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International 14 Itchenor Gallon

by Ed FitzGerald 22 Sep 06:31 BST 19 September 2020
International 14 Itchenor Gallon © Robin Nott

After an enforced Covid delay to the season, this Saturday 16 boats made the trip to Itchenor Sailing Club for the first major event of the year, the Gallon Trophy race. This is the second most prestigious event of the national calendar (only behind the PoW Cup) and is a single race across the entirety of Chichester Harbour.

With a good north-easterly breeze and incoming tide there were more than a handful of comments about a Covid friendly 20 knot limit as the fleet was getting ready to launch. Our race officer and former 14er Roddy was having none of it and got us out on the water where the fleet was able to stretch its legs and enjoy what sailing a 14 is all about, going properly fast! The course was set, the breeze was holding a steady 17 knots with a knot of tide adding some apparent and a large dollop of chop. All things considered it looked like it would be a classic.

At the start the fleet split, half the boats starting on port running the gauntlet through the other half of the fleet all on starboard. Leading off the line were the deadly duo of Archie & Harvey and Dan & Alex both flying out of the blocks and taking a slender early lead. Previous world champion Glen Truswell teaming up with Ed FitzGerald led the port-tackers under pressure from Andy & Rich and Andy & Rob.

At the top mark it was Dan & Alex showing strong pace to lead with Archie & Harvey crossing Glen & Ed, who were coming in hot on starboard, to squeak through in second. Downwind it was all to play for with Glen & Ed gaining and undertaking Archie & Harvey putting pressure on Dan & Alex. By the bottom mark Glen & Ed had the lead, Archie & Harvey were second and the Father, son duo of Andy & Tom Partington were on a charge into third. It would transpire that during this downwind Dan & Alex had a tiller extension failure that would put them out the race.

Over the next beat the fleet took stock taking a breather ready for the next downwind. This time it was the Partington’s who showed some blistering pace to overtake Archie & Harvey while closing the gap almost entirely to Glen & Ed. Rounding the leeward mark everyone headed off on a sleigh ride, two sail reaching at mach 10 across the harbour down to Emsworth before turning round and doing it again across to East Head. On the return trip the Partington’s showed their superior knowledge of the harbour marks to find Freddie Brooks and take the lead off Glen & Ed. Rounding Freddie Brooks we were in for a a titanic battle for the finish, with 8 world titles between the three helms there was going to be no love lost to take this one.

First blood went to Glen & Ed who managed to sneak around the Partington’s by holding onto slightly more tide. As the three went around East Head all the Partington’s hard work got damaged as they missed the mark and had to go back for it. This left Archie & Harvey pushing hard to pass Glen & Ed up the penultimate beat. Glen & Ed headed off to try and escape the tide on the right hand side of the course, Archie & Harvey rolled the dice splitting to go left. This proved to be a typical Archie & Harvey master stroke with them taking the lead for the first time as they rounded the top mark.

During the last run positions were held, it all came down to the last beat to decide the winner. Archie & Harvey appeared to of slowed slightly allowing a glimmer of hope for Glen & Ed as the gap excruciatingly slowly closed. You knew it was close when the cover tacks started after the final mark rounding prior to the historical Gallon Line finish. In the End it was Archie & Harvey who took the win with Glen & Ed second and the Partington’s holding on to third from a charging Andy & Rob who were recovering from an early capsize. Notable mention to Richard Bone & Alex Smith who after a number of years out of the boat teamed up and came home 8th.

All being well it looks like there are going to be some pretty tasty battles for the major honours this year.

In what is good news for the fleet's development, five boats in the top 6 were the new Ovington Beiker 6 boats straight off the shelf and showing excellent speed. While the young teams are pushing the old guard to hold on to their top spots, all we can say is bring on the next race!

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