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GB success at the Hansa European Championships

by David Durston 23 Oct 2019 10:48 BST 5-12 October 2019
2-person 303 fleet during the Hansa Europeans at Portimão, Portugal © Rodrigo Moreira Rato / LX Sailing

The Hansa European Championships were held on the 5th-12th October in Portimao, Portugal. Seventeen GB sailors, and one Irish sailor, ventured over to the event by land, sea and air to compete in all 4 of the Hansa classes: 2.3, 303 one-person, 303 two-person, and the Liberty.

This was made possible by an amazing team of twenty volunteers, friends, family, and carers. In addition Brett Cokayne, an RYA coach, generously gave up his time to advise the team on and off the water. RYA Sailability assisted financially to help with some of the costs, and recent fundraising by the Hansa Class UK has enabled the class to purchase a van, trailer, and six 303s, which were used to transport boats to the event. This will help more people to get involved in racing in the UK and abroad in the future.

Portimao harbour was a beautiful setting for the event, but did provide challenging conditions with mainly light, shifty winds, and at times a strong tidal effect. It was the first time that the Portuguese had staged an International event for Hansa, and they had not previously encountered the wide range of disabilities that the boats enable people to sail. In particular, many of the Liberty sailors use servo motors to control their sails, and/or their steering; making it possible for people with even the most severe disabilities to compete against the able-bodied on level terms.

There were eight GB sailors and one Irish sailor in the sixteen boat Liberty fleet. On day one GB had a great start with a 1, 2, 3 result in the first race: 1st Val Millward (Rutland SC), 2nd Paul Phillips (Frensham Pond SC), 3rd David Durston (Whitefriars SC). By day 3 it looked like 1st and 2nd places were secure, being battled out between Vera Voorbach from the Netherlands and Val Millward. There was then a 10 point gap between them and Paul Phillips in 3rd place, closely followed by the World and European champion, Bob Schahinger, and David Durston in 4th and 5th places respectively.

Day 4 proved to be decisive. Light winds were forecast for day 5, so the race committee decided to run 3 races on day 4 to get ahead of schedule. There were strong winds gusting 28 knots, and David handled these conditions well, getting two 1st places and a 2nd which elevated him to 2nd place with one race remaining. Vera maintained her dominant position at the top of the table. On the final day visibility was poor due to an uncharacteristic sea mist, and very light winds. After 3 hours, racing for the Liberty's was abandoned. Final result: 1st Vera Voorbach (NED), 2nd David Durston (GBR), 3rd Val Millward (GBR).

The 303 2-person class was sailed in the afternoon on day 1. After several attempts to reset the course and start, racing for the day was eventually abandoned. On the morning of day 2 conditions were light and shifty, but two races were completed. From the GB, the father and daughter team of Alan Hillman and Natalie Hillman-Bermejo (New Forest Sailability), put in two good results, to leave them in 2nd place. Ahead of them on equal points were Chris Symonds a very experienced sailor and his crew Manuella Klinger from Australia. Again the winds dropped in the afternoon of day 3, but one race was completed which the GB team won to put them up into 1st place. The Australians had a U-flag disqualification, putting them a long way down the table.

On Day 4 Alan and Natalie had mixed results in the unfamiliar strong winds, getting a 1st, 6th, and 11th, which put them back into 2nd place behind Chris and Manuellla who discarded their UFD. The 2-person fleet were the only ones to sail on day 5, after waiting until 3pm. One race was completed, and the GB team got into difficulty, ending the event with a 16th place. However, this result became their discard, and controversially the Australian team had not exonerated themselves after an infringement on the start line, so they were disqualified. This opened the door for the Polish and French teams who had consistent results across the week. Final result: 1st Piotr Cichocki/Olga Gomas-Grudzien (POL), 2nd Alan Hillman/Natalie Hillman-Bermejo (GBR), 3rd Giles Guyon/Olivier Ducruix (FRA).

GB had five entries in the twenty nine boat 303 one person fleet, with three finishing in the top 10. Rory Mckinna (Clyde Cruising Club) had a strong start on day 1 with a 3rd and a 5th, ending the day in 2nd place behind Piotr Cichocki from Poland. The committee were using a U-flag all week, and this lead to fourteen disqualifications in race one and two. Rory continued to have consistent results between 5th and 9th, which left him in 5th place for the nine race series. Also in the top 10 were James Woosnam (8th), and Mike Everitt (9th); both from Frensham Pond SC. There was an impressive performance by 17 year old Harry Kennington who was attending his first international event; he finished 18th in a very competitive fleet. Final result: 1st Piotr Cichocki (POL), 2nd Chris Symonds (AUS), 3rd Jose Pinto (POR).

In the 2.3 thirteen boat fleet GB had another new sailor, Lara Sturgis (Frensham Pond SC). Lara sailed very well for her first time in International competition, in conditions which were very different to her home club. Lindsay Burns (Frensham Pond SC) who finished 2nd in the 2017 Europeans, missed out on a podium place this time, despite achieving a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd over the nine races, she finished 6th. The Portuguese dominated this class at the event, finishing 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th. Final result: 1st Rui Downling (POR), 2nd Andre Bento (POR), 3rd Akko Van der Veen (NED).

There was also a prize for the Country's performance. GB were just pipped to 1st place by the hosts Portugal, with Poland coming 3rd. For full results visit

The next International Hansa Class event will be held in LA, USA on the 15th-23rd October 2020. Hopefully GB will continue to build on these successes, and get a good turnout through the continued support of the RYA Sailability, Hansa Class UK, and the International Hansa Class Association.

If you'd like to find out more about Hansa racing in the UK, or get your club involved, visit

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