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International Canoe European Championships at Travemünde

by Charlie Chandler 1 Aug 2015 16:06 BST 18-26 July 2015

A week of friends, awesome racing, wind, sunshine, beer, Havanas rum and lots of sausages

Travemunde Week welcomed the International Canoe fleet for the 2015 European Championships. With several new boats being launched and new equipment being used to take on the lessons learnt at the 2014 Worlds, the scene was set for a close week of racing.

Day 1: the fleet launched in a gentle breeze to start the first race. The race officer set out as he meant to continue for the rest of the week with a heavily port biased start line. Charlie Chandler racing the imported Australian 'Ikea' boat port tacked the fleet and led out to the right hand side of the course. At the windward mark Robin Wood, racing a Morrison 2, led from Chandler and John Ellis, racing an Ellis designed boat.

Wood pulled away to a comfortable lead as the breeze started to die, while the boats behind bunched up. At the leeward gate Wood sailed the wrong way round the gate (quite hard to do!) allowing Ellis to take a commanding lead followed by Gareth Caldwell, racing a Bloodaxe built Mass boat. The wind continued to die and after 1.5 hours of slow motion racing where the fleet was turned inside out several times, the race officer eventually abandoned the race and sent the fleet ashore.

Day 2: this time the holiday had truly begun - hot sunshine and 15 knots plus. The fleet were treated to three races in beautiful conditions. Race 1 had Wood lead round the windward mark followed by Chandler after his standard port flyer start. The first gybe sorted the men from the boys... and possibly those who had tried to drink Germany dry the night before only to find that the beer makes your head hurt... but the nightclubs on the beach were so good!

At the end, Caldwell took the win from Wood, followed by Chris Hampe, sailing Monkey, and Phil Robin, sailing a Dragon Fly design.

Race two allowed another port flyer for Chandler but this time Hampe joined the party and piped chandler to the pin. At the windward mark Chandler led closely followed by a tight pack of Wood, Caldwell, Hampe and Arne Stahl, sailing his own design. The wind was starting to build at this point allowing several to test the water quality and whether their boats leaked. Again Caldwell was able to use his boat speed to take the win followed by Wood, Robin, Stahl and Hampe.

Race three was a surprise, one of the two starboard end starts of the week! The windward mark saw the first three of Caldwell, Roger Regitz (sailing a Mass built design) and Chandler. Caldwell and Wood had a close battle the whole way round for first but Caldwell decided that the water looked so nice he would join what was now turning into a bit of a swimathon as the breeze continued to build and the sailors tired.

A capsize at the final windward mark left Caldwell sixth and Wood to take the win, followed by Robin, Chandler, Hampe and Stahl. Dave Timson made a fantastic effort to finish race three and make it ashore with a snapped mast - a true sailing hero!

Day 3: breeze on! After some trepidation by some of the sailors the fleet launched into some exciting conditions - but it was hot and sunny so all ok! The very breezy conditions allowed some of the different designs to come to the fore.

Hampe led race four from start to finish followed by Chandler, Caldwell, Stahl and Robin. Crucially Wood was able to finish recording a sixth.

For race five the wind got even stronger! Chandler started with his customary port flyer and led out to the right hand side with Robin, while the rest of the fleet went left. A better tack by Robin allowed him to lead into the windward mark followed by Chandler and then a long gap to third.

At the leeward mark the fleet had closed in on Robin as a band of extra(!) pressure passed down the course. Chandler's carriage decided to fall off at the leeward mark to entertain those around him. Others decided to test the water at various times as the breeze built to full on survival conditions. Hampe blasted an excellent race to take the win followed by Caldwell, Phil Allen and Anton Grigull, with all others limping back to the beach to register a DPF. Phil Robin was very close to taking third, needing only to pull off a final tack to cross the finish line but was unable to do it.

Phil was last seen heading the Denmark at speed!

The strong winds raised an interesting point of discussion: "how extreme, and potentially fast, can you make you hull design while ensuring that it is still raceable in strong breeze?" But an exciting day on the water, leaving your reporter requiring ice cream, sausage, beer and sunbathing to recover.

Day 4: it was hot and sunny - my tan came on very well! The fleet launched in nearly flat calm conditions and blazing sun. We wallowed around for about 2 hours topping up our tans before we finally started racing. Wish I hadn't lost my drinks bottle the day before while being rescued, thirsty.... Or was that the Havanas rum the night before?

When the race team finally started the race, after finishing their lunch, the wind decided to go very light with huge shifts. Wood pretty much led race six from start to finish despite the wind playing snakes and ladders; with Caldwell working his way into second. Robin sailed really well and managed to move from tenth at the first mark up to third by the end of the race! Ellis showed great light wind boat speed to take fourth, with Andy Gordon sailing the shift excellently to take fifth.

