Antigua victory buoys Itchenor sailors
Volvo Ocean Race winner Ian Walker led the Itchenor Sailing Club team to victory at the fourth annual Nonsuch Bay RS Elite Challenge 2016 in Antigua.
Antiguan sunshine with a brisk breeze provided perfect conditions for the event, which forms part of Presidente Lay Day. The challenge began with two heats of four teams racing to make the four-boat final.
This year’s teams boasted a star-studded collection of sailors from the Olympics, America’s Cup, Volvo Ocean Race and World Match Racing Tour.
Double Olympian Karl James, with an all-Antiguan team from the Antigua Yacht Club of Shawn Malone and Bob Green, secured race one. Race two was emphatically won by the Itchenor SC team, made up of Itchenor sailing club members; Ian Walker, Chris Fox and Richard Bullock.
The three-race final produced an epic battle between Itchenor SC and Stuart Childerley’s young Antiguan crew known as Original Drama for the race.
Itchenor won the two opening encounters harried all the way by Childerley’s team. In the last race, Original Drama finally got the better of Itchenor, but Walker’s men came second which was good enough to win the 2016 Nonsuch Bay RS Elite Challenge and an all-inclusive week’s stay for two at the luxury Nonsuch Bay Resort.
Long-standing member of the Itchenor club Walker said: “Basically our parents dumped a load of us in Chichester Harbour when we were still in nappies. It has been really special to catch up with old friends and to race with them at Antigua Sailing Week.
“It was a fantastic event and I’d like to thank the sponsors and Antigua Sailing Week for making it all happen. It was superb race management and we hopefully will get to come back next year to defend our title!”
Itchenor have been given the honour of hosting the 2016 Mirror class national championships. The much-anticipated annual event, which will see around 60 boats descend on Itchenor, will be held from August 22 to 25.
It is a key date in the Mirrors’ sailing calendar.
Itchenor boasts national, international and Olympic medallists among members including Ben Saxton and Sophie Ainsworth, who have both been selected for Team GB at this year’s Olympics in Rio.
Ian Walker, double Olympic silver medallist and double Mirror European champion, is a member and won the Mirror nationals when they were held at Itchenor in 2012.
They attracted more than 70 entrants, with an impressive selection of junior and adult sailors attending from across the UK. The event also boasted a fantastic turnout of many of Itchenor’s own younger Mirror sailors, which the club is keen to repeat in this year’s championships. ISC commodore Charles Hyatt said: “We are delighted to host the 2016 Mirror class national championships. Itchenor have a very strong heritage in Mirror sailing and the largest racing fleet in the UK, with many of our most successful sailors progressing through junior Mirror racing at ISC.
“We look forward to welcoming competitors of all ages for high-quality racing and a great social programme.”
Registration to the 2016 Mirror National Championship is now open and participants can enter via SailRacer.
There was a good turnout of regular racers for races five and six of the First Breath series. Some of the competitors were fresh from a day on an RYA rules advisor course – Chichester YC now has 14 qualified.
Race officer Ras Turner waited for the predicted force four to arrive but black clouds heralding a squall could be seen in the distance. The squall appeared and the sudden and sustained gusts of force seven brought a rash of capsizes.
Some competitors headed for shore and with a continuing heavy wind the race was shortened, while the rescue boats ensured all sailors and boats were safely returned to shore.
Many club sailors helped others in the tricky conditions and further help was given by the marina office team and some kind bystanders.
The wind did not abate and racing was abandoned.
In the fast/modern fleet Michel and Paula Olliff took first ahead of Helen and Mark Green in 2000 – the only finishers.
In the classic/medium fleet, Martin Orton in a Laser was fastest on the water, but was beaten into second by Tim Boon in a Laser Radial with Mark Harper (Solo) third.
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