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Europe National Championship at Dalgety Bay Sailing Club

by Emma Pearson 16 Sep 2016 08:47 BST 10-11 September 2016
Europe Nationals at Dalgety Bay © Jennie Clark

Day 1

I awoke on a sunny morning not at all like the horrid evening before (torrential rain and 40knots of wind) to find the number of caravan/campers had doubled overnight and a multitude of RS Teras, RS400s, Lasers and Europes were arriving on site. The previous night a few of us had travelled up to Dalgety Bay as it is rather a long way from the south coast! Unfortunately one of our Scottish Europes didn't quite fully make it due to a boom not wanting to cross the bridge out of Edinburgh and sadly ended up making a return trip that evening.

We launched in a nice light breeze and headed out into the bay. The Europe fleet were the last in the sequence and during Race1 we all struggled to get across the line due to the strong tide. Two Europes were timed out for this reason as well as a handful of lasers from the previous start. Bess and Andy both tacked off to the right and the rest of the fleet followed, sailing into the shoreline and tacking out to catch the lift and less tide up to the first mark. This was the first taster of the weekend and the adrenaline was running high with calls of "starboard" echoing about the fleet. The wind was about 10 knots but had some big light patches and the occasional powerful gust that would catch people off guard. Bess finished half a leg ahead with Andy and myself in hot pursuit followed by two subsequent packs of boats.

Race 2 was much the same but with the majority of boats heading out to the right a small group tacked off early an an attempt to "risk-it for a biscuit" and open the "corridor of choice". Luckily for me, I was one of them and it did certainly pay off. Bess and Andy were still ahead but myself, John and Ellen were now not far behind. The fleet's new super-feather-weight Ellie was flying along in the lighter airs – no mean feat for someone who has not been in the boat a year and is 10 to 20kg lighter than her competitors.

During Race 3 the wind began to strengthen a little favouring the bigger sailors but didn't phase Bess much and that race played out much the same but with Andy almost her at the post.

A sort of three course dinner was provided by the club in the evening consisting of a soup followed by pasta and finally a choice of desert which were enjoyed over talk of the day's racing. We were all keen to pick each other's brains over how we had got ahead of each other and how we had set up our boats differently. It seems I am not the only boat-geek in the class! Unfortunately the band couldn't play that evening but there was a good atmosphere as we continued to gossip over topics like rules, development, sails and our Patron Saint: Shirley Robertson. Before catching an early-ish night... it was rumoured it was going to be windy the next day.

Day 2

Making an educated guess about what I had learnt regarding the weather forecast for Dalgety Bay, I decided to put on flatter sail, more suited for windy day-racing. The previous day had been forecast for 10-12 knots but it did blow up a little more than that and Sunday was apparently due to be 14-16 knots. Keen to hold onto my promising performance from Saturday we launched for the final three races in what was still quite a pleasant breeze with some sunshine and no wind or big waves.

Andy had said the day before that he was "not built for downwind sailing in force2", to which I replied "I am not really built for sailing in anything over 12 knots!". Unfortunately this was something that proved too true for me.

Race 4 got underway fairly promptly. Tide was not going to be such an issue today despite launching in about 8 knots, round the corner, in the race area, it was climbing up to the 20s. The fleet came off the line cleanly (unlike the lasers) but I got spat out of the back which lead me to but an early hitch in to gain free air. Today was obviously much more in favour of the heavier sailors – Ellie, John, Alyson, Geoff and myself were really beginning to struggle with the bigger airs and keeping the boat from blowing away. The fleet became more segmented throughout racing as the wind continued to increase. Bess and Andy again forming a break away pair chased down by two packs of the remaining sailors.

Race 5 proved to be tricky for me as getting caught in a wind shift on the line I was caught in irons and had a terrible start! Both the wind strength and angle were oscillating making it quite a challenging venue but if you could play it right it could also be proven to be highly rewarding. Boats were capsizing all over the place – in particular, the final down wind leg there appeared to be a black-hole or "grave yard" of upturned hulls. Most of us managed to get through it alright. I was jostling for position with John as well as trying to avoid an RS400 and got caught out by a gust that blew me flat. Eventually getting back into the boat I voted to cruise to the finish line as it was by now only five or six boat lengths away but spotted that John had also come a cropper in a similar area.

There was quite a pause between races 5 and 6 in order to adjust the course (wind had picked up even more and gone left). By now it had got pretty windy with spray starting to come off the top of the waves and white streaks or foam lining the water. Wind against tide also meant that what was a lovely flat racecourse had now become quite lumpy. If you could draw a picture of my least favourite conditions for sailing – this was it. Unreliable shifts, standing waves in a lot of chop, big tide and a wind strength accurately described as "booming".

The final race of the series was between 4 boats (understandably most people had gone in). Bess and myself flew out of the starting blocks quickly followed by Hamish and Ellen. Our now dwindled fleet then split in into two with Hamish now seemingly struggling with the big breeze too. This race more than ever, the fluky nature of the course around the first mark seemed to be heightened with Ellen rounding first after making several attempts at it. Hamish managed to get passed me and my flogging sail on the reach but then had a swim on the downwind due to another RS400 that couldn't keep away from these brilliant little boats. Bess and Ellen were now a fair way ahead and taking a quick dip to test the water again on the up wind did not help me with matters! Bess finished first, just ahead of Ellen leaving me and Hamish to fight it out. Half way to the finish line the wind totally dropped out, leaving me and Hamish surfing in, in about 10knots. - Typical!

After a quick pack-up the prize giving for all classes was held on the lawn in front of the club house. Many thanks go to Peter Taylor, chief co-ordinator of the whole event, the hoards of volunteers who gave up their time and all the local sailors, club and support team who worked effortlessly to ensure we had a good weekend.

Ultimate congratulations go to Bess Homer who is our new National Champion. Humble, friendly and ever so enthusiastically keen to help, she embodies the class characteristics and is therefore a very worthy winner.

Overall Results:
If you finished in the top ten at the Europe nationals then enter your Gear Guide information here

1st & 1st Lady, GBR373, Bess Homer (Dalgety Bay SC)
2nd GBR397, Andy Harris (Chew Valley Lake SC)
3rd GBR 30, Hamish Myles (Wormit BC)
4th= GBR332, Emma Pearson (Weston SC)
4th= GBR379, Ellen Clancy (Cotswold SC)
6th & 1st Master, GBR367, John Sadler (Dalgety Bay SC)
7th= GBR393, Geoff Newman (Chichester YC)
7th= GBR327, Alyson Thompson (Loch Tummel SC)
7th= & 1st Junior GBR400, Ellie Clark (Ripon SC)
10th GBR 3, Jack Douglas (Perth SC)
11th= Craig Evans
11th= Gavin Homer

The 2017 Nationals are due to be in the south of the UK – as yet to be properly confirmed but 2018 the class will be returning to the north or Scotland. For now, the next event will be the Inlands at Northampton 22nd and 23rd October. For more infos, please see our shiny new website, www.ukeuropeclass.com

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