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2022 5.5 Metre French Open at the Regates Royales in Cannes - Overall

by Robert Deaves 24 Sep 08:45 BST 17-24 September 2022

Aspire (POL 17, Mateusz Kusznierewicz, Przemyslaw Gacek, Flavio Marazzi) has retained 5.5 Metre French Open title they won in 2021 after the final two races were sailed on Friday at the Regates Royales in Cannes.

New Moon III (BAH 25, Mark Holowesko, Christoph Burger, Peter Vlasov) finished second while Otto (NOR 68, Bent Christian Wilhelmsen, Herve Cunningham, Lasse Berthelsen) finished third. Both are also former winners here, but the Polish team was unmatched this year, with great speed, manoeuvres, and almost flawless tactics.

After a delay on shore to wait for wind, the fleet was sent out around midday in a slowly building breeze, but it was one of those hot, light wind days in Cannes and it never really developed to anything substantial. Pressure from the left and the right mixed the fleet but Aspire still led round and extended for a big win in Race 6 to wrap up the series with a race to spare. New Moon and Otto battled hard for second with New Moon crossing just ahead.

All teams sailed the final race, even though the series was settled, with the weather mark set under the lee of the island after a 40-degree shift as the thermal wind started to build. New Moon started well and led all the way, though several times she let Aspire strike out alone and only stayed ahead because they crossed at the top, New Moon had right of way. But it was enough and they had legs downwind to build a gap. On the last downwind they extended to about 6-7 boatlengths to win the final race, and close the series. Aspire was second and Otto again third.

The first Evolution was Ali Baba (GER 84 Wolf-Eberhard Richter, Beata Kallkowski, