Setting Sail: School sailors are wowing us on the water

Schools Week action at Itchenor Sailing Club
Schools Week action at Itchenor Sailing Club

In his latest Setting Sail column for the Observer, Mike Wigmore, rear-commodore sailing at Itchenor Sailing Club, says it’s a hectic time with the focus firmly on younger sailors.

Itchenor Sailing Club are hosting the annual Schools Championships this week – and just to make life more exciting we are doing it in two halves (writes Mike Wigmore).

At the beginning of the week more than 100 Feva XLs raced in Chichester Harbour. Now a supported racing and training class at Itchenor, these fun modern dinghies for school Years 7 to 10 make a great sight and the organisation required just to launch and recover them is a marathon.

That was before we even think about managing the racing and keeping all the crews happy on the shore.

Now, until the end of the week, we have the more traditional Fireflies for three days of training and racing. Despite being around since the 1940s the Firefly is still the boat of choice for most schools and indeed many universities to sail, so the standard of competition is exceptional.

By mid-July we move into our extravaganza of junior sailing with two weeks of training followed by a fortnight of friendly competition known as Junior Fortnight.

By mid-July we move into our extravaganza of junior sailing with two weeks of training followed by a fortnight of friendly competition known as Junior Fortnight.

Now in its 50th year, it is well respected as one of the best events to take part in as a young sailor. Open to Itchenor members and members of other Chichester Harbour clubs, the sailing and the fun on the shore make it an event not to miss.

The Swallow class celebrates 70 years since Itchenor member Stewart Morris won his gold medal at the Olympic regatta at Torquay in 1948.

This year the class championships are hosted by Itchenor on July 7 and 8 with 20 boats expected to compete. This lively keelboat retains all the well-mannered characteristics of its pedigree design and also now attracts some of the best sailors from other classes.

Competition will no doubt be fierce between the oldest and newest boats – Skua S3 and Osprey S95, launched this year, and all those in between.

By mid-July many of the keelboats will be competing at regattas at Cowes adding that extra dimension to the joy of owning and campaigning one of these classic dayboats.

Let’s all hope the summer continues to offer the fabulous sailing conditions we have enjoyed so far.

DELL QUAY

A trio of boats braved the wind and waves on the final day of Dell Quay Sailing Club’s Pursuit race series.

Conditions were good for windsurfers, not so for dinghies: winds speeds around 20mph with gusts of 25mph discouraged many contestants and only three boats took the start.

Stephen Holcroft’s Pico got a flying start, followed six minutes later by Fred Hilgers in a Solo and Bob Marshall in a Streaker.

The frequent gusts and shifts in the wind direction made it unlikelt all contestants would finish the race dry. As it was, Marshall and Holcroft both capsized with less than 15 minutes to go, allowing Hilgers to ease up and take an easy win in the first race, leaving Holcroft to finish second and Marshall third.

Race officer Roy Dyton offered the competitors a second race, but with the scheduled time reduced to a modest 30 minutes: an offer accepted with alacrity.

Once again Stephen Holcroft set off confidently towards the windward mark and once again he capsized in the same spot where he came to grief in the first race.

However, this second race saw a different progression of events as each competitor in turn enjoyed stomach-churning, exhilarating reaches followed by the near-inevitable ducking as gusts took their toll.

In this last race, it was the Streaker of Bob Marshall that would prevail finishing a long way ahead of the Pico and Solo, both of which were upside down as the finish gun sounded, leaving Hilgers to pick up second place and Holcroft third.

Two wins and two second places make Hilgers the series winner and recipient of the Market Cross Salver, with Sue Manning (Laser Radial) second and Richard Bridgmont (Solo) third. In total 16 took part in the series.