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2022 ILCA Nationals at Hayling Island Sailing Club - What made it a success?

by Guy Noble 27 Jul 14:20 PDT 17-22 July 2022

Those who competed agreed the event was the best for years - so what helped make it a success?

They are on again at Hayling Island Sailing Club next year (20th to 25th August 2023), so here is a more detailed look at what UKLA offered in 2022 and hope to offer again in 2023.

As we have emerged from the Covid years there seems to be a renewed interest in dinghy racing. From decent sized fleets getting out for weekend club racing to the big events all over the world numbers are up and participation is growing again. Many of those sailors have been tempted back to the ILCA (formerly the Laser) Nationals - are you?

UKLA were delighted with the 50th anniversary Nationals held at WPNSA last year with 253 boats competing. This year we realised that, with many more other classes events scheduled, it would be very difficult to get the same number out on the water. We needn't have worried - we had almost exactly the same number, and that was without most the mens elite squad members who were in France checking out the Olympic venue.

So over 250 sailors and their supporters made their way to Hayling Island Sailing club on Sunday 17th July. For those of you who have not had the privilege of racing at Hayling it is, in my opinion one of the most perfect dinghy racing venues in the world. Agreed, the tide does present some issues if the wind is light but for the most part it has everything.

Situated on a sandy spit at the entrance to Chichester harbour it has a slightly remote feel, helping focus the mind on the sea, the wind and tides. The club is welcoming and beautifully equipped with everything a dinghy racing fleet needs without being stuffy or 'yachtie' like some south coast clubs can be.

The ILCA UKLA Nationals, indeed the ILCA/Laser fleet in general haven't raced a Hayling for a number of years. I don't really understand why but we are back and long may it continue. Sunday arrivals were greeted, rather surprisingly with a dinghy park almost full of the gear of early arrivals already out practising in Hayling bay.

Sunday was sponsored by Harken. A word on our sponsors. The event had seven sponsors. Five; Harken, Southeast sailboats, Viakobi, Sailingfast and OvingtonBoats each sponsored a day - Noble Marine and Fernhurst Books helped generally. They provided an enormous quantity of very valuable sailing gear for the prize draws held after the evening meals. This seemed to encourage the younger members to hang around.

Harken very generously subsidised the food for that evening and provided 4 rucksack dry bags containing £100 vouchers and other goodies. Opening speeches and an excellent talk by Tim Hancock on the tides provided a great introduction to the week.

Sailing is a highly weather dependent sport so any fixed schedule is only fixed in theory... each day started with a very civilised timed briefing at 9:30 followed by a race clinic, taken each day by one of the leading sailors of the fleet. These were attended by dozens of sailors both young and old eager to pick up some tips that would help them improve their racing.

Mr Nationals (Tony Woods) has among other things initiated the Mentor/Mentee scheme. This means the less experienced are teamed up with the more experienced. Towards the end of the week mentors and mentees could nominate each other for a prize. They had to explain why their partner was so good. As Tony read these emails out everyone could feel not only how moved Tony was but also what it meant to the people involved.

It's very easy to forget that, for many, this will be their first big event and can be overwhelming - a guiding hand can make an enormous difference.

The evenings entrainments included a quiz, beach games, a luxurious black tie dinner, prize-givings, prize draws, interviews with the days winners and special guests made the evenings really enjoyable. The Class Annual General meeting, held on Wednesday evening, saw the great Rob Cage stand down and Olympian Mark Lyttle take over the chairmanship.

To cap it all the end of regatta prize-giving awarded 118 prizes to the fleets! Of course it's impossible to list every prize-winner but UKLA would like to thank you all for attending.

For non sailing folk, and there were a lot of them, the brilliant Nette Woods provided classes for everything from belly dancing to chess - now there's a surprise! Each day you could try something new and have a laugh as well.

How is this all possible? Volunteers - that's how. It takes over 100 volunteers to put on an event like this - thank you, one and all. Although its impossible to mention all of these great people we can give a big shout out to Ellie Ratusniak, UKLA class sectary - she provides the glue that holds the whole show together.

But rather than focusing on how much work there is to do I'd like to draw attention to what good fun it is. The good natured camaraderie and banter that was evident within the volunteers was a thing of beauty. The satisfaction that each volunteer had helped make possible such an event surely makes it all worth while. Getting involved helps everyone get to know each other and you certainly find out a lot about the behind the scenes dramas...

So, 2023? Well UKLA are looking to make the event better. There's talk of a DJ on the beach, more prizes and more competitors... we will see. But for now book your accommodation - you should be able to cancel with no charge - for 19th/20th to 25th August 2023.

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