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International Canoe Europa Cup at Club Voile Hourtin Medoc, Lac d' Hourtin, France

by Chris Hampe 7 Aug 22:03 BST
International Canoe Europa Cup at Club de Voile Hourtin Medoc, Lac d'Hourtin, France © Arnaud Fillette

For the first time since 2001, the International Canoe fleet headed into France and in doing so may have found sailing paradise. The Lac d'Hourtin is France's biggest fresh water lake and is squeezed between the Atlantic coastline and the Medoc region famed for its fine wines.

The European heatwave was in full effect with 42'C welcoming the early arrivals at the Club Voile Hourtin Medoc who ran an excellent championship from their base in the small village of Piqueyrot on the north-west side of the lake. While there are plenty of venues with such conditions the Lac d' Hourtin stands out for having exceptional water quality in fact for most of the lake you can see the sandy bottom with ease. But the best part of Hourtin is the water temperature, With the lake remaining relatively shallow for it's size A capsize, or fire-hosing spray is no problem as the water is presently warm, Paradise indeed!

Sunday afternoon saw the first action with a single practice race with a single triangle followed by sausage with a short reach to finish after the run. With a light sea breeze in effect Robin Wood led Chris Hampe around the first mark only to lose sight of the gybe mark and fall back into the pack. Hampe looked fast in his Morrison 3 design leading around the triangle seeming safe ahead of the chasing pack. The approach to the final windward mark however would be his undoing as a flotilla of boats found some fresher breeze out to the right-hand side of the course. Mike Fenwick from Castle Cove eventually leading the fleet home.

With racing scheduled to start at 14:30 when the fleet launched from the golden sand and shelter from the tree's it was apparent that the sea breeze was in good effect with the first race starting in 16 knots. Mike Fenwick charged across from a mid-line position in to an early lead ahead of Gareth Caldwell to leeward and Chris Hampe and Robin Wood to windward. As the boats began to make their way back to the centre of the course, Hampe elected to continue and at the windward mark a mistake from Gareth allowed Hampe to slip by for the lead with Mike Fenwick in close company. Pulling clear Hampe never looked like he would lose the lead and seemed safe at the 2nd windward mark, But Robin Wood was chasing hard and split away downwind forcing Hampe to gybe across the course to cover him into the final bottom mark to win by just 4 seconds with Gareth Caldwell a further 30 seconds back in third.

For race two the breeze had continued to build, and the back of the fleet was starting to struggle while those at the front were continuing to charge Robin Wood led Gareth and Hampe. From this point onwards things changed Robin had found his form and blasted clear of the pack, Gaz got through into 2nd and Phil Robin was also enjoying the higher wind. With Robin taking a clear win, Gaz, Hampe and Phil all finished close together. With conditions worse only 11 boats would finish with Simon Beers being the best of the rest with Emma Grigull holding on to take the final finishing position.

Tuesday came and it was clear from the beach with the Kite-surfers and windsurfers out in force that the wind was already more than the first day. Shortly after launching the skies darkened and the first squall came just as the committee went into sequence. Some boats fled towards the shelter of the trees under the western shoreline, but for most however it was a case of letting the boats sit on there sides and wait it out. After a brief respite a second Squall came through the fleet forcing the AP over H flag, sending the fleet home to readdress the situation. After all boats were returned to shore it was sad to see that Gareth Caldwell's regatta had come to an end with his mast broken at the lowers. With several other competitors keen to make adjustments and repairs to their boats all racing was postponed, and the lay day would remain scheduled for Wednesday while 3 races would be scheduled for Thursday and Friday.

Thursday delivered everything that Tuesday didn't with champagne sailing in the sunshine with enough wind to get everyone fully powered up without becoming too much of a struggle. With some Port bias on the start line the committee boat end was the place to be, Hampe arriving early aborted his start to gybe around a zigzag a path through the fleet on port, but it was Dave Timson who appeared to be leading a small group of boats out to the right after a port tack start. At the windward mark however it was Hampe who had found his way through some shifts in the middle of the course to just be able to tack clear of Robin Wood to lead at the first mark. Downwind and the Robin Wood show continued, passing and extending away as we have seen so many times before. This performance from Robin would be repeated for the next two races as he led at every mark from this point onwards. Chris Hampe would score 2, 3, 2, to hold second overall while the fight was getting interesting for third with Mike Fenwick now able to discard his high scoring first race to close the gap to Phil Robin in third.

Friday's finale was the only day scheduled to start at 10:30 and with a light wind over the course the fleet went afloat hopeful that the sea breeze was add to what was already there. With most of the fleet afloat the wind had other ideas and soon disappeared. When things finally stabilised enough to get a race in it was Mike Fenwick who was on a charge. Looking to move up the rankings he scored two second places finishing only behind the defending champion Robin. His nearest rival was Phil Robin who was clearly not enjoying the lighter winds and being back in the pack his score of 8, 13 would see him fall to fourth in the standings. Chris Hampe was also lacking his earlier pace finding himself deep in the pack at times Chris fought back hard to score 4, 5, enough to secure second overall. Dave Timson and Rob Bell were on a charge in the lighter conditions scoring 3,4 and 5,3 respectively.

Full results can be found here.

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