The combined RS800 and RS200 GUL RS Racing Circuit at Hayling Island SC on 14-15 July broke records for RS Racing Circuit events. The RS800 entry was a record for any RS class at a Racing Circuit event since RSs were launched and the entry of 56 RS200s was the third largest fleet at an RS Racing Circuit event and the largest 200 fleet at such an event.
With the majority of the leading RS200 helmsmen at Hayling for final practice before the nationals it was always likely that the racing was going to be very competitive and so it proved with the top three helms finishing on the same points. The already high quality of the fleet was further increased with the usual suspects being joined by 49er sailors Paul Brotherton, Harvey Hilary and Simon Hiscocks.
Bright sunshine and a westerly Force 3 greeted the fleet on Saturday. The first race got away at the first attempt, with the majority of the fleet going right. Jon Lewis/Lizzie Humphrey came in from the left to lead at the first mark. A rapid increase in wind strength with gusts over 25 knots caught out many boats, including Mark/Samuel Littlejohn while vying for the lead. The weather then threw in a rain and hail storm, after which Tom/Jo Hewitson held a small lead over Paul/Caroline Fisk and Ian Pickard/Laurie Dunn, which was the order at the finish.
The weather stabilised for race two, which saw the first black-flag disqualifications. After some close racing all the way to the finish, the Littlejohns won from Dave/Nicky Derby second and Steve Dunn/Olivier Vidal third.
Race three meant early showers for some, including the Hewitsons, as the list of black-flag casualties grew. Harry/Prue Roome had a commanding lead at the first mark, but were hunted down by Dunn/Vidal as the wind lightened. Dunn/Vidal beat the Roomes to the line, with the Derbys in third.
Light winds and more sunshine greeted the sore heads on Sunday morning, after another lively RS social. The event was wide open after the mixed results and DSQs on Saturday. The wind steadily decreased during race four, causing problems for some at the windward mark as they misjudged the tide. After some close racing, the Hewitsons won from Steve/Katie Restall second and Martin Wadhams/Amanda Davies third.
The sea breeze arrived for race five, leading to a large windshift to the south. As the wind and waves increased, the Derbys took control of of the race to win from the Roomes second and Restalls third.
Both the Hewitsons and Littlejohns were unable to recover from poor starts in, leaving the series wide open for race six. As the wind and waves continued to build, the Littlejohns took control of the last race to win convincingly. The Fisks continued their consistent series in second, with the Hewitsons claiming what was to prove a very important third.
This left three boats tied for the series on 17 points, with the Hewitsons taking first place on count-back from the Littlejohns second and the Fisks third. After the Hewitsons and the Fisks had been tied at the top of the GUL RS200 Racing Circuit all season, the tight overall victory at Hayling has given the Hewitsons overall circuit victory.
After such a closely competed event, the fleet is looking forward to an exciting championship at Mounts Bay in a couple of weeks time. The top three at Hayling have been the form horses all season but others are not far behind. Steve Dunn has shown good form in the last two months while the Derbys, three fourth places overall at the last three circuit events, must be a threat. Jon Lewis, who was in such dominant form early season will surely bounce back at the nationals from recent poor results. Jokers in the pack could be former RS200 national champion Geoff Carveth with Lesley Bennett crewing and leading RS400 helmsman Craig Burlton with Emma Carveth crewing, and Pete Vincent with Trudie Danbury onboard; all of who are mounting serious campaigns for the RS200 nationals which could be the most open