A LIGHT breeze greeted the 65 boats with more than 90 sailors for the first day of the Chichester YC Snowflake winter series.
Race officer Martin Orton laid a figure-of-eight course with the usual committee boat start from the middle of Chichester Lake.
The fast fleet of 18 boats got away cleanly with the Jason Kirk (Chichester YC) in his RS400 leading the fleet to the windward mark, closely followed by the two Finns of John Tremlett from Itchenor SC and Mark Harper for the home club.
Steve and Sarah Cockerill (Hill Head SC) in their Scorpion made good steady progress in the constant five-knot breeze and after just over an hour, they had moved up to second place on the water.
On corrected time the RS400 held on to first place with the Scorpion second, followed by the two Finns.
In the medium fleet of 24 starters, the two National 12s of Alex Jackson and Sarah Bines (Ranelagh SC) and William Warren and Sophie Mackley (Shoreham SC) had a close race and lead the fleet.
The leading Laser of Jimmy Carter from CYC finished third on the water. However, on corrected time the Solo of Chris Powles from Hayling Island SC, who led the Solo class, took second place.
In the large youth slow fleet of 23, the Mirrors from Itchenor SC made a welcome return to Chichester and provided very close racing. Itchenor will host the Mirror nationals in August.
However, the Optimist sailed by Arthur Fry (CYC) won on corrected time by six seconds.
Second was the Mirror sailed by Grace Yeoman and Izzy Barker (Itchenor SC) and third were Imy Pudney and Jonny Pudney (ISC) in another Mirror 70500.
The series is supported by Rooster Sailing and Hawk Marine Products.
With just two races to go in the Frostbite series, only a handful of points separate the four leading boats.
But races nine and ten in the 12-race series consolidated the position of home club member Bill Dawber (Solo) ahead of the earlier series leader, Finn sailor Edward Thorburn (Newhaven and Seaford SC).
Despite very cold conditions the entry was strong. The fastest RS 400s led round the first mark in race one, with Bob Marshall and Mike Savage narrowly ahead of Ryan Buchanan and Hannah Burke.
The RS400s swapped positions, with Jason Buchanan challenging strongly in his RS300 and finishing second only 30 seconds behind his brother.
But the handicap calculations overturned the finishing positions, with Dawber, sixth to cross the line in the two-lap race, winning comfortably from Jason Buchanan, with Malcolm Buchanan third, Ben Chrystall (Laser) fourth and Ryan Buchanan and Burke fifth.
Race two saw Dawber forced to do turns after a port/starboard incident. Failing light meant the shorten-course signal had to come after one lap, with Buchanan and Burke again leading the fleet home and taking third place on handicap.
This time Jason Buchanan’s close second place made him winner on corrected time, with Dawber, who had moved up rapidly through the fleet to head all the Solos, second. Chrystall scored another fourth – which keeps him third overall – and Thorburn had a better race, taking fifth.
Before racing, excitement came from a swimming deer crossing the creek from bank to bank then rushing up the shore between the launching boats.
Dawber is best placed to take the series title, but can’t afford to allow Thorburn to win both the final day’s races while himself finishing third or worse. Chrystall and Malcolm Buchanan have a chance to edge into second if they do well. The finale on January 28 looks set to be exciting.