For race seven the wind seemed like it had settled down and strengthened slightly. Another port flyer by Chandler and an early tack by Hampe allowed them to play the right of the course with Hampe leading at the windward mark, Wood sneaking into second and Chandler third. The wind then went a bit bonkers on the next reach with most people having a go at leading!

Chandler and Hampe eventually popped out in front when the wind finally came back but the excellent boat speed of Wood and Caldwell allowed them to take first and second, with Hampe finishing in third, Timson fourth and Robin fifth. Timson with his mast newly fixed by epoxy hero Rob Bell seemed to have found a new lease of speed!

After the main racing six of the IC's headed to the river for the extra stadium knock-out racing. A simple concept of one lap windward leeward courses on the river, with the top two boats from each flight progressing to the final; all done with a big crowd watching with beer in hand and commentary.... plus the odd speedboat, 60 foot yacht and huge freight ship thrown in for fun! A simple concept, yes...? Well it would appear not!

In the first flight "Aussie Charlie Chandler" led round the windward mark from Gareth Caldwell and Chris Hampe. "Aussie Charlie Chandler" was so busy covering the others he sailed straight past the leeward mark allowing Caldwell and Hampe through. "Aussie Charlie Chandler" then rammed the moving leeward mark (a rib) for what we can only assume to be good measure?

Meanwhile Caldwell sailed around the finish line while leading (on a narrow river!) allowing Hampe to take the win and somehow "Aussie Charlie Chandler" second!?! However in the confusion both Chandler and Caldwell returned to the beach thinking that they had both been knocked out leaving only Hampe to proceed to the final.

In the second flight everyone was well behaved with Dave Timson taking the win followed by Arne Stahl.

So the short course final was set between Stahl, Timson and Hampe. With much cheering from the spectators on the shore Stahl took a photo finish win from Hampe and Timson. Of all the sailing events I have been to this has to have been the best spectator version of sailing that I have ever seen!

Day 5: racing on the media course! All week SAP were providing GPS tracking of the boats allowing you to track the races and analyse individual legs, although sometimes painful to watch if you sailed like me!

For day 5 the IC fleet was racing on the media course with full TV coverage shown on the SAP cube screen on the beach, watched and cheered on by big crowds. But why say any more other than it was a day of light shifty winds, exciting crashes, breakages, swims and crashes - the newly named "Aussie Charlie Chandler" was upgraded to "Cowboy Aussie Charlie Chandler".... (IC race coverage starts at 2 hours 48 mins in the vide below.)

Two wins for Wood with Caldwell only managing a 3 and eight left Wood in a strong position going into the final day; but with Caldwell having finished every race while Wood hadn't and the event only having one discard, anything could still happen! Again Robin looked strong in third but several people could still snatch third off him.

Day 6: started with a postponement due to there being no wind - in my opinion this was rather good as most of the German fleet and several of the UK fleet had been out partying till sunrise and I was feeling a bit 'tired and emotional'.

After a nice long delay in the sunshine the fleet finally launching in a nice F3 which gradually built as the day went on - champagne sailing conditions once again! The "Aussie Cowboy" finished his week off with a final port flyer only to fall in on his first tack. Timson also managed to pull off a port flyer just below Chandler leaving him forth at the windward mark and fifth at the end of the race.

But it was Wood and Caldwell that shot off for a final race decider, chased hard by Robin. At the end of the race Caldwell won with Wood second on the water, enough to give Wood the event win, but... Wood and Robin failed to sail through the finish line and continued on another lap! Could enough boats squeeze in between Caldwell and Wood to give Caldwell the overall win!?

In the end both Wood and Robin spotted their mistake and were able to make it back to the finish line just ahead of the chasing pack giving Wood and Robin second and third in the race, giving Robin Wood the overall event win! This left Gareth Caldwell second overall and Phil Robin third.

So what was fast? Well the skinnier and more rounded boats certainly seemed to have the greatest speed potential, especially downwind, but with the top seven all sailing different designs there is plenty of choice out there.

And what of the event and venue? Well if you have never done Travemunde Week, you should! It is more of a festival of sail, food and drink - it's like no other sailing event I have ever done. The town has over 250,000 visitors during the week so it is buzzing. Everything runs like clockwork, we are in Germany after all!

The coverage and tracking by SAP is so much better than anything else I have ever seen, and the video footage as good as if not better than some of the medal races at the last Olympics. The IC fleet was great company with some excellent parties and a great male/female mix. Time to head home now and sleep for a week I think.

Top 5 results for European Championships:

PosSail NoHelmR1R2R3R4R5R6R7R8R9R10Pts
1 GBR 329Robin Wood2216DNC1111318
2 GBR 321Gareth Caldwell116323238122
3 GBR 328Philip Robin4325DNC2576236
4 AUS 31Charlie Chandler6632DNF9622642
5 GER 84Arne Stahl5454DNF7849450

Top 5 results for German National Championships:

1st: Arne Stahl
2nd: Anton Grigull
3rd: Dirk Heitmann
4th: Lis Gillen
5th: Emma Grigull

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