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Europe class Open Belgium Championship at Royal North Sea Yacht Club

by Lucy Boreham 12 Sep 2019 00:11 PDT
Europe class Open Belgium Championship at Ostend © Pit de Jones

Five adventurous UK sailors made their way across the channel to Ostend, Belgium to participate in what is perhaps the least-known best Europe class event in Europe, the legendary Open Belgium Championship - or OBK to those in the know.

With a huge diversity in the fleet, men and women from six nations across a wide range of ages and ability, the event caters for all. There were French sailors who looked like they had been sailing Europes for decades and local Belgium and German youngsters with enough bravery to push hard downwind in the steep rolling waves that the North Sea Coast line provided.

The individuality of the masts and sails to suit sailors of all sizes helps to level the playing field and the little Europe revels in the big waves.

Our Brit abroad, Graham Hutchings, had organised some training for the Friday; after unloading the boats in the morning, local Belgium Class Coach Nicolas D'Hordt talked through a few basics and was keen to launch. As soon as we had launched it became apparent that this was going to be interesting! With a building breeze and big rolling waves, this was very different to the usual Solent chop / inland lakes most of the UK sailors were used to. Short upwind legs, focusing on keeping the boat flat and tacking was followed by downwind runs, with most taking a swim or two whilst trying to work out how to manage the waves. Everyone called it a day after an hour and retired to the bar for a debrief and general chat of what to expect over the weekend.

Saturday dawned with bright skies, a stiff breeze and those waves still very present, the fleet of 75 boats launched and after a slight delay in setting the course attempted to get under way. An inevitable general recall or two saw race 1 get under way under the U flag, which caught a few of the favourites out. The U flag was much present for the whole of the event, with so many boats and quite a strong tide this was accepted by all with good grace.

The breeze and waves built during the day, with a number of the fleet making the decision to go ashore either after race 1 or 2. Each with their own story to tell on the size of the rogue wave that caught them out, or the huge gust that literally knocked them flat. By race 3 the reduced fleet started in the windiest conditions, but a sudden downpour flattened the sea and behind it came a much lighter swinging breeze. The final beat proved decisive for many sailors with multiple places to be gained or lost.

The race committee called it a day after three races and the sailors returned to the shore and enjoyed dinner together in the Royal North Sea Yacht Club, a great opportunity to talk to fellow sailors form different nationalities. Tim Laws and Malcom Morley led the UK charge overnight, with both getting into the top 20, with Graham Hutchings (sailing under his Belgium nationality) making it into the top 15.

Day 2 dawned with what looked like less breeze, however an hour postponement was necessary due to the sea state, with big rollers coming into the harbour meaning launching was not safe. Once the waves had calmed down sufficiently the fleet launched into what initially seemed lighter wind and calmer seas, however both the breeze and waves picked up quickly and the 1st race started in similar conditions to day 1. The main take out from race 1 is the big rolling waves for some great downwind surfing.

There were more casualties of the U Flag in race 2, with Tim Laws being amongst those too eager to start. The breeze went lighter during the race but the waves remained, allowing those with the skill to make the most of the pumping rule for some fantastic downwind surfing, failure to get this right meant rapid loss of places.

The third and final race of the day was in trickier conditions with the breeze swinging right and a strong tide kicking in and changing direction during the race, the race committee rapidly changed the course, but a number of sailors missed the signals and were caught out on the wrong side of the shifts and the course.

With a discard kicking in on day 2, unfortunately the British places fell, however both Malcom and Tim made it into the top 30 in 28th and 29th places respectively, George Crammond coming in a very credible 39th especially as the sea state had very little in common with his usual sailing waters at Staunton Harold.

At the front of the fleet a close battle had played out all weekend, with the win finally going to Stijn van Hoye taking it from Jasper Simoens with Killian Vermeersch in a close third making it a Belgium 1,2,3. Best placed non-Belgium went to French sailor Olivier Lalance in fourth.

It was impressive to see the leaders and how they managed the big seas both upwind and downwind, revelling in the surfing conditions and showcasing the versatility of the Europe.

Five tired but happy UK sailors packed up their boats and made the journey back across to the UK, in time for work and school on Monday morning. From the South Coast the trip is just 5 hours and with the warm welcome and fantastic sailing this is an event the class will go back to and hopefully with a bigger UK contingent in 2020.

The weekend of the 21/22nd September sees the final event of the UK Europe calendar for 2019 with the Inland championships, with 20+ boats intending to attend this will be the last chance to sail together as a fleet this year.

