Sailing: Harbour Race Week set to be a stunner

Fed Week action in Chichester Harbour / Picture by Liz Sagues
Fed Week action in Chichester Harbour / Picture by Liz Sagues
  • Plans come together for new-llok Race Week
  • Sussex sailors gear up for Fastnet
  • Swallows gather at Itchenor
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There’s only a month to go to the first starting gun of Chichester Harbour Race Week 2015, which will be based at Hayling Island SC (HISC) from August 17 to 21 – the first running of the familiar Fed Week under its new name.

While all the popular features of Chichester Harbour’s biggest dinghy event of the year remain, there will be changes among those in charge of the racing. There are three new highly-experienced and talented race officers.

The fastest boats, sailing in series A (everything from foiling Moths to RS400s and Lasers), will be under the control of Tim Hancock from HISC, who was race officer for the Star and Finn classes at the 2012 Weymouth and Portland Olympic regatta.

Hancock has also been in charge of world championships for International Moths and a string of other classes and has run many national championships. He has won 505, Flying Fifteen, Wayfarer and International 14 world titles, three European championships and 15 nationals.

The big fleets of RS200s and Solos, plus the other medium-speed boats in series B, will have Nick Colbourne of Chichester YC as their race officer. These are the types of dinghy in which Colbourne has spent his racing years and continues to sail today. He is well used to large fleets, having been race officer for 100-plus boats in the Chichester YC winter handicap series.

Colbourne has also run many other club and open events on Chichester Harbour – his favourite sailing environment.

Series C, where the competitors are almost all youngsters in such dinghies as RS Teras, Optimists and Toppers, will be in the hands of Ian Grant, from Mengeham Rythe SC. Grant has been a member of the Fed/Race Week team for 32 consecutive years and has watched the evolution of racing in Chichester Harbour.

Through children and now grandchildren he is closely aware of the demands of modern youth racing, accompanying his eldest grandson to Tera, Feva and now 29er squad events across the country. As Ian says: “Race Week is a truly wonderful Harbour event.”

Racing for series A and B will be on big courses spread across the wide waters by the harbour mouth, while series C competitors sail in more sheltered waters close to HISC.

Full details of the week are at http://chichesterharbourraceweek.sailevent.net and online entry is open. Strong fleets are already emerging in the Finn, RS200 and Solo classes.

Class racing apart, the event has handicap starts catering for dinghies modern and classic, at all performance levels. It’s a great opportunity for showing off – and seeing – the latest in dinghy design and for spectators at East Head there will be the memorable sight of some 350 dinghies racing.

LIZ SAGUES

FASTNET RACE

Three Bognor and Chichester sailors will join 4,000 competitors in around 390 boats from 25 different countries in the world’s largest offshore race – the biennial Rolex Fastnet Race, organised by the Royal Ocean racing Club (RORC).

The legendary race sets sail from Cowes on Sunday, August 16, and will showcase the most diverse range of yachts imaginable; from 30ft to 130ft and attracts aspiring sailors to professional crews who race all over the world.

The entry list makes for impressive reading, both in its scale, diversity and quality of the fleet taking part, confirming the Rolex Fastnet Race’s position as the world’s biggest and most popular offshore race, by far.

Local entrants are Xara, a Swan SR 38 to be sailed by Jonathan Rolls of Bognor; Lisa, a First 44.7 of Nicholas Jones from Chichester, and Paracelsus, a Sigma 38 entered by Neil Holden, also from Chichester.

Now in its 46th year, the race started with seven boats and nowadays, sailors worldwide are drawn by the history and sporting lure of the greatest offshore contest. The challenging 603-mile race from Cowes to the Fastnet Rock off south-west Ireland and back around the Scilly Isles to Plymouth, is now by far the biggest of all the international 600-mile offshore races.

ITCHENOR

In a dominant display over a weekend of highly varied weather conditions, Gwaihir helmed by Mike Wigmore won the Swallow national championships hosted by Itchenor Sailing Club.

Saturday’s courses were set up in Brackesham Bay and the 20-boat fleet were sent away for race one in awkward conditions – a confused sea and wind that was swinging 30 degrees with little warning.

Ka Nyenga (Mike Robinson) plugged away on port tack to make the most of the ebbing tide from Chichester Harbour and was rewarded with a comfortable lead at the windward mark that was extended on the run as the new breeze became established. Gwaihir sneaked into second place ahead of rival Skua (Harry Roome).

For race two, the low cloud had peeled away and the breeze had steadied and at the third attempt the fleet was away.

Darter (Tony Glover) held a very narrow lead at the windward mark but was rolled by boats on both left and right on the first reach of the Olympic triangle course - which had in fact become a run.

The next three-sailed reach was tight and spirited in the building breeze and which seemed to cause Spectre (Clive Bush) some issues as Gwahir nudged past to claim the win with Carolyn Brigg’s Marengo third.

Race three was full-on champagne sailing in a force five-six breeze with building seas and a flood tide which caught out several competitors when they misjudged their approach to the windward mark.

This race was a battle of the titans as Skua sped away downwind on the windward/leeward course but was eventually reeled in by Gwaihir with Marengo again third. Considering Gwaihir’s uncharacteristically flawed approach to the first windward mark this was a classic victory.

Sunday’s weather was different. The race officer ventured out and sensibly decided to stage racing in Chichester Harbour on a windward/leeward course.

Gwaihir was over the start line and was trapped before returning against the strong ebb to re-start. Two other boats were judged OCS but neither returned and one –Skua – forfeited an exemplary display of heavy weather sailing to cross the finish line in silence.

Race officer Mark Upton-Brown’s use of a windward spreader mark kept the fleet from heading back through approaching boats and also opened up two downwindrace tracks which Marengo exploited to the full gaining six places on the first downwind leg.

Gwaihir was now charging and finished second to secure the championships. Marengo was second and Simon Slater sailing Echo was rewarded for a series of consistent results with third place.

Results: 1 Gwaihir (Mike Wigmore, Charles Hyatt and Harry Gilchrist); 2 Marengo (Carolyn Brigg, David Sloper and Olly Sloper); 3 Echo (Simon Slater, Simon Miller and George Miller).

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