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RS800s at the France Open Skiff Regatta on Lac du Der

by Luke McEwen 1 May 22:14 BST 20-22 April 2019

A beer festival, sunshine, 25 degrees and 47 skiffs racing on a beautiful lake in the Champagne region: great ingredients for one of the friendliest regattas in Europe. With accommodation, tasty food and plenty of local beer and wine on site, this event attracts skiff enthusiasts from all round Europe who gather at Lac du Der for three days and nights of racing and international banter.

Eleven RS800s were joined by RS700s, RS500s, Moths, International 14s, B14s, Musto Skiffs and Contenders from France, Guernsey, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Netherlands, Italy, Ireland and UK to kick off the Breizhskiff racing circuit. Most arrived on Good Friday for a little practice on the water and more significantly the Old vs Young basketball tournament. The inexperienced young sailors were rash enough to beat the race officer's team, thereby losing any chance of leniency on the start line.

Saturday brought the holy grail of 12-15 knots, flat water and sunshine, giving the RS800s the chance to stretch their legs. Race 1 was taken in fine style by Gilles Peeters and Heloise Blaize; the next two went to Luke and Emma McEwen. All good preparation for the evening beer festival in the adjoining sports hall very appropriate where Brasserie Artisanale du Der served up two of their finest brews as welcome drinks for all the competitors, before an excellent four-course dinner at the sailing club.

Sunday looked promising but the big breeze never materialised. After handing out all their Easter eggs to the competitors circling the committee boat, the race team managed to get one race in drifting conditions. Alain and Francois Cadre gave a masterclass in light wind B14 sailing, winning by a substantial margin on the water and even more on handicap over the chasing RS800s led by Jean-Louis and Camille. The RS800 fleet showed their true strength in the after-dinner singing, in a mixture of French, Dutch and English, while the International 14s demonstrated their dinghy park handywork by first building a two-hob cooker and then using it to make about 1000 crepes.

With virtually no wind forecast for Monday we all had a little lie-in while the hangovers subsided and a hot air balloon drifted gracefully across the lake. Eventually a whisper of breeze was enough to tempt the race team afloat; once again the Cadre brothers took the lead in their B14 only to be pipped to line honours by the McEwens' RS800. On handicap the chasing gaggle of mostly Italian RS500s took the top places in the race, meaning that the overnight podium contenders all took this race as their discard. This left the McEwens as winners of the regatta with the Cadres second and Jean-Louis and Camille close behind in third.

Full results:

Whilst you're thinking about sunshine, don't forget to enter the European Championships at Circolo vela Torbole, Lake Garda, Italy (22-26 July) before the price goes up on 20 June. Online entry, NoR, and lots of information:

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