ORC European Championship - Perfect start in Sandhamn

Avantime ORC European Championship 2013
Malcolm Hanes
The Avantime ORC European Championship got off to a great start today, with two of seven planned inshore races held in ideal 10-15 knot conditions. All 60 entries from eight countries divided into three classes raced a 5-leg 9.5-mile windward-leeward course in Race 1, while Classes 1 and 2 raced an 8.0-mile 5-leg course in Race 2 and Class 3 races a 4-leg 6.4-mile course.

'Except for two general recalls and a black flag start to Race 1 for the 30 eager entries in Class 3, the fleet got off to a great start this week,' said PRO Eckard Reinke. 'The wind filled in faster than we thought, so there were no delays needed except for spacing the starts to minimize the traffic in the course area.'

One way to avoid this traffic was to have the largest and fastest boat on the course, which no doubt helped Thomas Nilsson's Norwegian team on their TP52 Trucknor Wolfpack to take two first place finishes in Class 1. The team has been well-honed after years of racing together, but suffered a setback yesterday when their regular tactician had to rush home to Norway on a family emergency.

So, Nilsson made a few calls and was able to get someone he describes as 'probably the best sailor in Norway today:' London Star class Olympian Eivind Melleby. With no practice time Melleby fit in fast and fit in well: 'We had great starts, and got a little caught off on the left away from the favored right side in the first upwind leg of the first race, but were able to gain back,' said Nilsson. 'The rest of the day went really well. We're really lucky to get Eivind on such short notice.'

But with twice as many boats closer in size and speed in Class 2 than Class 1, the level of boat-on-boat tactical action in this class was higher all day, particularly in the second race where the legs were slightly shorter and the wind slightly higher, compressing the fleet into a smaller space. 2011 ORC European Champion Silva-Hispaniola from Germany, Heinz-Peter Schmidt's green Evento 42, won the first race, but then got caught in a tangle of boats at a gate rounding, pushing them back far enough to not correct better than seventh in Race 2.

'This week will not be like some other regattas we have sailed [in the last few years],' said Schmidt. 'This will not be easy, we will have to really earn victory here.'

Leading Class 2 on consistent scores of 2-2 is Priit Tammemägi's Estonian X-41 Premium, but the competition is not far behind: Bengt Falkenberg's Swedish First 40 from Gothenburg Teknova/Albatross Racing is only one point back on 4-1, and Silva another three points behind the Swedes.

With 30 boats on the starting line, Class 3 will always be crowded this week, but the early favorites are already starting to rise to the top after two races.

Mikhel Kosk's Estonian NM38 Sugar has taken an early lead on scores of 4-1, but this only on a tie-break with Martin Nilsson's Swedish Salona 37 Feelgood, who has a 2-3 scoreline. And lurking just one point back is Patrik Forsgren's Swedish First 36.7 Team Arken Zoo, with Aivar Tuulberg's Estonian Arcona 340 Katarina II and Eero Pank's Estonian Salona 38ibc Reval Café tied just one more point behind the Swedes.

Kosk felt the course area was manageable, but it was not easy. 'You needed to find your lanes, but if you get off the start well then you have options.'

Tomorrow racing will not start until early afternoon as teams prepare for the offshore race, to be sailed in two parts: the first start will be 50-60 miles and is intended to be sailed overnight with a scoring gate. The race then continues for a length determined tomorrow by race managers as they evaluate the weather forecast and look at course and mark options available in the outer archipelago. The overall race length is intended to be about 24 hours in duration, so exact length will be dependent on weather, and the race managers may set a length which may appear long but will have the option to be shortened at any mark.

Event website
ORC website
http://www.sail-world.com/112875