The biggest annual sailing spectacle on Chichester Harbour is about to get under way as competitors gear up for Race Week 2019.
Already around 150 dinghies from the harbour and beyond – even as far as Germany – have signed up, and as many competitors make last-minute decisions that number is expected to approach 300 by the time the first races start on August 19.
The five-day event, now in its 56th year, is organised by volunteers from member clubs of the Chichester Harbour Federation and run from Hayling Island Sailing Club.
Three separate courses for boats of differing speeds are set within the broad stretch of water just inside the harbour mouth, and spectators on East Head get a grandstand view of a kaleidoscope of dinghy design as the racers come inshore to avoid adverse tidal currents.
Classics such as National Solos and Flying Fifteens are represented, as well as Olympic classes – Finns in particular – alongside some of the latest asymmetrics and foilers, plus RS Teras and Optimists, popular boats for the youngest sailors.
Race Week is very much a family regatta, often seeing two or even three generations of the same family competing, and with regulars returning year after year in a chase for the coveted prize plates, which depict the burgees of the 14 harbour sailing clubs.
Racing is of a high standard, but competitors at all skill levels find much to enjoy – it’s not always about winning, but beating a close rival or even simply finishing a race far longer or over a much bigger course than ever previously attempted.
Over the three courses, there are 17 separate starts each day for different one-design and handicap classes, which are decided each year on year according to demand. New this year are starts for Fireballs and 2000s.
In the fast handicap class there is an exceptionally large advance entry from International Canoes, and in the medium handicap 420s will be competing in numbers not seen for many years.
This year’s tide times mean racing will be in the afternoons, so with good weather sea breezes will build in to make racing exciting for all competitors. A full social programme, including live music, a quiz, a chance to try stand-up paddle boarding and the renowned HISC disco, completes the week’s appeal.
Full details are at chichesterharbourraceweek.sailevent.net, where on-line entry is available until midday on August 17. After that, competitors can enter in person at HISC. Day rates are available for racers unable to commit to the full five days.
From August 18 to 24 sailors and crew, with their families and supporters from across Europe, will join forces with UK Sharpie Sailors at Itchenor Sailing Club for the 55th European Sharpie Championship.
The sailing will take place in Chichester Harbour and the surrounding waters of Bracklesham Bay and Hayling Bay.
There will be a series of ten races and a great social programme with each competing nation hosting a themed evening, including a British Night, Dutch Pancake Night and more during the week culminating in a prize giving ceremony.
The 2019 Championship is being sponsored by Alan Boswell Group, Anglian Country Inns, Kraken Travel, Hilltop Outdoor Centre and Portal Comms.
The Sharpie class of boat is now sailed in the UK in Brancaster Staithe, Burnham Overy Staithe and Wells-Next-The-Sea, Norfolk. It is also re-emerging on the South Coast and in Europe in Holland, Germany and Portugal. The European Championship takes place each year and rotates between the four countries.
The International 12 Square Metre (sail size) Sharpie is a classic wooden sailing boat – Initially designed as a fast two man racing dinghy, which is also suitable for day cruising.It has shallow draught and a gaff rig and is capable of standing reasonably heavy weather. Apart from toe straps, sitting out aids are not permitted.
This annual event has grown into a sailing extravaganza over the years with hard and fast competitors sailing for the European title. This year there are so far 42 competing Sharpies.
Interest in Sharpie racing is certainly growing again with a host of young sailors partaking and enthusiastic yachtsman from around the UK and Europe taking on many Sharpies as restoration projects. Several Sharpies have changed hands over the past 12 months and a top condition boat for sale is becoming difficult to find.
James Nunn, Sharpie Fleet Captain said: “Once the magic of a Sharpie enters your lifestyle you become part of it for a very long time, there’s nothing that can compare.”
Chris Gibbs, Sharpie Sailor said:‘There is nothing more rewarding than seeing a fleet of Sharpies sailing together and is ultimately the reason us Sharpie sailors are members of BSOA (British Sharpie Owners Association) which helps preserve the Sharpie class we all love.’
To find out more please visit www.sharpies.org.uk or www.itchenorsc.co.uk or call 01243 512400.
CYC’s dinghy week started in a force five. The lake area was full of boats, with the start-to-race coaching courses being closely monitored by their instructors, and the beginners enjoying some fun in the sheltered areas near the beach.
The race fleets were set a trapezium course with the fast fleet an additional mark to extend their course. During the second race the wind was enough to cause a few capsizes and early retirements.
By contrast days two and three had light wind, with at times the weak northerly wind cancelled out by the sea breeze to leave the fleet stalled waiting for the wind to re-appear from a totally different direction.
By the Saturday the wind was better behaved, allowing a 37-boat fleet swelled by sailors joining for the weekend to have two good races.
Dinghy Week was again supported by an army of volunteers who manned the committee boat, safety boats and tea bar, and it was great to see so many dinghy members enjoying the week.
Fast feet winner was Hornet sailied by Nigel Skudder and Keith Hills (Starcross/CYC), medium fleet victor was Paul Trevan (Frensham Pond SC) and slow fleet winner was a Mirror helmed by Alan Bennett and crewed by Ellie Fletcher and Isabelle Fletcher (CYC/Staunton Harold SC).