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Class Captains Review 2019 by David McGregor

This year feels like a season of two halves as the weather has had a large effect on sailing since Cowes Week. We started with a real bang and the Spring and early summer was wonderful. However, since Cowes Week the weather has caused a lot of disruption with too much or too little wind.

On the sailing side the Itchenor Division has really shown its strength in depth whilst not necessarily hitting the heights of previous years. During the early season the fleet were averaging 10 boats per race all the way through to Points Week. Lass and Xcitation led the way but the standard of racing was incredibly high throughout the fleet.

Many boats got to the front at some stage or other and an honourable mention goes to Thora for a super consistent season. Surely, they must be moved back to the Winner fleet. The changes made to the scoring of the Divisional Championships (removing Points Week races) has rewarded regular club racing and going in to the last few weeks the points are closer than ever.

By Easter we had 20 boats racing. The wind and weather always seemed to be good with very little disruption to the programme. Wednesday Evening Racing started and was again well supported by the XODs if not the Swallows. These evenings give the Race Officers opportunity to experiment. We had two races on one evening, short races in the Bosham Channel and a great trip up to Dell Quay starting and finishing at the Club Line.

Points Week was an absolute highlight, as it always is. This year we had 30 boats racing, 5 visitors, every sort of conditions and 5 boats went in to the last race with a chance to win. That last race was my favourite of the year. It was windy and the sun shone. The racing was incredibly tight with place changes on every leg. Congratulations to Colin, Roz and Neil on X26 for winning the final race and the whole week.

We then moved on to the Solent Open events. Despite falling entries at Cowes Classics and Cowes Weeks the Itchenor fleet bucked the trend. 22 Itchenor XODs attended one or more Solent events compared to 17 last year. Lymington Week probably had the best weather of the year. This is very well organised and incredibly good value for visiting boats. At the Telegraph Bowl the Itchenor boats made up more than half the fleet. Our best results were achieved by Princess Jalina who won the Taittinger Trophy, was 2nd at Cowes Classics and 3rd at Lymington Week.

Both Cowes Classics and Cowes Weeks were disrupted by the weather. This is bound to happen in a week-long event but both events showed flexibility and completed a series. Itchenor were the largest division at both events with 14 racing at Classics and 12 at Cowes Week. We didn’t win either event, but the strength of our fleet meant that we won the Philipson Challenge Shield of the 9th consecutive year. Special mention should go to Grace Yeoman and her Cardiff University team sailing Terrapin who won the Under 25 trophy and finished 24th overall. Thanks also to Roy Griggs for lending them Terrapin.

The large number of boats going to the Solent meant that the Summer Series were not as well supported as usual. Boats can’t be in two places at once. It’s just great that they are being sailed.

Since the end of August, the weather has affected our weekend and Wednesday racing. The result is the number of races and boats starting will be down on last year. One highlight was Xcitation winning the Haines Pursuit race followed by Phoenix. I can’t remember the last time an XOD won a Pursuit Race. I’m sure the Swallows will have to change our handicap.

The social side has been busy starting as usual with our Skittles evening. The Class Captain’s Party during Points Week was wonderfully hosted by Felicity and Paul. This event gets bigger and bigger. It’s the best attended of any Points Week social which reflects well on the class. Thanks to Renee, Olly and Charlie for helping with serving, parking and logistics (muscle). At Classic’s Week we had a party in Shepard’s Marina at the Itchenor Encampment. We have a great atmosphere with our boats moored on the pontoons and Pete Robson and Guy Knight’s yachts acting as the clubhouse. Finally, we had a late summer party hosted by the Vice-Captain before the nights started to draw in. Our new Club Manager seems to have reinvigorated the Club’s social programme. There are lots of opportunities for us to get together over the winter and support the club.

Going forward there are areas we need to address. Whilst we are the largest and most competitive division there are areas that aren’t well supported. OOH racing, especially the passage races aren’t popular. This is reflected in the Swallows and Sunbeams fleets. Do we have too many b2b races? Should we start our Wednesday races earlier? How do we encourage younger and less experience sailors? There is lots to consider if we are to keep our division and club strong.

I would like to thank everyone who contributes and makes our racing possible. Susie is a fantastic Vice-Captain. She is involved with all aspects of our fleet and she should be incredibly proud of the website she has created. She also has a career ahead as a yacht broker!

David Priscott is our statistician and his results service with updates on our website has been a huge improvement.

Michael McNish has kept the finances under control and done battle with NatWest to bring our bank accounts in to the 20th century.

Finally, as this is my last Class Captain’s review, I’d like to say how much I have enjoyed the last three years. I still feel that I am a “new boy” only having sailed XODs for seven seasons. However, the support offered by the whole fleet and especially the past-Captains has made my Captaincy very easy. I’m absolutely certain that XOD racing and the Itchenor Division will go from strength to strength.

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