It may have been too windy for some classes to race at the Weymouth Regatta last weekend but this did not stop 21 Bytes sailing in their 2016 National Championship!

Not only that but on Saturday they had to sail out of Castle Cove Sailing Club, through the distant harbour entrance and across Weymouth bay. By the time they were on the race course they must have sailed for over three miles in solid 20 plus mph wind, waves and chop. They shared the course with the Osprey Class and most of those boats were sailed by good solid specimens hanging from their trapeze wires.

Not so the Bytes where in contrast the youngest competitor was Matt Banbrook at eleven years old and sailing with a C 1 rig. With three races back to back this was going to be tough day, and tough it was.


The 20 Bytes followed the Ospreys away with Louis Saunders (Combs) taking an early lead and building on it to cross the line four minutes ahead in his striking black and grey boat. Second place went to Stu Moore (Weston) with Ryan Bush (Bristol Corinthian) in third. Three boats failed to complete the race and set out for the long beat back home. It was an achievement getting out there in the first place!

In race two newcomer Andrew Snell (Datchet) was first away and first at the windward mark but Louis passed him on the second reach and lead to the finish. Andy in turn led Ryan Bush (Bristol Corinthian) who was struggling with his lack of bulk! A couple more boats peeled off for home now having suffered enough.

Louis started race three in front again but had to defend himself upwind from Andy who was now well and truly in the groove! Louis won by a narrow margin from Andy with the experienced Rick Whitehouse (Combs) in third. A few more boats had retired with two helms having bad sea sickness such was the motion of the boats.

Now everyone sailed back up the long beat home tired and battered. There were very few breakages considering the conditions, just a broken kicker and a corkscrew tiller extension. A well earned rest was taken overnight.

Racing on Sunday was in the harbour for the Bytes and this news was greeted with considerable relief! The boats sailed off to a course still too distant to see even with binoculars but even though the wind had increased the water was flatter. It was an impressive sight as the boats cleared the shelter of the sailing club, bore away and planed off into the distance.

Race four began with Andy quick off the line leading Louis and Ryan and that is the way it stayed with a good win for Andy with Ryan more comfortable on the flatter water. 19 boats started and 19 boats finished.

Now for race 5 with helms thinking about discards. Louis and Ryan were struggling to hold Andy upwind where his extra weight was coming in to play but Ryan managed to get into the lead at the leeward mark. However Andy took the lead back on the last leg and sailed to the win by some 3 seconds! Louis was a close third.

Now for the final race where things were getting tight with Louis on 8 points and Andy on 12 but Andy had a 6 to discard with Louis only a 3. Take the discards and only one point in it so Louis had to win!

Louis led from start to finish but was followed by Andy who in turn was passed by a flying Ryan. Ryan caught Louis who defended his place to the line and beat Ryan by 15 seconds with Andy a close third.

This gave Louis an event win with 6 points discarding a third, from Andy on 9 discarding his sixth and Ryan on 13 who had sailed in on race three with a damaged boat. Close racing.

This was Louis third Byte National Championship and probably the toughest. Andy was comparatively new to the boat which makes his performance remarkable. Ryan who is only 16 sailed a stunning series of races where his light weight was against him up wind. Stu Moore was very consistent throughout for a well deserved fourth with senior Long term Byte sailor and also three time national champion Rick Whitehouse in fifth.

Ryan was also the fastest junior, remember he is only 16. The fastest lady was won by Celia Rushton (Weymouth) in tenth but the fastest lady junior was Zoe Bazen (Bowmoor), also 16 in ninth one place ahead of Celia. Matt Banbrook at 11 sailed into a superb seventh with his C1 rigged boat. He completed all six races with a best result of fifth.

What other class can do what the Byte Class does? Where can 'try anything' talented juniors take on more experienced sailors. Where can ladies race on an equal platform with males? The Byte Class. Hartley have now built 56 boats and there are second hand boats out there from about £1000. It is an easy class to access with a friendly multi generational fleet. Rick Whitehouse won the Inlands from Ryan Bush by four inches and he loved the competition!

Now the exciting news. In 2018 the World Championships will be at Weymouth! Just think of all those talented juniors with two more years practice, Louis Saunders will be further honing his skills and Rick Whitehouse bringing his experience to bear.

The boats are generally considered for lightweights and this is of course true but they should not be discounted for the slightly heavier sailor Andrew Snell proved that. When I say "heavy" we do not mean like most of the sailors in the boat park; no gorillas in the Byte fleet! Byte sailors are the slim, elegant ones with self-satisfied smiles!

Overall Results:

Pos Sail No Helm Club R1 R2 R3 R4 R5 R6 Pts
1 3573 Louis SAUNDERS Combs SC 1 1 1 2 ‑3 1 6
2 3587 Andrew SNELL Datchet Water SC ‑6 2 2 1 1 3 9
3 891 Ryan BUSH Bristol Corinthian YC 3 3 (RET) 3 2 2 13
4 867 Stu MOORE Weston SC 2 4 4 4 ‑6 5 19
5 3561 Richard WHITEHOUSE Combs SC 4 ‑8 3 7 4 4 22
6 2620 Chris REES   5 5 6 5 5 ‑16 26
7 3584 Matthew BANBROOK Bowmoor SC ‑8 7 5 6 7 6 31
8 3593 Charlie SANSOM Bowmoor SC 9 6 (DNC) 8 8 7 38
9 3588 Zoe BAZEN Bowmoor SC 10 10 9 10 ‑11 8 47
10 3611 Celia RUSHTON Weymouth SC 7 9 7 ‑19 15 15 53
11 3591 Olly COOKE Bowmoor SC (RET) 14 10 11 10 10.5 55.5
12 2709 Charlotte HITCHMOUGH Bowmoor SC 12 ‑15 8 12 12 13.5 57.5
13 3583 Emily WATSON Bowmoor SC 11 (DNC) DNC 9 9 9 61
14 2943 Christian CONLAN Bowmoor SC 13 11 11 ‑14 14 12 61
15 3568 Tom COOKE Bowmoor SC 16 12 (RET) 15 19 13.5 75.5
16 3301 Jenn LAMB Combs SC 17 (RET) DNC 13 13 10.5 76.5
17 3577 Rachel MOORE Weston SC 14 13 (DNC) 17 16 19 79
18 1677 Andrew SANT Combs SC 15 (RET) DNC 16 18 17 89
19 3616 Annabel HITCHMOUGH Bowmoor SC (RET) DNC DNC 18 17 18 99
20 2623 Gary Hogan   (RET) DNC DNC DNC DNC DNC 115