The Europe fleet gathered at Brixham Yacht Club last Friday for the National Championship, which was shared with a south west area Solo open meeting.
The forecast was ominous with strong to gale force south westerlies and torrential rain predicted. It certainly did not feel like June.
A training day was held on the Friday with Chris Gill. The weather was living up to expectations with violent gusts of Force 6 or more tumbling off the top of the cliff and turning the sea white beyond the shelter of the breakwater. After some onshore rig setup work, five hardy sailors spent an hour with Chris outside the harbour, before being brought inshore under the lee of the cliffs for some more controlled starting and mark rounding practice. This was followed with a classroom session and video debrief.
Saturday was grey and chilly with a solid F4 to 5 blowing across Torbay. With the wind still blowing offshore from the club RO Sean Semmens took the fleet well out into the bay to ensure a good length beat could be set in open conditions. All the races were sailed on a triangle-sausage course with a windward finishing leg.
Race 1 saw a battle that would set a precedent for the rest of the championships, Chris Gill getting an early lead from Gareth Williams at the first mark. Gill and Williams continued to pull away from the rest of the pack throughout the race, leaving third place to Richard Major competing in his first Europe nationals.
With the wing mark moved further out to tighten the reaches, there was some exhilarating planing on offer, as well as a few swims, for race 2. Gill and Williams led the fleet to first and second from the first mark, leaving Richard Eagleton to pull out of the close chasing pack, experimenting with his new boat and flexible rig, which must have worked, as he finished third not far behind the two leaders.
With the wind holding steady, the third race became a real physical challenge. A pack swamped the first mark, with Williams leading. The pack soon arrived at the wing mark, catching a few sailors out, but it was Williams, Gill, Eagleton and Major coming out of it the best. Williams held off Gill for the next upwind leg, but it was a split to which side of the committee boat to sail that let Gill through to take the lead of race 3, with Williams in second and Eagleton again in third, revelling in the performance of his new boat.
After another blistering reach from the finish back to the harbour the sailors packed up ready for dinner in the club with Gill leading Williams followed by Eagleton in third overnight.
Early on Sunday morning a violent front came through leaving a lighter F3 to 4 south westerly behind it and even occasional sunshine as an added bonus.
It was race 4 where Williams got the better of Gill on laps 1 and 2, with Angie Wallis separating them. However, with gusting wind conditions, Gill managed to pull through downwind with only inches separating the two at the finish. Wallis, finding Sunday's conditions much more to her liking, showed good pace taking third place clear from the rest of the pack.
During race 5 it was left to Gill to wrap up the championships with a race to spare if he could beat Williams. The two consolidated their positions after a swamped boat at the start gave Gill the advantage on the first beat; unfortunately the gap was too much for Williams to close coming a close second, with Lucy Boreham pulling through in the building breeze to finish in third.
Race 6 had Katie Hughes leading round mark one, followed by Andy Harris and Chris Gill. Gill was able to get away as the fleet jostled for position downwind and didn't look back. Williams drove through the pack to catch Gill for one of the best races the fleet had sailed with much place changing and close boat handling being tested, Lucy Boreham repeated her third place performance, but it was not quite enough to keep Richard Eagleton out of third overall.
Chris Gill again showed himself to be the quickest Europe sailor in the country from Gareth Williams. Although this pair had a good margin of speed over the rest, in the mid fleet the racing was always tight while further back some of the lighter sailors suffered in the predominantly fresh conditions.
At the prizegiving, the Europe fleet were happy to agree with the Solos that the event had the best race management anyone could remember. Our thanks go to Sean Semmens, his race team and all at Brixham Yacht Club for making the event successful both afloat and ashore.
Pos Sail No Helm Club Pts
1 GBR 352 Chris Gill Portishead SC 5
2 GBR 391 Gareth Williams Leigh & Lowton SC 10
3 GBR 379 Richard Eagleton Bexhill SC 20
4 GBR 291 Lucy Boreham RYA 21
5 GBR 330 Richard Major Hunts SC 28
6 GBR 293 Andy Harris Chew Valley Lake SC 29
7 GBR 348 Katie Hughes Loch Lomond SC 32
8 GBR 385 Katie Mapplebeck Pennine SC 34
9 GBR 379 Robin Saunders Burnham on Crouch SC 37
10 GBR 354 Angie Wallis Grafham Water SC 48
11 GBR 252 Mike Wallis Grafham Water SC 49
12 GBR 31 Lucy Walter Bexhill SC 56
13 GBR 229 Emma Pearson Draycote Water SC 60
Additional Trophy Winners:
1st Lady: Lucy Boreham
1s over 40: Richard Major
1st over 60: Richard Eagleton
1st Youth: Robin Saunders
Endeavour award: Emma Pearson
Highest placed first time Europe Nationals competitor: Richard Major
by Andy Gill /Chris Harris
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5:41 AM Sat 30 Jun 2012GMT
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