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RS Elite late season report

by Alasdair McLeod 9 Dec 2018 20:02 GMT
Ossie Stewart and crew dowse their spinnaker in Chichester Harbour Race Week © Peter Hickson

2018 has been an active season for the RS Elite class with well-attended open events throughout the British Isles and an active racing scene at club level. Internationally a new fleet is becoming established in Italy, with two boats being purchased by owners in the Genoa area, and the first RS Elite of a prospective new German fleet has been purchased by an owner in Hamburg. Together with the established fleets in Norway and Antigua, this is a very positive development for the class's international footprint.

The UK fleet held its National championship in Belfast in 2018 and plans are well under way for the 2019 Nationals – to be held outside the UK for the first time, in Dun Laoghaire – and for a return to the more traditional venue of the Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes in 2020. Entries are currently open for the Dun Laoghaire event where sailors can look forward to excellent sailing and socialising.

Championships and Open Events

The RS Elites held three championship events in June 2018. The Brewin Dolphin RS Elite National Championship took place at the end of June in perfect weather conditions on Belfast Lough, hosted by the Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club. The championship fleet consisted of boats form Northern Irish clubs together with a strong contingent from Hayling Island Sailing Club on the English south coast. The event was decisively won by Hayling Island Sailors Mike McIntyre and crew sailing Foudafafa, with Stephen Polly's Storm from Royal Ulster Yacht Club second, closely followed by Hayling Island's Paul Fisk and crew in Legs Eleven. Racing was closely contested throughout the fleet and the full social programme meant that the competitors enjoyed a memorable event that set a high standard for future championships to follow.

The Southern Area Championship was held off Seaview as part of the East Wight Combined Clubs Regatta Programme on the second weekend of June. Race management was by Sea View Yacht Club with assistance from Bembridge Sailing Club. The venue is close enough to both Cowes and Hayling Island to make it possible for visitors from both places to sail there. The very light winds presented some difficulties for competitors trying to reach the start line and for the race management team who nevertheless managed to run five races in these challenging conditions. The top of the results table was dominated by sailors from Hayling Island with first place going to Russell Peters and crew in Riff Raff with Mike McIntyre and crew in Foudafafa second. Colin Smith and crew in Shaken Not Stirred were third.

The Irish National Championship was held at Carrickfergus Yacht Club on the weekend after the Southern Area Championship. The Irish fleet was joined by Foudafafa sailed by Mike McIntyre and crew visiting from Hayling Island, who went on to win the UK National Championship held at the nearby RNIYC two weeks later. Fittingly, though, the Irish Championship was won by Royal Ulster boat Storm helmed by Stephen Polly with Foudafafa second and Kin from RNIYC helmed by Tiffany Brien third. Competition in this event was extremely close.

In Cowes Week the RS Elite has become an established class and 2018 saw a record entry of 21 boats, making it one of the most numerous keelboat classes. The weather created some challenges, with very light winds on the first few days leading to long postponements and very strong winds on the final Friday leading to the retirement of most of the fleet. The overall results produced equal first places for Hayling Island boats More T Vicar sailed by Ossie Stewart and crew and Riff Raff sailed by Russell Peters and crew. Third place went to David Hitchcock's Aurora, also from Hayling Island. Riff Raff also won the Tri Handled Trophy, presented by Charlie and Julia Egerton-Warburton for the best performance over the first four days of Cowes Week, scored as four races with three to count.

On the East Coast, RS Elites competed for the Princess Caroline Bowl over the August Bank Holiday Weekend at the beginning of Burnham Week. Racing was held on the enclosed waters of the rivers Crouch and Roach in conditions ranging from light to strong and gusty. The overall winner was Legs Eleven sailed by Paul Fisk and crew from Hayling Island with Moonlight Serenade sailed by Richard Bavin and crew from the Royal Burnham Yacht Club second and David Wood's Oink Squeal, also from RBYC third.

