On course for the best racing
Email Header

Chichester Harbour Race Week 2017   21-25 August

Hello from the Race Week promotion team

On course for the best racing

When Race Week competitors are asked for their post-event comments, one topic appears every year: the courses. Opinion is split. Many competitors are happy with the existing triangle-and-sausage set-up, using laid inflatable marks, others hanker after the 'old days' when racing was round the yellow cans that are the fixed Chichester Harbour marks.

With Race Week 2017 approaching, this is a good moment to explain why and how the courses have developed.

Dinghy sailors with long memories talk of races starting from HISC club line, in either direction, and of the almost random courses set each day round the yellow cans. Also, fleets were sometimes sent out into Hayling Bay 'until a few boats sank and common sense prevailed' in the words of a contemporary race officer. One past winner recalls racing in the 1960s: 'We started at Hayling and the first leg was a run all the way to Thorney. You can probably imagine the chaos when 40 Fireflies arrived there. This could well have been when people started asking for windward starts...'

By the late 1970s all this was becoming untenable. In a radical move, competitors were divided into two groups each with its own committee boat. The faster boats sailed outside the slower boats so fixed courses became essential to keep them separate – this also ended the frustration of not having any idea until the last minute of where the racing would be.

These early fixed courses followed an approximate triangle-and-sausage shape, using the most convenient yellow cans, plus a few laid inflatable marks. There were initially about eight courses, oriented towards different wind directions, but the number grew. When asymmetric dinghies arrived in the early 2000s, competitors wanted longer courses with a windward/leeward emphasis, so in 2006 came the present fast-format courses for the asymmetries, with longer windward/leeward laps after the initial triangle. Five years on, there were experiments with more inflatables, allowing race officers more flexibility in course setting. All-inflatable courses have been used since 2013, and race lengths have been shortened somewhat, in line with popular practice.

Even with inflatable-only courses the race officers face the challenges of shifting winds. Moving marks when there are 300-plus boats on the course is near impossible and it takes a brave RO to interrupt a start sequence. But now, as they have done throughout the event's history, the organisers do their utmost to respond to the needs and expectations of competitors.

'What makes Race Week different from regular triangle/sausage and windward/leeward configurations is the way the courses are designed,' says PRO Robert Macdonald. 'They are set up to make the best possible use of the water available in the harbour, providing both tactical variations and separation between the fleets. In addition, the inflatables are a lot easier to see - and using them means visitors are not placed at a disadvantage against local sailors who are familiar with the standard racing marks.'

*** Remember to enter by June 30th for early-bird fees ***  
yd2 yd2

Event website