This year’s Winton Cup was once again an intensive weekend of fencing with 11 teams fencing a poule unique, meaning 30 fights each for some of our fencers. The top end of the table was more hotly contested than I can remember for a long time, with very little to choose between the top six teams.
Wales finished a very close 5th, with some emphatic wins against the weaker teams and some very narrow defeats to the strongest ones. It was, as always, a great pleasure for me to be involved as Team Manager and it was very encouraging to see the quality of some of our “development” selections.
Men’s Epee (Marc Burkhalter, Owen Edwards, Jack Cafaro and Kristoph Gibbon) finished with 7 wins and 3 defeats. They put in some great performances, particularly against the stronger teams, and it was great to see the three younger fencers winning almost as many fights as the Old Master. This has traditionally been our strongest weapon and it is great to see such strength in depth – places for the Senior Commonwealth team will be hotly contested!
Men’s Sabre (James Potter, Nathan Potter, Will Jolley, Ru Florence) also won 7 out of 10. Will and Ru both fenced very well on their senior debut, and helped the team bring in some vital wins in key matches. I am extremely grateful to James and Nathan for giving me the chance to put in a cameo performance against one of the weaker teams on Sunday morning and thus come away as the only undefeated member of the team.
Women’s Foil and Women’s Epee both finished with 6 victories. Jess Gundry proved an excellent addition to the Women’s Epee team, alongside Stella Lancey, Abi Watkins and Lou Sadler. They produced our only victory over the eventual winners, South East, and fenced very well as a team all weekend.
The Women’s Foil team fenced with great enthusiasm and delivered some excellent results, most impressively a 6-3 win over a very strong West Midlands team. New caps Phoebe Dawe and Bethan Ellis got their Senior Team careers off to a great start, alongside their more established team-mates Heulwen Hill and Eleanor Regnart-Butler.
The Women’s Sabre Team (Megan Ware, Stephanie Phennah and Alex Clement) finished exactly mid-table, on 5 wins and 5 defeats. This is a huge credit to their resilience: being our only team of 3, they had no chance to rest any fencers and two of the team came into the weekend carrying illnesses. They soldiered on heroically and managed to seal our overall position with a vital win over East Midlands in the final round of fencing, with a crucial victory from SuperSub Heulwen Hill standing in for Alex Clement who had finally been defeated by her illness.
Men’s Foil (Glen Ostacchini, Celyn Lewis, Jack Davies and Rhodri Gibbon) were up against some pretty tough teams all through the weekend and were unlucky to come away with only 4 victories. Glen fenced excellently, dropping only a few fights all weekend, and Celyn had some fantastic fights as well. Jack and Rhodri fenced with great spirit against some really strong senior fencers and certainly look to be very promising prospects for the future.
I would like to say a huge thank you to all the fencers for working so hard and fencing so well, to the individual weapon captains (Marc, Stella, James, Megan, Glen and Heulwen) for making sure everyone was in the right place at the right time and getting the best out of their team-mates and to those parents who, yet again, gave up their weekends to support their children. Particular thanks also to Deborah Edwards for acting as chaperone for the under-18 fencers and doing all the organising for the team dinner on Saturday night. I am very proud of all the fencers and am really pleased to now have “faces to put to names” for some of the younger fencers who are beginning to come into contention for places in the Senior 5 Nations and Commonwealth squads. I would like to say a massive thank you to Fran Whalley who did all the hard work in putting the team together, and to Welsh Fencing for subsidising the event.