Itchenor take XOD honours from Burnham - but only by inches

The team captains involved in close racing  Picture by Guy Partington

The team captains involved in close racing Picture by Guy Partington

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A strong team of sailors from the Royal Burnham Yacht Club visited Itchenor Sailing Club for a series of team races in the hosts’ XODs.

The three-race series started on Saturday afternoon with an hour-long race around the fixed marks in Chichester Harbour in ideal wind conditions but with a tricky, strong ebb tide.

The first two legs of the course saw the teams closely matched, but by the end of the second windward leg Itchenor had established a commanding lead with their three boats in the top slots.

However, as the six boats turned for the long run to the finish, the Burnham boats came back and ensured close racing all the way to the line with two of their boats moving into third and fourth positions.

With the scoring done, it was Itchenor’s race and the hosts were ahead overnight.

The evening hospitality at the Itchenor club left none of the team members the worse for wear and there was keen anticipation for the two races planned for Sunday morning.

The weather gods appeared to have conspired against the races as the wind at 10am was zero knots. Optimistically the fleets were towed down harbour in the hope a breeze would develop nearer the sea.

By 11.30, a gentle breeze blew in from the south to enable the racing to begin. Over the short windward/leeward course, the Burnham sailors demonstrated their experience in team racing and scored a perfect one, two three in the second race of the series. This set up a final-race decider.

Itchenor demonstrated they had learned the start was critical with each of their boats covering one of the Burnham boats. These tactics saw Paul Taylor of Burnham having to restart, having been sailed the wrong side of the line.

Itchenor captain David Priscott shadowed his opposite number Stephen Herring all round the course. This ultimately allowed Alastair Shaw to move from third to first place, where he remained until the finish.

As they approached the line Herring engaged Priscott in close combat to allow his colleague Steve Adams through to second place. With Herring and Priscott too close to call as they finished, it was down to the contest for the last places to decide the race and the series.

As the two final competitors crossed the line, it was John Tattersall’s Itchenor boat that was judged to have crossed ahead of the fast-closing Taylor by a matter of inches.

Itchenor enjoyed the closest of victories and with the hosts and visitors looking forward to the rematch at Burnham next season.

DAVID PRISCOTT