Michelle Collier-Brooks National Champion 2023Profile:
Growing up my father always had boats, firstly launches on the Thames, then power boats before finding our real passion in sailing. I started out crewing an Enterprise with Dad before getting my first boat for my eleventh birthday; a British Moth sail number 32 which I believe was built in 1936. It wasn’t a very competitive boat, leaking badly. On inspection the hull was like a sponge and ended up with a pair of fibreglass curtains bonded underneath. Needless to say it still wasn’t fast, so having earned some money doing part-time jobs I bought British Moth 374, then a new mainsail and suddenly started winning races. I’ve been hooked ever since. I sailed in Fireballs with my brother Tony for about a decade. I then sailed Phantoms, RS300, RS700, Solos and recently a Devoti D1. Whilst my club sailing was very successful, on the circuit I was doing okay, with occasional race wins but without winning many events. I did win the masters in the RS300 in 2013. The RS Vareo is relatively new to me and although I seem to be sailing fast I feel that there is room for much improvement.
So I was surprised to find myself winning the Nationals in 2023 but it was quite breezy and I have enjoyed some success at Great Yarmouth and Gorleston in the past. 2023 was a great year for me at the ripe old age of 62 finishing 4th overall in the D1 worlds, winning the RS Vareo nationals and taking part in the Endeavour Trophy.
I would also like to mention that I am transgender which seems to be quite unusual in the sailing world. I believe there are a few transgender sailors which people have mentioned to me but I’ve not met any.
The RS Vareo fleet is very friendly. I’ve enjoyed racing in the few events I’ve entered and am looking forward to 2024.
Photo thanks to Great Yarmouth and Gorleston SC Tips:
I only started sailing in my 20s to help a work
colleague, but I was soon hooked and moved from keelboat crew to a dinghy of my
own - Laser, Merlin then RS400. Following from this, for me the obvious choice
back into single handers was the RS Vareo. Tips:
I have sailed RS Vareos for about 10 years now and have been a regular
on the RS circuit.
How to win the Nationals?
I am by no means a sailing superstar and I have
no special tricks to share. My only advice would be to learn by competing
against other RS Vareo sailors.
On this occasion I had just the right
combination of a well-sorted boat, the right sailing conditions to favour my
weight, experience and sailing style and an element of luck so that when things
didn't go my way my 'tactical gambles' paid off.
I grew up at Bassenthwaite Sailing Club (where I am now Vice Commodore) and started seriously racing when I got my first crewing job in a mirror. I moved onto toppers then spent a long time racing lasers before crewing GP14’s competing at various National’s and World’s in these classes. I then moved into the RS 400 fleet then the RS vareo class after my crew was injured.
I went on to compete and win the Nationals in 2012 and more recently in 2013 at my home club.
Racing tips: Time on the water, hike harder and get out there and do open meetings.