Over the last few years Rick Whitehouse and Louis Saunders from Combs Sailing Club have tended to share Byte championship events between themselves. This time it was Rick's turn for victory by the narrowest of margins from Louis. The championship was run as part of GJW Direct Sailfest at the Calshot Activity Centre on Southampton Water.

There had been a coaching session on the Friday but competition proper began on Saturday where the Bytes would have their own start in an all comers race sharing the water with the ISOs in their Nationals, a selection of other boats racing on PY and and six 18ft Skiffs in their nationals sailing a somewhat larger course!

The chosen race area was some 1.7 miles away across Southampton Water with its busy shipping lane, a somewhat daunting task for some of the less experienced sailors!

The Bytes were the last fleet away in an uncomfortable chop with Louis Saunders making a lightning start in the company of Chris Rees but aiming for the wrong mark! Rick Whitehouse and Charlotte Gough trusted their own judgement which proved correct. Realising his mistake Louis set off in pursuit but the race was won by Rick with Charlotte second and Louis third.

The wind strength now began to increase, proved by the fact that the skiffs kept falling over! In race 2 Louis led from the line and Charlotte passed Rick who fell back into fourth behind Rachel Eveling.

The race ended with Louis first, Charlotte second, Rachel Eveling third.

The wind freshened still further for race three which suited Louis who won again followed home by Rick and Charlotte. Rachel Eveling broke her kicker in this race and sailed for home.

These three races had proved hard work for some of the lightweight Byte fleet and they were now faced with the long arduous sail back across to Calshot and a hard upwind slog through the busy shipping lane. All competitors made it however tired but safe.

At the end of day one the results were very close with Louis on 5, Rick and Charlotte with 7 points.

After a good sleep and an excellent breakfast the sailors were ready to do battle again but as boats were rigged it became obvious that there was little wind. During the morning ribs were dispatched over to the racecourse where it was eventually concluded that racing was impossible. At two pm racing was officially abandoned but the Byte sailors did not feel like deciding their Nationals on only three races and so representation was made to the organisers that races should be run on the Calshot side. Calshot had wind, the effect they say of the huge hangar roof creating thermals. Ribs were again dispatched but this time they returned with marks and an impromptu course was set up to the north of Calshot using just two of them, three would have been better, and boats of all classes piled onto the water. The 18 foot skiffs and the ISO's had abandoned their Nationals at three races but a number of ISO's and other competitors sailed for the racecourse as well. Even under these strange circumstances the Bytes had expected their own start... but no, all boats piled off the short line together! Two races were run a third apparently not being possible because of low water.

In the first race Rick and Charlotte made superb starts leaving Louis tangled on the line. Rick made the most of the one rather shifty beat with a superb display of light wind sailing. Charlotte kept in close contact but try as he might Louis could not catch. The race ended with Rick first, Charlotte second and Louis third. Rachel sailed in to fourth.

The second and final race of the day followed the same pattern with Louis start being hampered by other boats while Rick and Charlotte sailed clear. This time Louis managed to pass Charlotte but there was no catching Rick who was in his element sailing in these conditions.

So, the race ended Rick, Louis, Charlotte, Rachel.

All points added and discards taken Rick beat his clubmate and old rival Louis by just two points with Charlotte in third and Rachel on even points with Eddie Pope in fourth. Although the weekend had its problems there was an excellent close result.

It is interesting to note that more than half the Byte fleet were ladies and those lightweight ladies survived the harsh conditions of Saturday proving the whole point of the boat, it is a boat for skilled sailors of any sex, it is just weight that counts. In some ways this was the last Nationals of the old era, the pre Hartley era. On Saturday Richard and Mark Hartley, father and son, appeared having driven all the way from Derby that morning. With them they had a beautiful Osprey which they raced and a fully rigged and sorted Hartley Byte C2.

Everyone present was very pleased with the new detailing on the boat and the new lighter mast. The Hartleys consulted all the sailors present, listened to ideas and accepted advice.

After the Saturday racing the class held its AGM which was addressed by both Richard and Mark Hartley who left prizes for presentation and talked of their enthusiasm and aims for the boat. After the meeting they loaded the boats and drove back to Derby! A very long day! The class members appreciated the effort they had made.

Overall Results:

Pos Helm R1 R2 R3 R4 R5 Pts
1st Richard Whitehouse 1 -4 2 1 1 5
2nd Louis Saunders -3 1 1 3 1 7
3rd Charlotte Gough 2 2 -3 2 3 9
4th Rachel Eveling 7 3 (DNC) 4 4 18
5th Eddie Pope 4 -5 4 5 5 18
6th Maggie Futcher 6 -8 5 6 6 23
7th Chris Rees 5 6 6 (DNC) DNC 30
8th Cathy Bartram 8 7 7 8 -10 30
9th Clare Mach -10 9 8 9 8 34
10th Andrew Sant 9 -10 9 10 7 35
11th Angela Oakley (DNC) DNC DNC 7 9 42
12th Lesley Hunt (DNC) DNC DNC DNC DNC 52