Tough conditions won’t keep Itchenor sailors on dry land

Xcitation, XOD class winner at Itchenor
Xcitation, XOD class winner at Itchenor
  • Keel boats enjoy big weekend on the water
  • Clubs along Sussex coast plan open-day events

IN distinctly-unseasonal conditions more than 50 classic keel boats from Itchenor Sailing Club demonstrated their resilience to cool temperatures, big winds and heavy rain to enjoy tough and exciting racing over the bank holiday weekend.

They were the biggest fleets the club has seen so far this year and from the outset, last year’s form boats were out in front in the 19-strong Swallow fleet as they battled for the prestigious Royal Yacht Club de Belgique Trophy.

Skua, helmed for the day by Will Rainey, dominated Saturday’s races with two wins. Gwaihir (Mike Wigmore) was doing the chasing, with Marengo (Carolyn Brigg) the best of the rest.

These three boats finished in the same order in both races, Marengo elevating herself from oblivion in the second race with some deft tidal tactics to avoid the strong ebb tide.

Overnight rain cleared in time for Sunday morning although strong winds materialised in the afternoon.

Bluff (Hugo Fisher) was forced to take a penalty for an infringement on the start line of race three and, starting last and in desperation, went on the ‘wrong’ side of the channel but in clear wind to emerge with a 100m lead at the first windward mark, never to be caught.

Although the two elite boats, Skua – helmed by Harry Roome this time – and Gwaihir were closing and also engaging in some entertaining match-racing while doing so.

Skua had managed to keep Gwaihir at bay until the final mark when Gwaihir seized an opportunity and finished just inches ahead. However this was not enough to prevent Skua from winning the trophy with a race to spare.

So to the final race. The wind was up to force six and the sun made a fleeting appearance. Once again Skua and Gwaihir were ahead at the first windward mark with Gwaihir maintaining a slender lead down the exciting run, throughout the next lap and to the last mark.

Skua’s gybe went awry and they broached so Gwaihir led to the finish. Marengo, having yet again taken a different downwind route to the rest, was rewarded with another third place.

The Belgian Plate was appropriately presented by Belgian-born Martine Lunch, whose husband Anthony had co-helmed Solitude to a mid-fleet position.

The Swallow class host a guest day on Sunday (May 10) when all those who’d like to share the Swallow experience as a helm or crew are welcome.

The XOD fleet, also numbering 19, competed for the Felix Bowl. Roger Yeoman and Michael Moss showed great promise for the season ahead with five straight wins in their newly-acquired Xcitiation. It might have been six in a row if gear failure had not prevented them competing in Saturday’s first race.

The competition for second was close with Falconet (Alan Perry, Ron Parker, Jim Dunn and Peter Lawrence) finishing on the same points as David Palmer’s Princess Jalina. Palmer was comfortably second in Monday’s race, which would have secured the overall No2 slot – until he encountered the mud.

The Sunbeams were out in force with 15 boats racing. Their courses presented a number of navigational challenges. Roger Wickens won on Saturday and Monday followed by one of the new GRP boats – Molly (Richard Stephens and Tina Webster) on Saturday and Gayle Palmer’s veteran Little Lady on Monday.

Itchenor’s dinghies emerged in numbers to enjoy the varied weather conditions.

The RS800’s resurgence continued with eight boats out, Matthew and Adrian Woods winning this fleet. The 420s competed on back-to-back racing on all three days with a number of new faces starting out as new pairings met up and new friendships were developed on and off the water.

ELEVEN West Sussex sailing clubs and watersports centres are opening their doors for free and low-cost sailing and windsurfing as part of the national RYA Push The Boat Out campaign.

Between May 9 and 17, you and your family can have a go at a new sport that is much more accessible than you might think, right on your doorstep.

As the RYA’s Sam Rowe explains: “People think sailing is an expensive sport to get into, but the reality across the south east is that you don’t even need to own a boat.

“A family of four can be members of a local club for as little as £10-15 a month, and most clubs have boats you can borrow for a morning, afternoon or evening from as little as £3 to £5, or sometimes for free, depending on the boat and club or centre.”

RYA Push the Boat Out is a nationwide festival of sailing and windsurfing introducing newcomers of all ages, abilities and backgrounds to the sports.

The West Sussex clubs and centres signed up to host Push The Boat Out events include Arun Yacht Club, Arun Youth Aqua Centre, Bognor YC, Crawley Mariners YC, Bosham SC, Chichester YC, Dell Quay SC, West Wittering SC, Worthing SC, Felpham SC and Lancing SC. Some 35 clubs and centres across the south east have signed up in total.

All you need for any of the open days or ‘try sailing’ sessions are a warm clothes, soft-soled shoes and a waterproof and the clubs/centres will provide the rest. Booking is essential for some of the activities.

Refreshments will be available as barbecues and other social activities also take place to give newcomers a warm welcome.

Rowe added: “We’ve already enjoyed incredible weather this year, and there’s no better way to enjoy the summer than being on the water. Sailing can be as physical or relaxing as you want it, while watching the sun set over the water with a drink after sailing’s done is one of the sport’s hidden appeals.

“Tens of thousands of people across Britain will be ‘pushing the boat out’ in May, we would love you to among them!”

Last year 260 clubs and centres in Britain hosted Push the Boat Out events with 17,000 people trying sailing or windsurfing for the first time over one weekend.

For full details on RYA Push The Boat Out 2015 and what’s going on near you visit www.rya.org.uk/go/ptbo