An entry of 401 boats, with 625 individual competitors afloat, made Chichester Harbour Race Week the biggest for a decade - and, according to Harbour Federation chairman Nick Fox at the prize-giving, surely the largest dinghy event in the UK.
The success of this year’s event had much to do with four days of glorious sunshine and good wind. There was a buzz of excitement all week round Hayling Island Sailing Club, host for the Federation-organised regatta.
A bigger, better social programme had as its highlight a Rio-themed party.
The sailing, though, was what mattered most. After the first four excellent days, with enough breeze for good racing but not so much that boats and sailors were damaged, winners in most of the 19 fleets were clear. So although the abandonment of racing on day five as gusts of 30 knots and visibility-reducing rain hit the race area was a disappointment, it was far from a disaster.
As ever, the largest proportion of entrants were from clubs based in Chichester Harbour. But visiting boats came from across the UK - as far as Cornwall, the Isle of Man and Cornwall - and even from France. The next generation of racers was also well in evidence, with almost a third of competitors under 18.
Innovations in the racing fleet included starts for Scows and - at the other end of the size spectrum - RS Elite and XOD keelboats. In between came many of the most popular racing dinghies, new and classic. Biggest fleet was the RS200s, 53 boats, followed by the Solos, 42. And the very mixed medium-handicap class, numbering 40, included Wayfarers, a Firefly, National 12 and YW Dayboat alongside plenty of the some of newest single-handers, RS Aeros and Hadron H2s.
Competitors from the eastern side of Chichester Harbour and further along the West Sussex coast took home plenty of the prized Race Week plates, with four fleet winners. Sam Tweedle, Emsworth SC, led the standard Lasers; Izzie Lee, Bosham SC, was first Scow; Peter McCoy, Emsworth Slipper SC, was top Finn; and Slipper clubmates John Excell and Simon Goldfarb won the medium handicap in their Laser Stratos.
Plenty of other ESSC members were prizewinners. Previous winner Andrew Gould (Musto Skiff) took second among the most extreme racing machines, the fast asymmetrics; Jim Fifield was second in the new combined fleet of DZeros and RS Aero 9s, Mike Lillywhite and Emma Pethybridge (ISO) were third medium asymmetric, Jonathan Townsend and Barbara Langford (2000) took fourth place in the medium handicap and Mark Riddington and Claire Power were fifth RS200.
Emsworth SC had good positions in several fleets: Pippa and Jeremy White were second and third Scows, while Luke and Sam Watson took second and third places in the Optimists, with Sam Watson fourth. Alex Thorsby and Mike Thomson were third RS400 and Phil and Jill Poyner sixth RS200. Chichester YC’s sole prizewinner was Ian Barnett, second in the Solos.
Itchenor SC provided the XOD fleet, with Jerrold Alexander and Steve Dover winning.
Family expertise showed with Itchenor’s results in the RS200s, with Charlie Roome and Edwina Lister fourth, and Harry and Prue Roome seventh.
Guy Mayger and son Alex from Felpham SC, like last year, both scored the same results, though this time instead of winning their fleets they took fourth places, Guy in the Solos, Alex in the Laser Radials. Club-mates Charles Elliott and Jack Mellor (29er) also took home plates as third medium asymmetric.
The small contingent from Arun YC did particularly well, with Jack Holden and Mary Henderson runners-up in the RS200s, Rob Gullan (Hadron H2) second in the medium handicap, and Jack Munnelly and Mark Nichols second RS400.
Generous support for the event came from main sponsor Bentley Walker and companies associated with the sailing world.
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