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D-Zeros at Chichester Harbour Race Week

by David Valentine 13 Sep 2017 17:55 BST 21-25 August 2017

With over 330 boats and 500 competitors, and dinghies ranging from RS Elites to Foiling Moths to Oppies, Chi Race Week is five days of 2-3 hour races per day across the large expanse of Chichester Harbour, one of the largest naturally made harbours in the world, and sailors from all over the UK and the globe seek to attend, including many Team GBR sailors.

The local D-Zero team setup camp, with flags provided by Rodney at Suntouched, and neatly paraded the eight D-Zeros (one Black, four White and three Grey) in a line. The choccie bars in 9m format we were to race against using the same handicap numbered six in total, so a reasonable fleet for our own starts.

Monday arrived, and having setup my office right by the water in my VW Transporter (it's tough juggling clients and sailing), awaited the first race with little wind. Flags were raised to say go afloat and we spent the next two hours drifting around as the wind came and went. As a little breeze rose, the Race Committee sent us home to have a chat and a beer over what could have been.

The level of sailing was high with a Team GBR sailor, an ex-GBR squaddie (who recently had rocked up in a seriously old algae covered Laser at a local Open and beaten everyone by yards to take the Silverware), an ex-Olympian windsurfer, and a few others with National titles.

Tuesday and wind was already there and forecast to be force 3-4. There are three courses, one longer for faster craft, one not quite so long for mediums and one for the youth Toppers and Oppies. The longer course had seven starts, of which we were start five, just ahead of the Finns with Rodney watching our moves!

The breeze built and we were off. Tim Weeden and a couple of Aeros led the way, with Pete McCoy (Team GBR - Finn) in a borrowed D-Zero chasing his brother in an Aero hard. Not quite such a good start put me chasing hard with Scott Derham right on my tail. A 40 minute beat took its toll on some legs, and made the reach and downwind in a force 4 hard work. On the second lap there was a very good mix of Aeros and D-Zeros. Some confused chop and another hard beat, before a downwind leg to the finish. The McCoy brothers had by then overhauled Tim, though fighting each other managed to turn it in on the runs. However Pete, showing his GBR training, pulled away again – I believe Tim's comment was "I had nothing to offer against him". Pete took the win, followed by Tim, Phil McCoy in his Aero taking 3rd. Yours truly took a 7th, so plenty to do after the first race. A relatively new D-Zero sailor was given some setting up and boat handling tips, as the rest prepared for two races on the Wednesday.

The third day saw two 2 hour races planned and an earlier start to make the best of the tides and weather. Pete had to head back for Finn training in readiness for the Gold Cup in Hungary, so one less D-Zero. A great start out of the blocks against a strong tide, though I decided to take what I thought was the less tide option across a sandbank and broke right as didn't want to be a sheep. Others pushed on against the tide heading for the far southern shore and less tide. At the first mark, I nicely rounded in almost last, or it at least felt like it, although I made some good ground on the Aeros in front through the rolling waves downwind. At the bottom mark, everyone rounded and followed my old route, though not being a sheep, I went left and still against a strong tide, made the shore and gained massive ground in the lesser tidal flow, and made the windward in 3rd, surprising more than a few. Working hard downwind against an Aero and a D-Zero, I rounded the windward mark having been taken by the Aero and ahead of the other D-Zero by inches, although was slowed by the Aero on the rounding and Ben Oakley (an ex-Olympic windsurfer) nipped ahead. Not giving up, I then managed to out-drag them 200 metres from the finish line and nipped into 3rd – result!

The next race saw the wind building to a good 4. A really tight start into the 40 minute beat punching the tide, and despite starting at the Committee end punched the tide past quite a few in the lesser tidal flow, where some had started on port, rounded the pin and took the shorter route through less wind. Plenty of breeze on the downhill leg, a few rollers to mix it up and plenty of chop. The Aeros were making the most of the bigger sail and pulled ahead. On the uphill, the D-Zeros came back hard, with some place swapping between David and Ben chasing Tim hard. On the last run the Aeros had pulled ahead though not by much. One Aero decided he was a tad warm and put it in to cool off, or that was the excuse. Close racing meant there were plenty to watch and comment within a few yards of each other. Rounding the leeward mark, a shortish beat to the finish, and I managed to out-drag Ben, a lighter sailor, to the finish by a couple of inches. Grey boats must be faster than black or white!

Tired after two back-to-back two hour races, Thursday was hard getting out of bed, let alone gaining a beach office. However good wind was forecast, maybe going to a force 5 so porridge and bananas for breakfast! The boat was rigged and ready to play. A strong tide running with a strong south westerly made for a tricky start. Some pushed to the pin end, though only port was a viable option. I chose the Committee boat end and slowly drifted down part of the line until the gun. The pin-enders seemed to be getting advantage, crabbing across the start or port tack flying, although were held in the lesser wind rounding the large sand dunes to the south. Punching the tide, I took the longer route in plenty of breeze, flew across to the lesser tidal route and overtook a few of the pin-enders on the tack. Keeping close to shore and through a few breakers, I made it to the windward in 2nd with a great reach to the corner mark. An Aero close on my tail with a younger sailor meant a tight battle down the next couple of legs. At the leeward mark, the Aero had snuck past, though was still in touch for the uphill, where the D-Zero pounced again and chased Tim hard up the beat. More tough downwind battles fighting off the Aero though couldn't hold him off and he got past. Despite everything I had left in my legs, I couldn't quite get him on the beat and he finished a few yards ahead.

The last day beckoned and yours truly had decided enough was enough of this cold weather and a sailing holiday in Greece beckoned. I may have said to a few that this was my second Greece trip in August, but I'm not sure so I'll say it again just in case! I was a little sad to go, only a little, as it was touch and go as to whether I could hold my 4th place after 2 discards, so it was a sleepless night, though not for the sailing, it was a 2am drive to the airport!

Apparently the race was uneventful in lighter breeze, with the usual mix of Aeros good downwind and the D-Zeros better upwind.

Overall some very close racing, usually within a few metres of each other, sometimes just a few inches. Great fun, plenty of post-race entertainment with bands and discos, and lots and lots of banter!

Roll on 2018. It's the 13th–17th August if you wish to come and join us!

Overall Results:

PosSail NoHelmR1R2R3R4R5Pts
1stAero9 ‑ 999Phil McCoy311(DNF)(DNF)5
2ndD‑Zero ‑ 186Tim Weeden2‑6‑4136
3rdAero9 ‑ 1090Tom Kennedy‑4‑22226
4thD‑Zero ‑ 66David Valentine‑7353(DNC)11
5thAero9 ‑ 1634Tom Tredray‑5‑834411
6thD‑Zero ‑ 176Ben Oakley‑656(DNF)112
7thAero9 ‑ 1078Hugh Kennedy‑94‑85514
8thAero9 ‑ 1231Tim Bilbrough107(DNF)6(DNC)23
9thD‑Zero ‑ 135Langstone SC(DNF)‑12108624
10thD‑Zero ‑ 121Scott Derham897(DNC)(DNC)24
11thD‑Zero ‑ 133Jez Adams(DNF)1197(DNC)27
12thD‑Zero ‑ 102Peter McCoy1(DNC)(DNC)DNCDNC31
13thD‑Zero ‑ Devoti ZeroSimon Boylin1110(DNF)(DNC)DNC36
14thAero9 ‑ 1637Greg Bartlett(DNC)(DNF)DNFDNCDNC45

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