Overall Results:

PosSail NoHelmClubR1R2R3R4R5R6Pts
1 BEL 978Stijn van HOYEVVW I‑O1242‑5110
2 BEL 962Jasper SIMOENSZSG3113UFD917
3 BEL 82Kilian VERMEERSCHVVW I‑O54‑811819
4 FRA 5609Olivier LALANCE780142‑8283722
5 BEL 970Jari de CRAECKER1393861057‑134228
6 POL 9Weronika GLINKIEWICZ‑MADEJPosnania Poznan47‑15510531
7 BEL 984Toon van CANEGHEM 9DNS598334
8 BEL 959Nicolas D'HONDTBRYC7129‑156640
9 BEL 1006Caelan DEMAZIEREVVW I‑O1191147‑1942
10 BEL 890Andries PAUWELSTWINS63327UFD443
11 FRA 5674Cyril RICHARDCercle de la Voile d'ArcachonBFD2161121050
12 BEL 891Frederik BOONEOsm86‑377141853
13 GER 56Matthias LEITLSKSBFD14106121557
14 GER 18Tania TAMMLINGSVAOE121013‑1691357
15 BEL 986Graham HUTCHINGSRBSC‑18131612131266
16 BEL 972Jelle VETSNWV1415142111‑2375
17 944Bram van HECKE 1911211019‑2280
18 GER 119Simon HUELLENKREMERSTSC1519121917UFD82
19 BEL 17Jorre VETSNWVBFD222214182096
20 BEL 12Maïté COLOMBIEVVW I‑O1623232320‑26105
21 BEL 968Marie‑Julie SEURYNCKVVW I‑O2018‑38312217108
22 BEL 1000Fanny D'HONDTBRYC‑292929181524115
23 BEL 994Kiara VERMEERSCHVVW I‑O31‑3620292314117
24 GER 1656Niklas DAHMSCD27331920‑3421120
25 GER 90Julius ALBERTYSCC133124DNC2825121
26 BEL 1005Charlotte POLLIEZSC2226183026‑36122
27 BEL 929Jan EVERAERTSRNA21‑4033241629123
28 GBR 397Malcolm MORLEYOvery Staithe SC232532‑392732139
29 GBR 407Tim LAWSSYC24242532UFD34139
30 BEL 1004Karel de SMETNWV1720DNC17UFD11142
31 GER 1767Ida OTTEYCBAYERLEV3432262831DNC151
32 BEL 949Ward MAESR.Y.C.B.‑452840373031166
33 BEL 989Elien SAHINVVW I‑OBFD16172533DNC168
34 BEL 973Warre van HECKENWV353727‑383833170
35 BEL 1011Martijn SCHELKENSNWVBFD3034422937172
36 GER 36Jessica TIMMSVDL30DNSDNC222530184
37 BEL 982Louise PINTELON ‑544536433528187
38 BEL 10Dries WYNANTSVVW Turnhout403928‑444242191
39 GBR 403George CRAMMOND 48‑5131473240198
40 GER 1232Paul DIEBOLDRCR4141354639DNC202
41 BEL 981Kobe de CLERCQWWSK434443‑494038208
42 BEL 1003Jérôme TEUGHELSWVD Mechelen28344634DNCDNC219
43 BEL 988Ellen van KETSZSC Broechem4254DNC513735219
44 BEL 980Annelien van den WIJNGAERT1007‑0471‑504845404544222
46 BEL 1001Matis DOYENBRYCDNSDNSDNC352127237
47 GBR 391Cédric VERMEULENNWV‑535344534647243
48 BEL 1008Nele WYNANTSVVW Turnhout5752DNC524345249
49 FRA 5686Claire CORBIERES 44DNSDNC544139255
52 GER 1774Leon Maximilian PETERSYCBLBFD47DNC4136DNC278
54 BEL 8Maxim BOONERBSC59DNSDNC584743284
56 BEL 911Simon MOYAERTVVW I‑O60504755DNCDNC289
57 GER 1063Henry EDERSGW524639DNCDNCDNC291
58 BEL 1007Marie PINTELONVVW I‑O62DNSDNC594846292
59 FRA 5678Rene CHAUDOY764738DNC56DNCDNC295
60 BEL 985Luana DEMAZIEREVVW I‑O63DNSDNC604948297
62 NED 718Karola KRUIJERZZ3949DNC57DNCDNC299
63 GBR 355Lucy BOREHAMChichester Yacht Club3735DNCDNCDNCDNC303
65 FRA 5611Daniel DEVOS7602536DNSDNC45DNCDNC312
66 GBR 400Eleanor CLARK 4643DNCDNCDNCDNC320

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