Chichester Harbour Race Week 2023
Published 16:42 on 12 Sep 2023
As competitors in the biggest dinghy regatta on the South Coast, Chichester Harbour Race Week, reflect on how much they enjoyed the 2023 event, organisers Chichester Harbour Federation are already planning for next year. The 2024 event is set to be even more special, as it marks the centenary of the Federation and the 60th edition of the event, still familiarly known to many as Fed Week.
The 100-plus volunteers from sailing clubs round the harbour will face a big challenge, however, to do better than this August. In the words of one 2023 competitor, why travel to the Caribbean for pure sailing pleasure - it was there on Chichester Harbour.
The only downside was the premature end of the week for most of the 400 competing boats, when the unexpected arrival of Storm Betty forced cancellation of racing for all but a handful of intrepid RS Elite keelboats, 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 prefer calmer weather. In all, there were entrants 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. Biggest contingent of visitors came from Bowmoor SC in Gloucestershire, who towed 24 dinghies and the club's sole Elite keelboat all the way to Hayling Island SC (HISC), host for the event.
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, winning 15 of the classes, with clean sweeps of first places from Thomas Morris and Kuba Staite (RS 800, Asymmetric Handicap). Alex and Max Sydenham (29er), Paul Hammett (RS Aero 6), Alex Butler (Solo), Robert Gullan (Europe) and Charlie Holland (Optimist), and also taking the senior and junior team prize. But entrants from other clubs both inside and beyond the harbour also carried home coveted Race Week plates bearing the burgees of all the federation member clubs.
Fine performances came from David Valentine and Mark Riddington (both Emsworth Slipper SC) and Ed Day (Reading SC) and who dominated the Hadron/DZ , RS Aero 7 and RS Aero 5 fleets respectively
Alongside classic designs such as Fireballs, Ospreys and Flying Fifteens there were a range of asymmetric classes and, as ever, it was very much a family event as well as a highly competitive one, spanning generations from under-10s to seniors. Notable this year was a huge surge in the number of RS Aero sailors, a total of 71 entrants in three separate categories. Biggest single fleet was the RS200s, 42 boats and won by Tom and Lucy Hewistson (HISC), closely followed by Fast Handicap, 38 entrants and headed by the Flying Fifteen of Andrew Jameson and James Grant. 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.
The week was not without incident, unfortunately with two conflicts involving motoring yachts, one resulting in serious damage to a competing dinghy. In such circumstances, with so many boats on the water, and larger non-racing cruisers restricted to the deeper channels, close attention by all to the collision-avoidance COLREGS is essential. But it was a tribute to the safety organisation that bumps and bruises were minor.
For full results, see chichesterharbourraceweek.sailevent.netDates for the 2024 event are August 19-23.
Report Liz Sagues Photos Neil Shawcross
Last updated 16:43 on 12 September 2023