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RS100 European Championship at Gravedona, Lake Como, Italy

by Clive Eplett 3 Aug 2017 19:54 BST 24-28 July 2017
RS100 Europeans at Lake Como © Alexander Panzeri

Is it real, or are we in a spectacular reimagining of The Truman Show movie? The backdrop here at Gravedona, Lake Como is so stunning it's hard to believe it's not a Hollywood fantasy.

In a recurring theme for 2017, we've had some fantasy weather too. Saturday night gave us thunderous storms worthy of both Thor and Halle Berry's X-men character. Sunday, most went racing for a practice race won by Nils Jolliffe (we only told him afterwards that winning the practice race is unlucky). He was followed in by Stewart Hawthorn. Yes, Netley SC, thats a 1-2 to you. Chairman Mark Harrison had clearly heard this unlucky-theory, coming up with all sorts of excuses for his hopeless performance. But at least he was there; your correspondent, Clive Eplett, never even made it to the start, having not got the text message that the race had been brought forward an hour.

Day One, Monday, saw more weather mis-behaviour. Again the Thor and Halle were getting it on early-doors. Then, the northerly refused to switch to the standard southerly Breva wind. We hung about. Finally the launch flag was raised in a F2. I got changed. Came out and there are whitecaps and 24 knots. Two 500s launched. Fell in. Took 10 minutes to land on the lee shore. End of. Got changed back. Wind dropped.

Tuesday, day two and things are looking better for the Breva. It's not coming out to play though. After nearly 3 hours hanging about, a raceable northerly settles and finally, the racing starts. In race 1, your correspondent leads from the off, but Mark gets the final shift right to take a lead he never relinquishes. Clive and Nils have a good tussle for the minor placings, which Clive holds.

The start of race 2 is made messy for some by the Chairman pulling the trigger too soon. Once he gets out of the way, it's Clive and Matt Sharman battling for the lead. He's not supposed to go that fast at his first event, methinks. Downwind, the rich get richer and it ends Clive, Matt, Nils then Mark, stealing fourth from Michel Rotach at the last.

In race 3 Clive again leads from the off and rounds with a decent lead from Stewart Hawthorn, Matt and Nils. Downwind, it all gets a bit weird. The first two round in the lightest wind of the day, pointing us straight at the leeward mark on starboard. When Nils arrives he brings his own personal, narrow gust band which he manages to stay in by gybing, with Clive frantically wriggling to try and find it (without success). Near the leeward buoy, it turns all light again and Clive sneaks back past Nils, whilst Harrison who was miles away at the windward had virtually planed the whole way down. Up the next beat, Clive decides the 400s are lifting more on the left middle than here on the right, opting to take the pain early. Instead it's just pain as it never comes and on the approach Nils and Mark lift past on starboard as the wind gets up to a lovely F4. Doh! At the windward, a rib is hovering, causing confusion holding up a flag we cannot see and continuously blowing a whistle. Normally that means a moved mark, but it transpires it's a shorten and the finish. It ends Nils, Mark, Clive, Matt.

Wednesday came and turned out to be another boat-bimbling opportunity. Soon as racing was canned for the day, a bit of wind arrived and some went out, but there was never enough, for long enough to have had a race. Meantime, just to the east, at Garda, America's Cup skippers were breaking their Moths at their Worlds, they had so much wind. How does that work? Must be those mountains.

Thursday came and it was looking iffy yet again, but understandably the OOD was keen to catch up on the races missed previously, so the official start time was brought forward an hour to midday and SIs tweaked so that up to 4 races could be sailed. Again the wind gods were in uncooperative mode. Up went the AP. Finally, a hint of a breeze appeared, so launching ensued.

