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Laser European Masters 2008 - The Corsican Connect

by Gilles Gluck on 9 Oct 2008
The 2008 European Masters championship was held in Corsica... but Kiwi Great Grand Master Tom Speed travelled all the way from New Zealand to race it...and like 165 other sailors from 17 countries he didn't regret it

Sorry for the little delay, but you cannot expect super fast news for an even held in Corsica , a place where, er, how to put it, time seems to flow at a somewhat slower pace than anywhere else….

The European Laser Masters Championship was held in Saint Florent, North Corsica and the hosting club was CESM Saint Florent (website www.cesm.net )

For those in the know, it may have seemed a disastrous choice of venue by AFL, the French Laser Class Association: just think of it, CESM is NOT a proper yacht club, and though it is comparatively a long established concern (founded 1949 as a scuba research group, much at the same time Cousteau started his team), and is as from 1953 on a efficient (but how colourful and ever experimental ) sailing school , CESM St Florent had never ever organized a big regatta .

The 2008 edition of the European Laser Masters Championship saw a record number of pre registrations (Up to 220) and even with those changing their minds, a record - breaking number of entries 165 sailors from 17 countries.
Sailors were divided in two Fleets (Standard and radial rigs ) and 4 categories of age (Apprentices 35/45 Masters 45/55 Grand Masters 55/65 and Great Grand Masters 66 and over ) plus a womens event…
It took that kind of group division to accommodate everybody on just one big trapezoidal course in the middle of the beautiful gulf of St Florent.

With the well known Laser sailors taste fore competitive, close combat type, racing and after sailing socialization , the logistics for a 150 plus competition involving four social events in a week, well… the challenge was formidable for a beachfront sailing school…but still it was done and quite satisfactorily.

Granted , CESM has some logistics of its own ( 10 recue and scuba diving powerboats, a facility including food and accomodation for 100 people, slap on the Roya beach at St Florent , big boat shed and an adjacent beachfront pine grove big enough to make a decent boatpark for 200 Lasers, but still it took all the dedication from CESM volunteers , big help from nearby clubs and local authorities…and lots of hard work under the blazing sun to make the event a successful one.

And successful it was , though the weather did play nerve racking tricks on the sailors and organizing team:

The first week of September had been the perfect St Florent summer weather : Thermic breeze starting at 9.30 or 10 AM, reaching a 10 to 12 knots at 14 H and decreasing steadily to die at 18H30, regular as clockwork ad stopping bang on time for aperitif time (the Latin /Mediterranean equivalent of Anglo saxon beer call, only that Pastis , Cap corse and Muscat local sweet wine are more in favour).

This kind of weather had blessed good number of Laser sailors that had come a week in advance , officially for training , but with an idea of visiting Corsica , 'Kalliste' as the ancient Greek said , meaning it to be litterally 'the most beautiful' island of the Mediterranean sea…

Well for the races it was a different story, as the second week of September marked the weather change from 'full summer mode' (see above) to 'beginning of fall mode' , meaning the advent of occasional easterlies or strikes of Libeccio , a local south westerly wind, which is in fact a local name for a variant of the Mistral (normally a northern cold wind blowing through the Rhône valley and over Marseilles, but turning into a westerly or even south westerly wind, when it reaches the atmospheric low prevailing on the gulf of Genova)…

The icing on the cake is that a weak, or medium strong libeccio reaching St Florent wont be strong enough to jump over the rather high ridge of the Cap Corse mountains (the north pointing 'finger' of Corsica , with the famous Giraglia inlet at the tip) , and will sort of split, ricochet against the mountains , to reach St Florent from a East North east direction .

You didn’t quite understand the thing ?

Even checking the excellent Met pages of CESM website http://www.cesm.net/fr-meteo-et-climatologie-88-3-smenu.html didn’t help ?

Further hard reading of WindGuru and the excellent SAR Sardinia meteorological computer simulations available on the web didn’t help either ?

Well, you are exactly in the same situation as the sailors and race committee, just try to figure out by yourself / toss a coin / Make a prayer and sacrifice for Aeolus , antique god of the winds….

After the registration / measurement process on Saturday and Sunday morning, it was time for the practice race…. A medium strong Libeccio plus half cloudy sky gradually clearing meant wind from 3 different directions prevailing in turn….

The sailors could plane, hike , even capsize, granted, but with the wind boxing the compass in big 60° plus shifts, it was impossible to set a proper trapeze course (with the downwind duplicated 'gates' it meant 8 buoys and 4 boats to move , and 12 X 40 metres of anchor line to hoist at every attempt, so the kinetic stuff was on the organisers side as well.)

All told the training was a great benefit to the CESM team of sailing instructors (rather green at course laying in a big event but most of them laser sailors).

The Opening ceremony followed with aperitves a plenty and quite a warm atmosphere.

Monday morning , what was left of the Libeccio had somewhat veered north, and joined forces with the thermic breeze , giving a good 10 to 15 kts wind combined with a choppy sea.

Two races were held (it meant 8 starting sequences in all) and the leading guys already showed their potential :
Ex Olympic campaigner Xavier Leclair FRA scored two bullets in the Apprentice standard fleet , Mr Rooster (Steve Cockerill GBR) did the same in he masters group and ex Finn Gold Cup Winner Wofgang Gerz GER won the grand masters group.

Among the Radial Fleets Two bullets for Alessio Marinelli ITA (apprentices) as well as for Jacky Nebrel FRA in the Great Grand Masters category strong show from Wilmar Gronendijik NED (Masters) while things were less definite in the Grand Masters category , Beatrix Fontius NED took the lead in the womens radial event.

Back on shore it was time to get the race T Shirt ….just a little delay but worth waiting , the drawing is a little marvel made by ex CESM volunteer and successful Graffiti Artist Stéphane Sambardier, better known as SCANDAL www.myspace.com/scandal_one

This guy indeed made quite a way since he decorated the club toilet doors in flashy funboard style graffitis with the boat paint he regularly purloined from the club’s workshop.

Tuesday it was back to thermic conditions with flat sea, but the wind was rather light (no more than 8kts) and some new faces were seen at the forefront such as Lesley Hotchin GBR Women and Henk Wittenberg NED (Radial GM) Mario Orlich from Cagliari in Sardinia (Std GM) went on a perfectly regulat string of good scores .

Tuesday evening was the competitors buffet and a memorable evening as Alex the Chef had made his best.

Wednesday and Thursday….well, er, sun , splendid Mediterranean weather, perfect for sunbathing, warm water but NO WIND, quite a frustrating situation as only 3O km away a 20 Kt East to Southeast wind was blowing on the eastern shore of Cap Corse…

Clashing easterly (on the east shore ) and westerly on the opposite side meant a 'bubble' of calm air over St Florent,
Of course the bubble would drift a little as some wind or the other would prevail in turn , the race committee tried hard to lay a racecourse but to no avail….it was sun tan for every body and back ashore early to taste Corsican food and wines either at CESM or in the local restaurants .

Friday seemed to start with the same light winds as the previous days.

A
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