Team Spitfire is a sailing team that is proud to support the RAF Benevolent Fund. Our famous heart roundel is emblazoned on the sails of their boat, also named Spitfire, and the team are great ambassadors for the charity. Former Harrier pilot, Tony Hanlon has written this blog from their latest race in the J80 Class UK National Championships. Twenty-six boats lined up for the start on Wednesday on a gloriously sunny but very windy day.
Our usual middle man, Wing Commander Simon Ling, is currently serving a six month tour in Afghanistan. So Spitfire had to make a slight change to the normal crew, with Hywel 'H' Poole joining fresh from completing his fast jet training at RAF Valley.
Ace helmsman, Sergeant Andy Rodwell, was also making his return to regular sailing after the birth of his son Harry earlier in the year.
We still felt confident despite the rough conditions, and the wind and sun made for some fantastic racing with speeds approaching 20 knots downwind. However a couple of mistakes meant we were lying fifth overall after day one, despite having some excellent speed. We knew we could do better.
On day two, we did better. With two second places out of three races, the team had their best day of the regatta and stormed through to hold third place overall.
Going into the final day, there was a distinct lack of wind to start with and what there was seemed to be coming from all sorts of directions. In a controversial decision, Spitfire was judged to be over the line, but you know what they say, if you’re not over the line every once in a while then you're not trying hard enough!
The race officer in charge of all the races had spent 22 years in the RAF as an armourer, and I've never seen a race officer so apologetic for having to disqualify us. Normally the crews buy the race officer a beer, this time he was buying us one! It’s great how the Air Force family stays together.
Unfortunately that disqualification meant we had our work cut out in the final race. It was incredibly close with all boats seeming to find their form. Spitfire managed to hold out the key competition and third place was ours.
Our goal over the next year will be to build on those little things that make the difference between third and first.
It's great to see the support Spitfire attracts for the RAF Benevolent Fund. The iconic spinnaker has become widely recognised on the water – the heart logo is now automatically associated with RAF racing.
Wherever we go, we are stopped and asked, "What does the BF stand for?" and away we go.
I’ve lost count of the number of people who we have talked with and encouraged to support the RAFBF.
It surprises most people that many beneficiaries are young people and many are still serving – something that the support of Spitfire highlights really well.
We’re all really proud to support the RAF Benevolent Fund – the RAF couldn't ask for a better charity!