Dinghy racing set for new era in Chichester Harbour

The racing week always make for some spectacular sights in Chichester Harbour   Picture by Liz Sagues
The racing week always make for some spectacular sights in Chichester Harbour Picture by Liz Sagues

The profile of dinghy racing in Chichester Harbour is set to rise even higher this year.

The hugely-popular five-day regatta run each August by Chichester Harbour Federation has a new name and for the first time a dedicated website to keep everyone interested in the event up to date with all that’s going on.

Already, four months ahead of normal, the first on-line entries are coming in for Chichester Harbour Race Week 2015, which runs from August 17 to 21.

The new website makes the entry process easy, gives full details of the event, explains the role of the federation and offers racing tips and specific advice on sailing in the harbour to those unfamiliar with its waters.

There is a sign-up newsletter, photos of previous regattas and also links to tourist attractions and accommodation. During the week itself it will provide daily results and information to competitors.

New name and new website (http://chichesterharbourraceweek.sailevent.net) apart, the character of the 52-year-old event previously known as Fed Week will not change, and as usual as many as 350 dinghies are expected to race over three courses just inside the harbour mouth. Fed Week has long been one of the country’s most important broad-based dinghy regattas, and under its new name of Chichester Harbour Race Week it should draw even wider attention.

Competitors will be divided into 14 separate fleets, with class racing for such popular designs as Solo, RS200, RS400, Laser and Optimist. The five handicap fleets will include such state-of-the-art high-speed boats as 49ers, International 14s and foiling Moths as well as dinghies raced on the harbour for decades, from Toppers to Wayfarers, 420s to Merlin Rockets.

Trophies commemorate such harbour notables as Sir Geoffrey Lowles, Freddie West and Nigel Pusinelli and as well as individual prizes – the coveted ceramic plates, emblazoned with the burgees of all the harbour clubs – there are two club team awards, one of them for junior sailors.

Racing is run by volunteers from the harbour clubs, who also provide safety cover, and the event is based at Hayling Island Sailing Club, a Royal Yachting Association centre of excellence and home both to Olympic medal-winning sailors and to race officials who took part in organisation of the 2012 Olympic regatta at Weymouth.

A single long race is run each day for the older competitors, while the juniors – sailing on more sheltered water closer to the club – have two shorter races. There are committee boat starts for both, allowing optimum courses to be set for varying wind conditions.

Though the racing is to a high standard, the week is very much a family event, often with several generations competing in the different fleets, and Hayling Island SC is a great location for non-sailing family and friends with superb views of the racing and a sandy beach to entertain the very young. Social events are organised each evening, plus beach sports and – a very popular innovation last year which is to be repeated this year – a team-racing competition in one-design dinghies provided by the club.