Rugby girls top 170 sailors and double Olympic medallist to be national champions

Victory at Hayling Island for Millie Irish and Jess Powell

Friday, 11th June 2021, 7:00 am
National champions Jess Powell and Millie Irish (Picture:
National champions Jess Powell and Millie Irish (Picture:

Two Rugby girls have won the Feva Class sailing National Championships over half term at Hayling Island Club on the south coast.

There were 170 sailors competing in the double-handed class – and what makes Millie Irish and Jess Powell’s performance even more spectacular is that the fleet included double Olympic medallist Simon Hiscocks.

Millie, 16, from Stretton-on-Dunsmore, and Jess,11, from Rugby, met at Draycote Water Sailing Club where they are both members of the very active Youth & Junior division of which Millie has recently been appointed Commodore .

National champions Jess Powell and Millie Irish (Picture:

At the Nationals there was an initial qualifying series of six races. They didn’t start well on the opening day with 11th and 16th places, but they won the next four to qualify in third place for the gold fleet.

In the final series of six races, they won the first race. A 6th and 5th followed before they won the next two and finished off with a third, so they were a massive 11 points clear of the second-placed boat.

Millie and Jess’s backgrounds in sailing could not be more contrasting. Millie has sailed all her life, as have her parents. Her father, Steve, is a previous world and national champion and coaches Olympic sailors around the world.

Dunchurch Junior School pupil Jess, on the other hand, doesn’t come from a sailing family but they came to a Draycote Water Sailing Club open day in 2018, and she enjoyed her first taste of sailing. She has become hooked, mainly sailing her single-handed Topper dinghy in which she has won a number of events.

The chance to team up with Millie was a wonderful opportunity for Jess and, as well as winning the open and ladies’ national championships, they won the Pro Am title which had been newly introduced.

Lucy Jameson, Secretary of the Feva Class Association, explained: “The idea is that the newbie sailor would have a boost of confidence knowing that they are in the very capable hands of an experienced friend who knows the boat well and also understands the format for racing.

“It was clear that under Millie’s excellent guidance, and with her boundless energy and confidence, this team would be a force to be reckoned with.”

Southam College student Millie said: “It was great to be able to take Jess to her first nationals and we made a great team! The conditions were tricky and in such a big fleet we had to stay focused across the four days, but we worked really hard and it’s brilliant to have been able to win the title.”

Jess added: “It was really exciting to win the Feva National Championships with Millie. It was an amazing experience for me. Between us, we sailed consistently strong throughout the whole regatta.

“The support and congratulations from our club has been amazing. Draycote Water Sailing Club has taught me so much and I have made so many great friends.

“From the courses to the academy, DWSC is a fun and friendly place for juniors and adults to learn to sail.”

Draycote Water Sailing Club’s Youth & Junior fleet covers junior learn-to-sail courses every school holiday and half term, improver fun sessions on Friday nights and Saturday mornings, racing on Friday evenings and the Draycote Academy which offers high level racing training.

The learn-to-sail courses are available to non-members and can be found here: The other activities require membership which is available for juniors at a modest £13 a month. Club boats are available to hire by members. The Club is situated in the Draycote Water Country Park, just south of Rugby.

Sailing is a wonderful outdoor activity which teaches independence and self-reliance, but it is also immensely fun – particularly with DWSC’s youth & junior fleet. For more information, look at the Club’s website: