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Fireball fleet at Chichester Harbour Race Week 2021

by Chris Turner 18 Aug 01:12 BST 9-13 August 2021
Day 2 fleet shot with East Head sand dunes in the background - Fireballs at Chichester Harbour Race Week © Peter Hickson

This year's Chichester Harbour Race Week experienced the usual extremes of wind that have come to be expected and which meant competitors in the 13-strong Fireball fleet all had days that played to their respective strengths.

Whilst the entry was underpinned by 11 Fireballs from the home fleet, it was one of two visiting boats that dominated the first three days racing. Dave Hall & Paul Constable from Blackwater SC posted bullets in the first three races to win the series with two days to spare. Indeed, they were only headed once, briefly, in those races!

Race 1 saw the strongest breezes of the week of 16-20 knots gusting 24. Dave & Paul threw down an immediate marker, sailing free and fast on the first beat, to open up a good lead at the windward mark which they consolidated on a superbly quick broad reach before stretching away. They were followed by Maria Stanley & Tommy Darling sailing the borrowed Weathermark Sailboats world championship-winning boat in which, despite lack of match practice, they looked perfectly at home.

Keith Walker & Rhys Pickett finished third ahead of a gaggle of boats that represented the remainder of the fleet as a number had already decided discretion was the better part of valour and called it a day.

The wind abated considerably for the second day in which 6-7 knots prevailed for most of the race. Race Officer Greg Wells had his work cut out waiting for the breeze to develop and settle but eventually the Fireballs, first starters in the race programme, were away on a port-biased line that encouraged a queue of boats, headed by Dave & Paul, at the pin end.

Making the most of their start, they quickly opened up a good lead over Simon Kings & Caroline Stockman followed by Maria & Tommy. Positions remained unchanged for some time despite a multitude of classes arriving simultaneously at the second windward mark creating a slow-moving traffic jam past East Head - a CHRW tradition; sooner or later it inevitably happens in 5 days of racing!

However, it wasn't too long after that when Simon & Caroline took the lead prompting Dave & Paul to 'work harder' to recover their position - which they duly did. Meanwhile David Sayce & Steve Kyffin had moved up from mid-fleet to take third place by the finish.

Day 3 brought slightly stronger winds starting at 9 knots which gradually built to 15 by the end of the race. Once again, Dave & Paul got away quickly but this time tracked by David & Steve. In turn, they were followed by Nathan & Jo Rushin who had started on port tack and chosen a different course to most of the fleet. The race developed into a procession at the front of the fleet although there was place-changing further back. Finishing positions were unchanged from the first leg.

Paul Constable had always planned to only sail the first three days of the regatta so Dave Hall opted to sit out the fourth race and attend to business matters. This left the way open for the pack to be shuffled and, as it turned out, the best day's racing of the week emerged. Sailing in 12-13 knots, David & Steve were first to the windward mark very slightly ahead of Chris Turner & Colin Parke who then were promptly swept into the mark by the fierce tide - one of three boats to suffer in this way. Despite a penalty turn they held off Simon & Caroline but ceded their place near the end of the long second leg.

To fly or not to fly? That was the question at the gybe mark. David & Steve flew their kite, Chris & Colin did likewise and quickly passed Simon and Caroline. However, it wasn't long before spinnakers were dropped as available water started to run out at which point it was a clear the following, two-sailing, boats had gained an advantage. Keith & Rhys were by then nip and tuck with David & Steve at the front of the fleet. The former pairing reached the second windward mark in the lead followed by David & Steve and Chris & Colin who had recovered from fifth.

After the sausage leg, the first three boats headed down the Thorney shore for the final leg unaware that a breakaway group of boats had gone the opposite way. These different approaches resulted in a 5-way roll of the dice for the points: in the space of 30 seconds Simon & Caroline took the winners' gun followed by David & Steve, Nathan & Jo, Chris & Colin and Keith & Rhys.

Day 5 opened with a get together in memory of Keith Garner, one of HISC's early Fireballers and also a former Flying Fifteen National Champion. His daughter, Ali, kindly donated a 'Fed Week' plate - first place in 1972 - that Keith had won and which will now become a permanent trophy to be awarded to the first-placed Fireball at CHRW.

The forecast deterred a number of Race Week competitors from launching but, in the event, the wind was less than predicted starting at 12-13 knots and increasing to 13-16 during the race. The majority of the fleet opted to sail to East Head and along the Wittering shore. Gradually Chris & Colin eked out a lead ahead of Simon & Caroline and David & Steve before snapping their rudder downhaul in the shallows. Forced to return to the club somewhat tentatively they realised that two boats had opted to sail on the opposite side of the course and were being rewarded handsomely.

Consequently it was Chris & Darren Powles who rounded the first mark with an impressive lead followed by Keith & Rhys who had a similar-sized lead over the remainder of the fleet. Eventually, on the third leg, Keith and Rhys overhauled Chris & Darren as did David & Steve when Chris dropped the tiller in a tack.

Meanwhile Dave Hall, crewed for the day by Alice Masterman, had worked closer to the front and put further pressure on Keith & Rhys. The final leg saw David & Steve cover Dave & Alice who, in turn, kept a close eye on Simon and Caroline who had pulled through in the latter stages.

Congratulations to Dave & Paul for sailing impressively quickly and taking the series very efficiently! Overall, great racing occurred and, in the windier days, the fleet put on a great show providing a wonderful advertisement for the class.

Overall Results:

1stDave HallPaul Constance3
2ndDavid SayceSteven Kyffin5
3rdSimon Kings 6
4thNathan RushinJoanne Rushin10
5thKeith WalkerRhys Pickett11
6thChris TurnerColin Parke17
7thZoe KingAdrian King17
8thChris PowlesDarren Powles19
9thMike PartridgeClaire Davis20
10thMaria StanleyTom Darling34
11thJames Cuxson 35
12thBryan ThompsonSimon Benson43
13thVan PageVanny page48
13thHector NelsonJeremy Nelson48

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