Chichester Harbour hosted two large open regattas in 2018 with RS Elite class series. The closely contested Whitsun Regatta at Hayling Island Sailing Club resulted in a win for Riff Raff, sailed by Russell Peters and crew, with Paul Fisk's Legs Eleven second and Colin Smith's Shaken Not Stirred third. Chichester Harbour Race Week, run by the Chichester Harbour Federation, attracted a good entry for its RS Elite series, despite following on immediately after Cowes Week. The overall winner was Colin Smith's Shaken Not Stirred, with Lite Bloo sailed by Adrian Ward and crew second and Riff Raff sailed by Freddie Peters and crew third.

The 2018 RS Elite Grand Slam Trophy for the best overall performance in designated events goes to Russell Peters for the third year running.

Club Racing

At club level the Hayling Island RS Elite fleet remains the largest in the UK. Elite racing at Hayling Island Sailing Club in 2018 included a mix of Pennant Weekends, with short series held over weekends throughout the season, Sprint series with four sort races on a Saturday, often followed by a fleet party, and Thursday evening Sundowner races. Race winners have included Colin Smith and crew, Paul Fisk and crew, Mike McIntyre and crew, Toby Strauss and crew, Russell Peters and crew, Ossie Stewart and crew and Andy Partington and crew.

2018 saw the introduction of a new dry sailing scheme at Haying Island with boats stored ashore on the club site and launching and recovery carried out by the marine staff. Compared to the previous arrangement where much of the fleet was based in Sparkes Marina this allows more crews to get to the clubhouse quickly after racing, promoting post-race interaction and general socialising which ultimately helps grow the fleet.

The Cowes fleet has shown steady growth in 2018 with the prospect of further growth next year. Cowes RS Elites race on selected weekends in the Cowes Combined Clubs and Classes Association's Cowes Solent Series and Cowes Keelboat Championship races; and in the Island Sailing club's Weekday Evening Series. Robert Holbrook and Jamie Berry in RS Elite 101 emerged victorious in the Cowes Keelboat Championship committee boat starts, whilst Charlie Egerton-Warburton in RS Elite 100 did likewise with the Solent Series shoreline starts.

In the Island Sailing Club's weekday Evening Race Series three RS Elites, competed in a twenty-three boat Class 2 Fleet. Over 17 races the RS Elites managed to score 11 line honours! Handicap wins were also gained on three occasions each by Marc Giraudon in RS Elite 22 and Phil Wright in RS Elite 109. Duncan Bates in RS Elite 43 only managed to sail part of the series and achieved a second place. The overall ISC series win went to Phil Wright in RS elite 109

In Ireland Strangford Lough Yacht Club had some close and competitive racing in 2018. Races were on Thursday evenings; the format two short windward-leeward races of 25-30 minutes. Regular competitors were Tuppence (helmed by Brian Corry), Illegal (Phil Anderson and Clive Corry) and Merlin (Angus McRobert). They were Joined by T'nT (Alistair and Mark Fletcher) when work commitments allowed. Brian Corry and crew in Tuppence achieved the highest number of wins over the season, with Illegal, Merlin and T'nT also winning races in some close and exciting racing.

The Strangford Lough Elites are kept afloat. The club has its own Palfinger crane which allows the boats to be lifted for mid-season scrubs. In true fleet spirit the local RS Elite all pitch in to help one another out.

2018 Winter Series and Prospects for 2019

At the time of writing late autumn and winter series are still under way at Hayling Island and Strangford Lough and final results are awaited with anticipation.

A full racing programme is planned for 2019. As noted the UK National Championship will be held outside the UK for the first time, as part of the Dun Laoghaire Regatta. A strong contingent of boats from Northern Ireland and England have already committed to take part in what should be an excellent event. Another new departure for 2019 will be an Eastern Area Championship held as part of Burnham Week. Burnham-on-Crouch was formerly a stronghold of the RS Elite class and the recent resurgence of interest in Elite sailing there augers well for the future.

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