Eighteen RS K6s descended on Itchenor Sailing Club over the weekend of 9th/10th May for its Open Meeting. Visitors came from as far afield as Devon, Cornwall, Suffolk and Essex to make this the largest K6 Open ever seen in the UK. The numbers were boosted by American team Jim Wilson and Alan Marantz whose fleet had planned to bring several crews to make a transatlantic challenge. When numbers were less than expected the home fleet managed to add an additional US element to the weekend by producing their own American, 18’skiff legend Mason Woodworth sailing with Robert Hayes, while K6 Class secretary Peter Kirkby introduced a touch more transatlantic glamour by walking straight off a plane from New York into his rigged (by long suffering crew Richard Barker) boat.
The long journeys were worthwhile – the fleet was treated to two days of incredibly tight racing in sparkling conditions showing Chichester Harbour at his best. Race Officer Andrew Penman and his team worked tirelessly to run eight races in often demanding conditions, whilst capturing the whole event on film.
Saturday afternoon was given over to short course racing – five 30-minute two-lap windward/leewards kept the fleet on their toes and polished the spinnaker chutes nicely, while crews worked up a thirst for the evening’s Pimm’s by hiking into a 12-14 knot South Westerly. A building ebb meant playing the shifts downwind while cheating the tide, resulting in some very tight corners and demanding cool boat-handling and nerves of steel.
The masters of the cool and steely were, as ever, Ian Robson/Sandy Johnson/Simon Tonks from Aldeburgh and David Hitchcock/Ian Nicholson from Hayling, the former ending the day one point ahead with three bullets and a couple of close seconds. Behind them the points were incredibly close with Jonathan Calascione/Pyers Tucker/Myles Mence from Queen Mary leading three Itchenor teams of Woodworth/Hayes, Peter Dann/Dominic Stanislaus and Robin Richardson/Clive Cooper.
After a truly British (i.e. cold) Pimm’s party the fleet sat down to a fine dinner before being subjected to rambling but mildly entertaining speeches from Nigel Pattison, ISC Vice Commodore, and Peter Dann, ISC Class Captain before some more focused contributions from Jim Wilson and Peter Kirkby.
Chichester Harbour in a light Easterly and a Spring Tide is no place for the faint-hearted or the hung-over, so it was with no great expectation that the fleet set out for Sunday’s three races. However they had banked without Race Officer Penman’s experience which enabled his team to run two windward /leewards over the Stocker bank with sometimes as much as 20 centimetres under the keel, all with a streaming tide and a 4-8 knot breeze sifting through 40 degrees.
Race 6 saw Hitchcock/Nicholson square the series with another one-place win over Robson and his merry men, but in Race 7 one of those big shifts caught the fleet on the line, burying both teams into taking their first worthwhile discard of the series. At the pin end Wilson/Marantz had finally finished calibrating their new boat (provided by builder Rondar, sponsor’s plug) and sailed clear into a commanding lead to the finish. Behind them and visibly relaxed by being within range of the baby monitor at Hayling, Fraser Elms/Georgie Smith/Tash Styles added a second to their earlier third.
So it was all to play for in the final race, the eagerly-anticipated harbour tour, culminating in a beat against the tide to the legendary (or is it elusive?) Itchenor Gallon Line. A tricky first beat spread the fleet out for the first time which made this a more of a sight-seeing tour than the hoped-for nip and tuck, and it was Hitchcock and Nicholson who led the tour, followed by Woodworth/Hayes. That Itchenor and Hayling boats occupied six of the top seven places suggested more of a premium on local knowledge than was the case: East Anglians Robson/Johnson/Tonks recovered from a dismal start to climb through to fourth, but even at their rate of overtaking they would have needed the finish to be at Dell Quay to have caught Hitchcock and Nicholson, who duly took the event by one point.
Receiving his prize and the adulation of an adoring crowd, David Hitchcock pronounced this to be the best K6 event he’d attended so far, and most people agreed. He wasn’t biased by his first place, he and Ian Nicholson have won most of them. Will the Aldeburgh boys turn the tables on their own river? The K6 world travels up East to find out on June 6th and 7th.