Liz Sagues reports on Chichester Harbour Race Week.
The unannounced arrival of Storm Betty brought Chichester Harbour Race Week (14 – 19 August), the biggest dinghy regatta on the South Coast, to a premature end for most of the 400 competing boats. Only a handful of intrepid RS Elite keelboats raced on the final day, as winds gusted to gale force.
But Monday to Thursday offered conditions to suit all – two days of fresh breezes for the more energetic to enjoy, two more of lighter winds for those who, in the words of one competitor, had no need to travel to the Caribbean for their sailing pleasure.
Sailors came from all through the harbour and way beyond. 24 dinghies arrived from Bowmoor SC in Gloucestershire, whose members also towed the club’s sole Elite keelboat all the way to Hayling Island SC, host for the Chichester Harbour Federation event. In all, there were competitors from 45 clubs, from Fort William in Scotland to Pontypool in South Wales, Merseyside to Dorset, as well as from all along the South Coast.
Racing was tight in many of the 19 separate fleets, started from four committee boats and sailing both on the more sheltered waters just inside the harbour mouth and outside in Hayling Bay. HISC sailors dominated both entry and prize lists, taking the senior and junior team prizes. But there were good results for entrants from other clubs both inside and beyond the harbour, who carried home the coveted Race Week plates bearing the burgees of all the federation member clubs.
Notable this year was a huge surge in the number of RS Aero sailors, a total of 71 entrants in three separate categories. The biggest single fleet was the RS200s, 42 boats, closely followed by Fast Handicap, 38 entrants. The event also included the Byte National Championships, won by Duncan Glen of Reading SC with a clean sweep of four wins in the four races.
Alongside classic designs such as Fireballs, Ospreys and Flying Fifteens there were a range of asymmetric classes and the mass of boats on the water provided a spectacle for watchers on Hayling Island’s Sandy Point and across the harbour entrance at East Head.
The week was not without incident: a Finn dinghy seriously damaged in a collision with a motoring yacht, one helmsman forfeiting his position in a race to stand by an injured rival until rescuers arrived. But with so many boats on the water it was a tribute to the safety organisation – part of the overall effort from some 100 volunteers from harbour clubs belonging to the federation – that bumps and bruises were minor.
For full results, see chichesterharbourraceweek.sailevent.net.
Dates for the 2024 event, which will be the 60th edition of the event and will also mark the centenary of the Chichester Harbour Federation, are 19 – 23 August.