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Teams prepare for Xacobeo Six Metre European Championship 2021 in Sanxenxo

by Fiona Brown 13 Sep 21:41 PDT 13-18 September 2021
The Xacobeo Six Metre European Championship 2021 Opening Ceremony fleet photo © María Muiña

A year later than originally intended, the International Six Metre fleet is finally gathered at the Real Club Nautico Sanxenxo on Spain's spectacular Galician coast in preparation for the Xacobeo Six Meter European Championship 2021, which runs from 13 to 18 September. It's been two years since the fleet last came together for a major championship and the expectations for what promises to be a superb regatta were running high as the crews enjoyed a spectacular Opening Ceremony on the club's waterside terrace.

The 31 strong fleet is evenly distributed between the Open and Classic divisions and draws competitors from Spain, Italy, France, Portugal, Finland, Switzerland, Sweden, Germany, Great Britain, the Netherlands, and Canada. The quality of the crews is higher than ever with many well know names from the Olympics, America's Cup and other top international classes participating. A brand new Six is joining the fleet for her first international event and several of the boats have undergone significant work during the lockdown period.

The new kid on the block in the Open Division for the Modern Sixes is Jan Eckert's SUI140 Ginkgo Too, a Javier Cela design built by Nene Gallardo which hit the water earlier this year and is participating in her first major competition. The Ginkgo Too team are still working up their new boat so it will be exciting to see how her performance develops over the coming days.

From 10 to 12 September the fleet participated in the Spanish National Championship, run in association with the King Juan Carlos I Regatta, giving them the perfect warm-up opportunity and a chance to see who the favourites might be for the Europeans. In the Open Division, featuring the Modern Sixes, the Juan Kouyoumdjian designed 2017 built ESP16 Stella took victory by a narrow two point margin, claiming both the King Juan Carlos Trophy and the Spanish Open Championship title. Helmed by Violeta Alvarez Landaluce, Stella is the second newest boat at the regatta and finished fifth at the 2019 World Championships. Since then, Alvarez and her team have worked incredibly hard to develop their boat's potential and she is clearly now hitting the sweet spot.

Reigning European Champion SUI74 Nivola, owned by Reinhard Suhner, will be determined to give Stella a good run for her money, while Patrick Montiero de Barros helming POR4 Seljim, who was second at the 2019 Worlds must be hoping to make it onto the top step of the podium this time around. Other serious Open Division challengers include the 2019 World Championship winning SUI77 Junior, owned by Philippe Durr, which won her first World Championship in 1979 and is arguably the most successful Modern Six of all times. Hugo Stenbeck's SUI132 Sophie Racing, winner of the 2009 and 2011 Worlds and the 2010 Europeans, and Jeremy Thorpe's and GBR89 Battlecry, both put in excellent showings in the warm-up event, finishing fourth and third respectively, putting them in the running for podium positions too.

In the Classic Division His Majesty Don Juan Carlos's stunningly beautiful and hugely successful 1947 Arvid Laurin designed ESP16 Bribon 500 will defend her Classic Six Metre European Champion title with Spanish sailing legend and Real Club Nautico Sanxenxo President Pedro Campos Calvo-Sotelo at the helm. From Finland comes Ossi Paija's FIN80 Astrée III, which was designed by Bjarne Aas in 1959 and finished third at the 2019 Worlds. The Spanish fleet is well represented by Javier Monzon's K48 Caprice, which was designed and built by McGruer in 1946 and won the 2008 European Classic Championship in La Trinite, and Miguel Lago's 1948 Tore Holm designed GBR50 Alibaba II. Fresh from Classic Division victory in the King Juan Carlos Regatta is International Six Metre Association President Elect Louis Heckly's FRA111 Dix Août, which was launched in 1950 and was also designed by Bjarn Aas.

Speaking on behalf of the class on the eve of the championship Louis Heckley said, "This is a fantastic venue, all the boats were launched with masts stepped in two days. The welcome is extremely warm with everyone making us feel at home with free aperitifs each evening and we see that the recently reborn Spanish fleet is now well established, which is great. The competition this year is going to be tough, when you see the crew lists, when you see the level of the boats it is going up, up and up from championship to championship and they are even more prepared than they were in Hanko in 2019, so we are really looking forward to racing at a high level. Violeta has put in a huge effort and is beginning to see the gains from that. The boat is a beauty on the water, her new deck layout is fantastic, the crew are sailing very well, and she is really starting to reach her full potential and is very fast, so Stella is definitely the boat to beat this week."

Racing for the Xacobeo Six Metre European Championship 2021 gets under way on Tuesday 14 September, when two races are programmed, and continues until Saturday 18 September with up to eight races scheduled. Racing will take place on windward/leeward courses on the Pontevedra Estuary starting from noon each day.

Further information about the event can be found at https://6mreuropeans2021.com/ and about the class at https://6metre.com/. You can track the racing live and regular updates will be available on the ISMA Facebook page.

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