cold front arrived with a blast of rain and near gale force wind. All committee boat preparation had to be put on hold since those boats on moorings were in danger of being ripped off, and those under way were finding it hard to see and almost impossible to steer, heeling worryingly whenever not head to wind. At 11:15, the front passed, the wind dropped back to F5-6, the rain stopped and the sky cleared. Preparations for the race could continue but until all committee boats were in place, and safety teams could concentrate exclusively on competitors, launching could not begin. For the second time in its 42 year history the start of the Bloody Mary was therefore postponed.

“When the launch flag was raised at 11:45, boats launched promptly and the race began at 12:20 after only a 20-minute delay. Of the 235 entries, around 120 boats decided to give the conditions a go. The wind held at around F5 for most of the race, dropping for a few minutes only to come back later with hammering gusts of F6-7. These conditions proved too much for many boats and retirements began immediately, fortunately with only a few breakages. The remaining competitors were not only surviving but revelling in the conditions, a broad reach on the east side of the reservoir producing especially memorable moving clouds of spray with a boat hull sometimes visible in the centre. With all the retirements, recording the 71 finishers was an unusually relaxed job for the finish boat crews. Sorting out lapped boats was the major task but soon accomplished and prize giving went ahead at 4:30pm.”

To get a boom-cam perspective of winning the Bloody Mary aboard the Gillard and Anderton’s Fireball:

For results in the GJW Direct Sailjuice Winter Series after five events:


Thanks to generous support from Series sponsors, we have some great prizes for competitors, and also for spectators and photographers. More details to follow in the coming weeks...

In addition to title sponsor GJW Direct Insurance (, the UK’s largest direct boat insurer, our silver-level sponsors are:

Gul - Experts in Performance Apparel 

Trident - The Dinghy & Yacht Shop on the Web

Overboard - The Leaders in Waterproof Bags & Cases

Lennon Sails - A new brand with a great heritage


Enter the Series here

The website will tell you more about the events in the Series, more about the Great Lakes handicapping process, and we’ll keep you updated on everything else you need to know.