The 2017 Zhik RS Elite National Championships

Twenty nine of the thirty one RS Elites entered for the Zhik RS Elite National Championship made it to the start line on Day One. With 20-25 knots of westerly wind over tide, the sea state was epic but after a one-hour postponement the fleet exited Chichester Harbour and made their way upwind to the Hayling Bay start area.

Race 1 got underway at 1 o'clock in 21 knots of breeze, gusting 26 on a windward-leeward course. Current National Champion Foudafafa (76 - Mike McIntyre, Simon Childs, Caroline McIntyre) came off the pin end of the start line to build a handsome lead by the weather mark. The chasing pack could not make any inroads and after two laps Foudafafa finished first, Wombat (55 - Russell Peters, Greg Wells, Mark Darling) second and No Riff Raff (20 - Tom Hewitson, Nigel Bird, Claire Cummings).

Race 2 started promptly with No Riff Raff leading at the weather mark chased hard by Foudafafa and a pack including Aurora (84 - David Hitchcock, Mark Allerston, Jill Hitchcock), Basil (40 - Roddy Bowerman, Harry Bowerman, Shaun Hopkins), Lazy Daisy (66 - Andy Partington, Gareth Edwards, Karen Partington), Legs Eleven (11 - Paul Fisk, Martin Grady, Pippa Jubb), Dirty Dozen (12 - Andrew Jameson, Tim Peters, James Grant. No Riff Raff held on to their small lead on the run to the leeward gate with Legs Eleven taking advantage of a sizeable shift to pull through to second and Foudafafa third. Unfortunately, Legs Eleven had been holed in an incident at the first windward mark and was steadily filling up with water. Meanwhile, No Riff Raff and Foudafafa battled it out for the lead with Foudafafa coming through to win with No Riff Raff second and Basil third.

The wind was blowing 26 knots with gusts recorded at 31 knots for the start of Race 3. Foudafafa rounded off a perfect day with a third race win, No Riff Raff once again second and Wombat third. So, at the end of Day 1 and after three races, Foudafafa sits atop the leaderboard on three points with No Riff Raff in second on 7 points and Wombat third on 14 points.

After racing, some tired sailors enjoyed pitch and putt golf on the beach followed by a magnificent barbecue served on the balcony.

Day 2

No action today for the RS Elites at Hayling Island Sailing Club.

With a building wind forecast, wind over tide, 45 knots of breeze at St Catherine's Point and 58 knots off Portland Bill, the competitors briefly considered the option to race inside Chichester Harbour but unanimously agreed not to race today and aim to sail four races tomorrow.

After a brief protest hearing this morning, Legs Eleven (11 - Paul Fisk, Martin Grady, Pippa Jubb) has been awarded redress in the form of average points for races 2 and 3 to be calculated from the results for Races 1, 4 & 5.

After the Class Association Annual General Meeting this afternoon, tonight's action is a Curry & Comedy evening - a heady mix of a legendary HISC curry with a brilliant line up of comedians. Much fun will be had.

Day 3

Following cancellation of Day 2 racing and Friday night's rib-tickling curry and comedy night, four races were sailed in Hayling Bay on Saturday. Competitors were expecting changeable weather conditions but nobody predicted the wind range that was to develop.

Following a general recall, Race 4 started soon after 11am under a black flag in 18-20 knots of south-westerly breeze over an ebb tide. Having won the first three races, Foudafafa (76 - Mike McIntyre, Simon Childs, Caroline McIntyre) was once again looking invincible until the final short hook to the finish line from the leeward mark when Wombat (55 - Russell Peters, Greg Wells, Mark Darling) managed a clean mark rounding and spinnaker drop to overtake and steal first place. No Riff Raff (20 - Tom Hewitson, Nigel Bird, Claire Cummings) finished in third to maintain their strong challenge. Having had a disappointing first day More T Vicar (67 - Ossie Stewart, Ian Tillet, Tom Stewart) were beginning to build some momentum in fourth place.

Once again, Race 5 started under a black flag with the results board getting a bit of a shakeup. Foudafafa and No Riff Raff were caught over the line at the pin-end. By now, the wind speed was dropping, eventually fading to 6 knots with a dramatic 90 degrees wind shift prompting a shortened course, allowing Wombat to take a second race victory with Anchorman (50 - John Driscoll, Stephen Cartwright, Hal Catherwood) in second and More T Vicar third.

An unpleasant squall arrived in between races 5 and 6 with some prolonged cold rain, poor visibility and wind gusting over 30 knots resulting in a lot of shivering crews trying to stay warm with a mix of jogging on the spot whilst playing exercise soundtracks, and seeking shelter from the rain by wearing buckets on heads!

When visibility improved and the wind settled, Race 6 got away to a clean start in 16-20 knots of south-westerly breeze. More T Vicar continued their charge up the leader board to take the race win with Urafiki (92 - James Yearsley, Jonny Costard, Wayne Rogers) enjoying their best result in second, Foudafafa third and Wombat fourth.

Race 7 started under yet another black flag with the championship hanging on the final race. In the end, Wombat took another first to record three wins out of four on the day. Dirty Dozen (12 - Tim Peters, Andrew Jameson, James Grant) finished in second with Aeolus (33-Cam Stewart, Mitch Webb, Elliott Wells) in third, both recording their best results of the regatta. More T Vicar in fourth and Foudafafa down in fifth meant that Wombat had grabbed the championship at the last gasp by one point from Foudafafa in second and More T Vicar pipping No Riff Raff for third overall.

A great time was had by all at the prizegiving dinner followed by dancing to the magnificent Smiley Campbell Band into the early hours (yet another legendary RS Elite social). New Class Chairman, Paul Fisk, knew that it was time to stop when he fell off his bicycle at an estimated 4 o'clock on Sunday morning - thankfully, no damage done!

Hayling Island Sailing Club and the RS Elite Class Association are extremely grateful to the generous event sponsors Zhik for some extra-special prizes, MDL Marinas for craning and berthing, Sparkes Chandlery for sailing bags upcycled from old RS Elite sails and Performance Sailboat Repairs for bar refreshments.

We look forward to next year's National Championship at the Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club, half way between Belfast and Bangor on the shores of Belfast Lough. In the meantime, the next stop for the RS Elite Class is Cowes Week where we hope the 18-strong fleet will enjoy some better weather.

Wombat wins Zhik RS Elite National Championships