Chichester Harbour was abuzz with junior racing activity as West Sussex Schools and Youth Sailing Association ran its 21st annual regatta from Cobnor Activities Centre. With 101 dinghies entered and some 130 youngsters from nine different clubs and youth groups competing, the weekend was a fine indication of the keenness of the next generation of the region’s racing sailors.
When, at the debrief after the five races were over, RYA coach Dave Cockerill asked the youngsters if they believed their sailing had improved as a result of taking part in the event, a forest of hands shot up.
Conditions on Saturday were not too taxing for those who had never raced before, and the force 3 north-easterly breeze dropped and shifted south-easterly as racing continued. On Sunday competitors were challenged by a force 4, gusting force 5 initially, again from the north east. Despite the stronger winds, the young sailors had the measure of the windward/leeward course and coped admirably, with much very competent boat handling – though also a good number of capsizes.
For each of the three fleets, the overall winner was looking pretty clear by the end of the first day’s racing, and Saturday’s form continued on Sunday.
In the 27-strong fast fleet, the new pairing of Henry Bettle and Alex Briggs (Fireball, Dell Quay SC), ended the regatta with four first places, discarding a fourth for a perfect overall score. Alex Mayger (Felpham SC) did the same, heading the 43 Toppers in four races and discarding a third place. David Perez (Laser 4.7, Arun YC), who is a potential Olympic squad member in his home country of Spain, had a consistent three wins and two seconds to head the slow fleet by a comfortable margin.
Team spirit was high, and the most-anticipated results announcement was the team ratings. Felpham SC, which had a bevy of other good results, including Sian Thackeray and Sophie Bentley (Feva) third in the slow fleet, Mitchell Campbell (Solution) fourth fast handicap boat and Beth Wilkinson fourth Topper, took the team prize. Second was Arun YC, with Crawley Mariners YC in third place.
Among both the head-of-the fleet sailors and those much further back there was a general spirit of friendliness on the water, and where rules disputes arose those involved put their cases fairly and accepted decisions with good grace.
The event was also a great opportunity for young sailors who often have only limited close competition in their home clubs to enjoy a new level of racing. “There were seven or eight of us, only metres apart,” said Laser Radial sailor Phoebe Noble (Dell Quay SC).
The pre- and post-race briefings by Cockerill, head coach of the RYA GBR Topper squad for 14 years and who continues to support the class through Emsworth-based Sailing Solutions, were effective in improving competitors’ performance. “You’re having more fun when you’re not fighting a boat,” was his argument.
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- Henry Bettle and Alex Briggs (Fireball, Dell Quay SC) 4pts
- Stephen Armstrong (Laser, Crawley Mariners YC) 14pts
- Thomas Chapman (Laser Radial, Crawley Mariners YC) 15pts
- Mitchell Campbell (Solution, Felpham SC), 17pts
- Josh Wilkinson (Laser Radial, Felpham SC) 20pts
- Ed Gerwat (Laser Radial, Felpham SC) 20pts.
- David Perez (Laser 4.7, Arun YC) 5pts
- George Colcomb (Laser 4.7, Crawley Mariners YC) 11pts
- Sian Thackeray and Sophie Bentley (RS Feva XL, Felpham SC) 13pts
- Jack Miller and Lauren Bentley (RS Feva XL, Felpham SC) 15pts)
- Angus Kirk (Laser 4.7, Crawley Mariners YC) 16pts
- Daniel Gibson (Crawley Mariners YC) 25pts.
- Alex Mayger (Felpham SC) 4pts
- Thomas Kosteletos (Sussex YC), 10pts
- Charlotte Reading (Chichester YC) 11pts
- Beth Wilkinson (Felpham SC) 13pts
- Will Jameson, Christian Youth Enterprises) 22pts
- Finlay Swanton (Felpham SC) 27pts.
- Felpham SC
- Arun YC
- Crawley Mariners YC
- Dell Quay SC
- Sussex YC
- Christian Youth Enterprises.