The sun shone on Southampton water last Saturday with a brisk wind turning the water into a sparkling carpet in striped green and grey. A superb back drop for the Bytes with their glittering red trimmed Mylar sails. For this was the Byte National Championships at Weston Sailing club. Conditions were great, sailing was great and racing was fierce!



I will not bore readers with a tack by tack and gybe by gybe account of the racing but rather I offer a description of the event based on its pure excitement.

Thirteen boats assembled, five ladies and eight men, enough but there should be more, and there will be more as lighter weight helms learn to appreciate the dynamic pleasures of this amazing little boat.

Racing was off to a good start in race one with young Ryan Bush, only fourteen but capable of stunning down wind speed and wild tactics (which were often effective) sailed through to a win followed by Louis Saunders, previous champion and multiple winner in his special black and grey 'stealth' boat. Next home was Andrew Blundell in a borrowed boat but more of him later! The fastest chasing lady was Rachel Moore her light weight proving that Byte can be sailed by the most insubstantial of sailors!

Race two saw Andrew Blundell in his borrowed boat who was now acclimatised to Byte sailing leading on the very bumpy downwind leg to the hook finish. Louis with superb aggressive sailing was keeping him, as windward boat, way above the mark. Andrew eventually had to gybe and Louis gybed to cover him on the short reach into the mark,but, when Louis threw his body weight out there was an odd hole and he capsized backwards.

Andrew planed into the mark, gybed again and took the win. Louis bounced his boat back up for an easy second place, but, no rudder! It had fallen into the depths of Southampton Water! More of this rudder later. Louis was towed in where Angela Oakley kindly lent him her rudder for the next race. Ryan came home in second with Eddie Pope in third. The fastest lady was Olwen Binks on this occasion.

Race three began with an increasing wind and the boats took off their up wind tactics spreading them across the water. Andrew was really warming to the task now with his slight extra weight and height proving an advantage. Louis was still faster down wind though sailing dangerously by-the-lee and crash gybing on the awkward chop. Andrew led home however followed by Louis then Ryan with comparative newcomer Andy Sant in an excellent fourth. The fastest lady was again Olwen Binks in seventh.

Racing done for the day and curry eaten the second half of the 'Louis rudder saga' began. The tide receded as we watched. At about eight o'clock we looked out across the mud to the sea and tried to decide where the rudder sank, somewhere near the finishing buoy...but the buoy was now ashore of course! We estimated it should be about eighty yards off shore and some distance beyond the present waters edge. As to exactly where left to right was just guesswork.

Louis took off his shoes and splattered out through the mud to the edge of the now returning sea. Suddenly he turned and shouted, "I can see it!". As Louis ran back through the mud to change into a wetsuit and swim out Alex Bowden spotted it as well, just the tip of the black rudder bobbing above the small waves. The stock must have been resting on the bottom with the blade floating. She took a transit on the oil refinery on the far bank and rooted herself to the spot while Ryan picked it up on binoculars.

By the time Louis ran back suitably clothed the tide had risen a few inches and the rudder had disappeared. He waded into the water waist deep with Alex shouting, "left a bit, right a bit", found the rudder and raised it above his head! It was amazing! The tip of the rudder must only have been visible for about ten minutes at dead low tide and its location left to right was just a guess.

Now for day two and race four. Louis had his "lucky rudder" but with increased wind and waves Andrew was flying upwind. The boats could be seen way out in the seaway screaming away on the reach and downwind leg kicking out clouds of spray into the sunshine. Andrew won again followed home by Louis then Ryan. National Champion Rick Whitehouse was now finding form and sailed into a close fourth. Olwen Binks was again first lady home.

Race five began with further increasing wind strength and a biased line forcing the boats to start at the pin end making a clean start difficult but they managed and tacked away towards the windward mark. On lap two Ryan finding himself lagging and full of the exuberance of youth tacked off and sailed way out to the left eventually picking up the lay-line. A bold move but it did not improve his situation.

Andrew came in first chased by Louis and then Rick. The fastest lady was Alex Bowden whose race had not gone well until the final downwind leg when she selected the perfect line and passed six boats to cross the line as fastest lady.

As race six began Andrew Blundell had the Championship won but that would not stop Louis from trying to win the last race. Even windier now Louis was fast upwind and down. Andrew committed an infringement and was seen to do turns. Louis took the win by a considerable margin followed in by old rival Rick Whitehouse. Andrew was third and Ryan fourth.

What an amazing weekend of sailing enjoyed by all. Won by an outsider who sailed brilliantly. Andrew Blundell enjoyed the boat and revelled in the friendly competition between himself and Louis. For his part Louis had a great weekend of sailing and only missed the title by two points.

Olwen Binks won the ladies trophy with only three points separating the top three. Ryan after a superb exhibition of exuberant sailing was third and he also took the junior trophy.

There are a few Byte C2's on the second hand market and new boats from Hartley Boats at discount prices. If you are a lightish man or a fit girl get in a Byte and sail the exciting boat that was made for you!

Overall Results:

First. Andrew Blundel, Warsash SC, 7 points.
Second. Louis Saunders, Combs SC, 9 points.
Third. Ryan Bush, Bristol SC, 13 points.
Fourth. Richard Whitehouse, Combs SC, 17 points.
Fifth. Edwin Pope, Ogston SC, 24 points.
Sixth. Andrew Sant, Combs SC, 25 points.
Seventh. Olwen Binks, Weston SC, 37 points.
Eighth. Rachel Moore, Weston SC, 38 points.
Ninth. Alexandria Bowden, Combs SC, 40 points.
Tenth. Maggie Futcher, Weston SC, 41 points.
Eleven. Gary Hogan, Milton Keynes SC, 51 points.
Twelve. Angela Oakley, Haversham SC, 70 points.
Thirteen. Tom Mackinder, Weston SC, 70 points.