THE Topper Open at Bosham Sailing Club attracted 34 young entrants.
The day dawned with unpromising weather – it was flat calm, foggy and chilly. But as the boats were rigged up and helms mustered for a briefing, the first indications of wind filling in from the south west were felt.
The fog lifted and the 34 entrants from all over the south were ready to go. David MacFarlane, principal race officer, gave the briefing.
The age of competitors varied from under ten to mid-teens.
The race officer set an audacious course across the strengthening flood tide in full view of the spectating parents.
Two short races were set, followed by two long courses in the eight to 12-knot wind across the top of the tide.
This found the competitors gradually refining their lay lines with some misjudging the tide strength and fouling the windward mark in the early races and overstanding the mark as the tide started to set a strong ebb in the last two longer races.
Giles Kuzyk (Parkstone) proved most consistent with three bullets and a second that he could discard.
Niall Houston (MRSC/HISC) and Christopher Cowan (Portchester) scored equal points, but with Houston claiming second place on best discard.
Henry Cunnison (Emsworth Slipper SC) came fourth. Highest-placed home club helm was Henry Russell in eighth.
Many competitors had benefitted from a training session run by Steve Cockerill from the BSC base at Cobnor.
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Chichester Yacht Club welcomed a splendid fleet of 29 Merlin Rockets from as far away as Poole Harbour and Cookham Reach.
Although the wind didn’t allow for exciting sailing, it was sufficient to give excellent racing.
With the tide against the fleet, the first start got away with only one general recall. Simon Blake raced away and steadily built a commanding lead.
He was chased by William Warren and the two of them were never challenged by the rest of the fleet.
However, there was close racing with numerous place changes for the minor places, with Matt Biggs making gains from eighth to third.
By the start of the second race the tide had started to turn, taking the fleet over the line. This caused a general recall followed by a black flag general recall. Several well-known faces retired to the club for a cuppa.
When the race got away Jude Massey leaped into the lead and stayed there, keeping her calm as she was threatened by Steve Leney, Biggs, Simon Blake and Pat Blake, who finished in that order.
In the third race, David Sayce, profiting from his enforced rest during the second race, took the lead after the first lap, but was overtaken by Biggs. William Warren, also refreshed by his tea, sailed fast to take third place.
The overall placings were close with Biggs and Ben Hollis (Blithfield SC) taking the trophy with four points, followed by Simon Blake crewed by Alex Jackson (Cookham Reach) second with five and Warren with Sophie Mackley (Shoreham SC) also on five in third.
Chichester Yacht Club’s traditional spring club racing started with the First Breath series, involving modern (largely asymmetric), classic, (Lasers, Solos, Finn, Streakers etc) and slow (mostly Oppies and Toppers) fleets. In the fast (modern) fleet Jason and Sonia Kirk got off to a flying stat in their RS400 well ahead of the RS400s of Roger and Andy Claire and Nick and Roger Elliman.
The Kirks managed to keep a couple of minutes ahead in races one and two, taking first in race one and second in race two. John and Pauline Cox (Laser 2000) put in some excellent times to take second in race one and a first in race two.
Neither pair competed in race three leaving the Ellimans and Clairs to a close race with the Ellimans winning.
In the classic fleet, Mark Harper dominated the racing in his Finn with two firsts and a second, beating Derek Jackman into second in races one and two.
In race three, Charlie Porter put in a very fast time in his Laser to take first from Mark Harper, with Luissa Porter taking third in her Laser Radial.
In the slow fleet, Tom Orton won the first two races in his Topaz with Jessica Carter and Ben Thompson having great fun in their Toppers, alternating second and third.
In the final race the youngsters decided to up their pace to challenge Orton, with Thompson taking first and Olivia Winther (Pico) second.
Emsworth sailor James Poyner, an aspiring young Olympian, is competing for gold and glory against the UK’s most talented youth sailors in this week’s 2011 RYA Volvo Youth National Championships.
More than 335 of the country’s finest youth dinghy and windsurf racers, and for the first time competitors from international waters, are in and around Hayling Island for five days for the chance to be crowned national champion and be selected for RYA Volvo Team GBR, the British Sailing team for the ISAF Youth Sailing World Championship 2011.
After a successful world championships in Argentina earlier this year, where Poyner and partner Ollie Cooper won a bronze in the youth silver fleet, the duo are high on confidence.
With stiff competition from international sailors for the first time at these championships, the pair are eager to prove they have the cutting edge.