It is a generation since Cranleigh entered Itchenor Schools Championships which is the most prestigious schools’ sailing event in the Country. We entered three crews this year into the RS Feva event. The Feva event is the larger of the two racing series run by Itchenor Sailing Club (ISC) in Chichester harbour and this year there were eighty one entries making it, I understand, the biggest fleet in the history of the Championships. Amongst the fleet were sailors with national and international trophies to their names.
The RS Feva is a modern design with a powerful mainsail and asymmetric spinnaker. Each boat has a crew of two and it is an ideal boat for those up to about the age of fifteen. The fleet was divided into two; gold and silver, and we declared two crews in gold: Piers Nicholls and Archie Grant; Tom Hartley and Freddie Esplen and one crew in the silver fleet: Daisy Roberts and Jaz Davis.
The team gathered at Hayling Island Sailing Club (HISC) on Sunday 21st June for training and familiarisation with the boats. Piers is a very experienced sailor having been runner up in the Feva World Championships last year and his expertise proved invaluable during the training and then the Championships themselves. The crews then sailed the boats the five miles or so to ISC in winds increasing to around twenty five knots. Crews were changed to make the most of more experienced helms and the series of broad reaches at full speed resulted in the boats arriving at ISC before the road party arrived by car.
The first race on Monday morning was held off Cobnor Point in fairly light winds and heavy rain. Piers and Archie, being heavy for the boat, found it difficult to match the speed of younger, lighter crews, finishing seventh. Daisy and Jaz had a good race achieving ninth place whilst Tom and Freddie made a good start to racing in sixteenth place. The weather cleared in the early afternoon and three further races were held in shifting and ever increasing winds in the East Head and Pilsey areas. Piers and Archie improved with a second place in the third race and then first by some margin in strong winds in the fourth race, only to find out that they were disqualified for a premature start under the black flag rule. Daisy and Jaz also improved with a sixth place in the third race but they too were penalised for a premature start in the fourth race. Tom and Freddie were enjoying some competitive and fast racing in the middle of the fleet achieving a creditable nineteenth place in the third race. The crews were at this stage sailing in winds gusting well over twenty five knots and at incredibly high speeds, often barely in control. At the end of racing the crews had been on the water for about six hours without a break and some were suffering. Blisters, bruises and sore limbs were compared with the girls showing off their black and blue legs! All crews were tired and slept soundly.
The second day of racing dawned sunny and with a gentle breeze. Piers and Archie needed first and second place results to get to the top of the fleet whilst the girls were lying in seventh place overnight. Freddie appeared looking as tired as the previous evening but enthusiasm was strong despite the aches and pains. The light winds did not suit Piers and Archie but they achieved a very good second place in races five and six. The other two crews were still nursing their wounds and so concentration in the strong tide and light winds wandered at times. Results suffered a little for them both, but spirits were high. Piers and Archie needed to win the last race but unfortunately they were sailed off and only managed fourteenth place.
Racing finished at 2pm just as the wind finally died and our crews were towed back to HISC by the Hartley RIB before returning to ISC for prize giving. Our teams achieved excellent results, from the eighty one crews, Piers and Archie were fifth and Tom and Freddie thirty second in the gold fleet and in the silver fleet Daisy and Jaz were placed eleventh, and the fourth girls’ crew.
Sailing is physically and mentally demanding and our crews sailed with skill and strength in difficult conditions of wind and tide for the two days. They were a great credit to the School and themselves. A very special thank you must be made to the parents who drove, fed and provided beds for our competitors. Above all the families and competitors had a fun two days and Cranleigh are now firmly on the sailing map amongst the dinghy fraternity.