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Access classes French Nationals at Yacht Club du Calaisis

by Richard Smallwood 20 Jun 2012 08:59 BST 15-17 June 2012
Access classes French Nationals in Calais © Richard Smallwood

Strong winds for Access dinghies in Calais

Held on a medium size man-made lake behind the sand dunes just west of Calais, this event gave the UK contingent, all from Frensham Pond Sailability, the chance of international competition very close to home, with competitors from Switzerland and Australia as well as the host country. As usual for the Access classes, virtually all the competitors had some form of disability.

Many competitors, including three of the six from the UK, had arranged to use the boats owned by the host club. Some Access 303Ws therefore had to be used for both 303-solo and 303-double classes, and these classes had to start separately with time allowed between race sequences for crew change-overs including hoisting at the only hoist.

Very strong winds were forecast for the weekend and when racing was due to start on the Friday afternoon, the race officer decided on a postponement. When the wind eventually moderated racing got under way and all classes completed two short races using the standard trapezoidal course with windward/leeward legs and separate start and finish lines often used for international competitions.

As the wind was still about 18 knots, gusting 25, virtually all competitors decided to reef their mainsails and some their jibs. In all three classes, one crew dominated both Friday races with Lindsay Burns (GBR) taking both races in the 2.3 class and French crews winning both races in the two 303 classes. UK sailor Paul Holzherr achieved second place in the first race.

On the Saturday, the forecast strong westerly winds were apparent with around a steady 25 knots blowing up the English Channel and funnelling through the Dover Straits. With even stronger winds forecast for later, the race officer published an earlier start time and decided to race one class only at a time to allow him to use a simple windward/leeward course and have all safety boats available for a smaller fleet of racers, a wise decision as it turned out!

The mixed Access 2.3 fleet with some sailing solo and some two-up started first, well reefed against a steady 25 knot wind, but only four of the eleven entrants in the class completed the race, with Lindsay Burns again first, so they were sent home and the twelve 303-solo boats then went out. They fared slightly better with eight well-reefed boats completing the course and Australian Barry Coates using his experience to come home first with Margaret Foreman (GBR) second. Tessa Watkiss (GBR) carried on despite shipping buckets full of water to achieve sixth with Monique Foster seventh.

Paul Holzherr had gear failure and retired and Frensham’s Paul Phillips suffered the indignity, and scare, of being thrown out of his Access 303W just in front of the clubhouse in a very violent gust. Two safety boats were on the scene very quickly with a female crew member making a spectacular racing dive from a safety boat to get to Paul quickly and make sure he was floating face-up. He was soon recovered ashore and dried out.

Needless to say, with increasing wind forecast the race officer then called off racing and later abandoned racing for the day with “petits moutons” (which translates as white horses) racing across the water! When Paul arrived at the lunch tent he was given a prolonged round of applause by all present and his saviour was also applauded, with 10 marks for artistic impression! The day was rounded off by a regatta dinner and party with fireworks and generous French hospitality, which Paul Phillips was able to enjoy despite his ducking.

Sunday dawned with bright sunshine and moderate winds but these soon increased and, as they had only completed two races, it was decided to start with the 19-strong 303-double class who completed two races on the windward/leeward course. The five UK competitors then prepared for the 303-solo racing and completed two further races. These proved to be very competitive with 2012 UK National Champion Margaret Foreman making her mark in the leading group and just squeezing through to win both races. However, this was not quite enough to beat Gerard Eychenne of France who took his National title. Barry Coates of Australia was third and Julian Muller from Switzerland fourth making this a truly international result. Frensham Pond sailors Paul Holzherr, Paul Phillips, Monique Foster and Tessa Watkiss, who all had problems with the conditions at some time, filled places 6 to 9 overall.

With the wind increasing, their overall result effectively decided, and a fixed time for the Mayor of Calais to present the prizes, the decision was taken not to race the Access 2.3s which was a disappointment as they had only had three of the eight races they expected over the three days. Lindsay Burns (UK) retained the French National title for a second year with three straight first places.

The UK competitors returned home with much heavy weather Access racing experience, happy memories of French hospitality and, despite the conditions, a well-run championships. The 2013 event is likely to be near Bordeaux in June and it is hoped that a significant UK contingent will make the trip.

UK Competitors Results: (all Frensham Pond)

PosHelmClassR1R2R3R4R5Pts
1Lindsay BurnsAccess 2.3111  3
2Margaret ForemanAccess 303-1542118
6Paul HolzherrAccess 303-128136319
7Paul PhillipsAccess 303-186138830
8Monique FosterAccess 303-1107713731
9Tessa WatkissAccess 303-1910671032

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