Pilots aiming to sail to victory

TWO people from Crow Country will be competing in the world championships of a sport that rarely grabs the headlines later this month.

The world land yachting championships takes place in De Panne, Belgium, from October 9 to 15, and Steve Borrill and Christine Heath from Guilden Morden will be competing. Both are members of the Anglia Land Yacht club based at Bassingbourn Barracks.

Land yachting involves a canoe-sized body on wheels that is propelled by wind, to reach speeds up to 50mph. Competitors are known as pilots, and races take place on beaches.

Mr Borrill said: “We are looking forward to the world championships, even though our performance has varied down the years.

“Sometimes we do well and sometimes we don’t. It normally depends on the beach. We have had several world champions before, but the French will be the favourites as they practice all year round on beaches and we practice on an airfield.

“I have been going to the European championships for about 15 years, and been to several world championships too.”

Pilots are split into three classes – Class Three (the largest and fastest type), Class Five (the smallest and lightest), and Standart (which have no modifications) – and will be battling against participants from 18 other nations.

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The UK team is made up of representatives from four of the “20 or so” clubs, with nine pilots competing in each class.

Mrs Heath, who like Mr Borrill has been racing for around 20 years, said: “I have always sailed, and a friend of mine had introduced me to this new sport. I thought I could do it so I gave it a go.

“It had the advantage of not getting cold and wet, although you do get cold sometimes due to the speeds. However the speed is the biggest attraction.

“I have been sailing this particular standart yacht since February and have done averagely well recently. I hope to be in the middle of the fleet in world championships.”

Mr Borrill agreed that the speed was one of the attractions, when he got into the sport after reading a story in the press.

“I saw an article in a newspaper about 20 years ago that happened to be on the Bassingbourn club and wanted to get involved.

“It’s exciting. We are close to the ground and seem to go fast and we are using nothing but the wind, so it’s very green as sports go. Basically it’s quiet but fast.”

For more information on the Anglia Land Yacht club, visit www.anglialandsailing.co.uk. The world championships can be followed at www.worldchampionships2010depanne.com.