With Hayling Island often referred to as the ‘Birthplace of windsurfing’ its no wonder it is home to one of the most grueling windsurfing events in the U.K. We caught up with Dan Lytton who with Chris Witty will be organising the event this year, to find out a little bit more about the event and what to expect in 2016:
Windsurfers of all shapes and sizes will once again descend on Hayling Island Sailing Club this Good Friday 25th March for the iconic Round Hayling Island Challenge 2016. The event has survived through the ups and downs of our sport and has been once again growing in recent years.
Now in its 36th year, this gruelling windsurf challenge is accompanied on the water by SUP and Outrigger Canoes, who will all try to second-guess the constantly changing conditions of Chichester and Langstone Harbours and the more unpredictable Solent.
I have joined the team with Chris Witty, Windsurf Class Captain at HISC to help promote the event at a club that has seen windsurfing return from the dead in recent years. I’ve always heard many stories of the ‘good-old-days’ of 700 people cruising past the club at this event, but windsurfing was non-existent at this end of the island when I first joined HISC. However in recent years new faces and new ideas have set the tone, and brand new windsurf racks have rapidly replaced the unused boat spaces. With the re-emergence of this classic event on our doorstep, the new generation of windsurfers finally have had the chance to see what all the fuss is about!
With a course that consists of long legs in all directions of wind – as well as battling strong tides and unreliable weather- a lack of knowledge of the currents or choosing the wrong kit can have devastating results. I have learnt this the hard way, having given up on my first attempt about 5 years ago after setting off on a short board in light winds, only to return with the swung tide back down Chichester harbour an hour later.
So this year we decided to scope out the course for you all, we set off on a chilly Sunday morning in February for a solo mission around the island. Sponsors of the event; Starboard, kindly lent us some kit for the mission. We had the 12’6” Starboard ASAP SUP and the 8.6m Starboard Phantom Race Rig – perfect for a SUP mission if there had been no wind but also sailed really smoothly the whole way round. The board had a screw-in centreboard and had no problems going up-wind.
With a cool NE wind, we headed up the Emsworth Channel on a tight reach between the yachts and the channel where the incoming tide is strongest, and bore off towards the Hayling Bridge. This is where the Bronze Finish will be. After ducking under the bridge, it was a dead run towards the entrance of the Langstone Harbour. The entrance is a check-point and also the Silver Finish. Depending on how quick you are the tide will be swinging at this point. We had a strong wind against tide here which made for tricky conditions till we were out of the harbour mouth. A 5 mile stretch along the Hayling Seafront with 2 further check-points was helped by a now Northerly wind, with some fun rolling waves over the sandbars at each end. It can get very shallow here, so is worth remembering that rescue aren’t going to be able to get to you if you get in trouble over a sandbar. Sometimes it is worth heading out and around.
A strong outgoing tide will likely meet you as you head to the finish-line between East Point and HISC, so try to stay to the side of the channel. Normally the shallowest part is over the Winner Bank, but again beware of rollers and shallows. The whole route took us 2 hours 00 minutes, a decent time in a marginal breeze but not a touch on Guy Cribb’s 1992 record of 58:44 mins. However it all depends on the conditions on the day, with Rob Kent of Calshot making it five wins in a row last year with a time of 2 hours 18.44 mins.
For 2016 SailRacer – the event promoters – are delighted to have the Sponsorship of The Sup Company – who head up the SUP event – with support from Starboard and Red Paddle who will also be bringing the MegaSUP and other demo kit for everyone to try. Tushingham will kindly sponsor the Windsurfing Event, with support from Severne, while SailRacer will be sponsoring the Outrigger Canoe category. Every competitor will receive a free event T shirt and goody bag, courtesy of The SUP Company. Competitors can choose to complete a 4 mile challenge, 9 mile challenge or the full Round Hayling Island 14 mile course. There is a course to suit all abilities and you can even hire a SUP for the event from The SUP Company. The three disciplines of Windsurfing, SUP or Outrigger Canoe, plus various course lengths ensure that the event is open to all ability levels. The SUP Company will be providing a mini bus to pick up any competitors who retire on the way round the island. SailRacer will be tracking all competitors and providing on-line coverage of the event.
Whether you’re a casual sailor or an expert, sign up, come along and join in what it sure to be another cracking event! Online entry at: http://hayling.sailracer.org And please have a watch of our solo mission around the course below to give you an idea of how spectacular the course is! I look forward to seeing you all there 25th March 2016!