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Keith Atkinson makes it in to GB Team

12:54 1st July 2001 by
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KEITH ATKINSON in GB TEAM for
EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS +NEILPRYDE & AHD BACKING

Keith’s efforts have not gone unnoticed this season, he has gained three new
sponsors, NEILPRYDE the worlds number one supplier of sails, booms and masts.
AHD boards and Wet’n Dry Boardsports based in Essex, South east England’s leading
kit supplier and board repair workshop. F2 continue their support with Raceboard
equipment.

Keith
Atkinson who is a member and race team captain of the Bewl Valley Sailing Club
has made a dramatic move for the 2001 season. Having finished 2000 with high
honours in the UK National Raceboard Unlimited class, he has moved on to the
relatively newFormula Windsurf class. During the winter Keith decided that although
he had only completed one season in Raceboard at National level, finishing a
remarkable 4th at the age of only 17 in the Unlimited class, the future in International
racing is in Formula which is rapidly gaining popularity around the world and
could well be the class selection for the 2008 Olympics. With eight years to
prepare he considers now is the time to make the move.

The last weekend in April saw the first UKWA national UK event take place at
the picturesque resort of Llandudno. Despite a chilly weekend with sleet on
the Sunday and a snow covered Snowdonia as a backdrop, plus competitors who
have already several seasons of Formula experience, he managed to finish his
first Formula event in second place, in the National Formula Silver Fleet.

The second mid May event, held at Weymouth, resulted in improved conditions
and a similar result. With Keith wearing the leader’s vest after day one, having
won all three races but with a disqualification in race three for being over
the start line. Day two, with stronger winds, provided a great tussle between
Keith and Jono Turner. However Keith was caught out using an 11.0m sail with
increasing winds, which resulted in two races where Jono, using a smaller more
manageable rig, was able to get ahead. In the end it was all down to Keith’s
disqualification, which cost him his first ever National event title. However
it was still sufficient to put him in first position in the 2001 National Championship
for Formula Silver Fleet.

Round three took place as a three-day event over the Spring Bank Holiday at
Hove and was also this years European Championship qualifying event, although
blessed with wind the south coast was dogged with sea fog on and off over the
weekend. Mid day Saturday saw the start of the racing, however whilst Keith
was on the start line he was to have a competitors sail dropped on him which
resulted in a five-centimeter gash to the top of his thumb. Whilst he managed
to complete the first race he struggled with severe pain in his hand finishing
seventh before coming ashore for medical attention. Undeterred the next two
races saw him regain form with two second places and a first place, Sunday was
a mixture of sea fog and racing but by Monday the conditions deteriorated and
racing was abandoned at lunchtime. Keith managed to finish 3rd overall which
was enough for him to retain his lead in the UK 2001 Formula Silver Fleet Championship
and to qualify for the GB team, taking part in this year’s European Championships
held on the Baltic coast at Sopot in Poland.

With only three days notice before departing with the team for Poland, Keith
had to postpone his driving test, that was due on the day he departed, those
nice people at the driving test centre acknowledged his team appointment and
have allowed him to postpone the date.

Unfortunately the European championship event didn’t get sufficient wind for
a result, but since then Keith has qualified for the GB Team for the 2001 World
Youth & Masters in Rome

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