At which point I need to mention the beach team. Comprising an army of local kids, I'm guessing aged 8 to 12, they were just fantastic. Particularly unusual was the sight of a 10 year old standing at the bottom of the slip, facing upwards, pointing at waiting (adult) sailors and saying, politely but most assertively, "please wait" then waving you forward when one of his compatriots had wheeled trolleys out of the way. On the way back in, another youngster is on the pontoon with a radio, calling bow numbers so that your trolley arrived on the slip just as you did. It was absolutely priceless. Thanks to them all; they were superb.

Back to the sailing. We went out, it took an age, the committee boat was miles away, later moved in, then back. The wind was coming randomly from back, right or forwards. Finally it settled from broadly SW, still light, no hiking required. Which way to go when the standard wind is S and the best of the day previously had been sort of W. Do you protect the left or the right?

We all watched the 400's and left seemed to be the way, so off we chased. The tricky bit was when to tack, going as far as you dare without getting blanketed by the now returning 400's kites. Nils Jolliffe blinked and went one too many left, letting Clive Eplett past and into a lead he this time managed to hold comfortably to the end. Behind, Nils and Mark Harrison had a tight battle, which Mark edged.

For the next one, the wind swung to the south but showed no real sign of increasing, if anything the contrary. Again Clive nailed the first beat but this time it was Matt Sharman in attendance, followed by NIls, who seemed to like being 3rd. On the last run, it got all floppy. Clive covered Nils right-wards but Matt gybed off, found a hint more pressure and took the bullet. Clive managed to get the left-hook, inside Nils at the last mark, so held on to second. Luke Goble followed in for 4th, pushing The Chairman back into 5th.

At which the wind failed and home we went, towropes and air-rowing to the fore.

Yours correspondent would have been happy for more of the same for Friday, but finally, the full-on Breva arrived giving champagne conditions.

On a port-biased line, Stewart Hawthorn and Clive both went for the port-tack start, but ultimately got rolled into the first mark by Mark and Nils. Downwind was different, with Mark under-giving Nils and Clive down the run, only to power past again on the next beat. The final run turned a bit hyper-active at the end. Nils was long gone, Clive again caught Mark, then gybed to approach the final buoy from the inside. Mark decided to it was some time for some match-racing, letting a revitalised Nick Shuttleworth and Stewart past but holding up Clive. Somehow, he then snuck past Stewart on the line to take third.

In the next, the drama was elsewhere. Whilst Mark led Nils, just, Nick was on fire upwind, but not so much downwind. In the tight reach to the finish, he just led Clive around the last mark; it was a boat handling match then. Who dared carry the kite furthest and could then drop fastest. It became academic; Nick's halyard shredded and the kite only half came down, letting Clive pinch third.

With the start-time curfew approaching there was time for one more. Mark, Nils and Clive were effectively tied for points; it was going to be a one-race, winner takes all final race. Again, Mark led, Nils followed. With only one discard on the doors, Clive went a different way up the beat, but to no avail, finishing 5th behind Matt and Stewart.

This made Mark Harrison European Champion for the third time by 2 points (does he get to keep the trophy that wife Liz loves so much?) with Nils taking second from Clive on count-back.

Many thanks to the whole team at a wonderfully friendly and beautiful Gravedona.

Next RS100 event is the Nationals in September. At the time of writing, with 6 weeks to go, there are already 42 entries, all 8.4 rigs, the most ever. It's gonna be a cracker. There's still room ii you've not entered yet.

Overall Results:

PosNatSail NoHelmR1R2R3R4R5R6R7R8Pts
1stUK379Mark Harrison1‑422‑531110
2ndUK370Nils Jolliffe‑3‑313312212
3rdUK509Clive Eplett21312‑53‑512
4thUK288Matthew Sharman‑52441‑65319
5thUK472Stewart Hawthorn46‑75‑747430
6thUK229Nick Shuttleworth676‑8‑824833
7thSUI318Michel Rotach‑85576‑86736
8thUK127Luke Goble7‑8‑86478638
9thDEU120Cindy Donnecke‑Herz99(DNF)999(DNC)DNC56

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