The Championship, now in its 11th year, is a fun but fiercely competitive regatta with five races over two days, which allows talented amateur sailors to pit their skills against the best of their peers and some professional yachtswomen.
The event attracts a wide variety of boats and competitors: large teams in modern offshore racing yachts, athletic crews in small but powerful sportsboats, and a few teams sailing 50-year-old classic yachts.
To give all teams an equal chance of winning the boats’ finishing times are adjusted, using the IRC handicap system and is the fleet is split into several classes: IRC Class 1 and IRC Class 2. There’s also a ‘one-design’ class of identical RS21 keelboats that can be chartered by teams who don’t have their own yacht.
The first day’s racing was a tactical challenge in a gentle southeasterly breeze. The whole RS21 fleet got a bit lost and sailed to the wrong mark. Later in the day, Class 1 had to be restarted twice after the tide pushed many of them across the start line before the gun.
Day Two delivered strong southwesterly winds to test the competitors’ mettle. In Class 1, the Night Owl II crew dropped their huge spinnaker into the sea, which forced them to retire from the race, but some impressive teamwork got the errant sail back on board. Three of the RS21s were knocked flat by a violent gust of wind – a frightening experience for some of the crews but they all recovered and finished the race.
After a closely-fought regatta, Dame Louise Makin’s well-drilled team aboard the J/111 Journey Maker II claimed victory in Class 1 and won the overall Dubarry Yacht Of Championship award. Libby Greenhalgh’s J/92 J’ronimo dominated in Class 2 and Laura Dillon’s RORC team won the RS21 class after a close-fought series.
This year’s edition was held in the Solent on 1-2 June in conditions that ranged from a gentle breeze to a blustery force 6 that tested the teams’ physical prowess and boat-handling skills. It was hosted for the sixth year running by Hamble River Sailing Club.
The Championship raised more than £1,200 for Breast Cancer Care, Hamble Lifeboat and The Magenta Project, which works to improve access and opportunities for talented female sailors.
‘We are extremely grateful to Dubarry for their continued support, which enables this regatta to continue,’ said organiser Jen Smyth. ‘The event is great fun and although we compete passionately on the water the atmosphere is friendly and welcoming.’
For more information and to enter next year’s regatta, see: www.womensopenkeelboatchampionships.co.uk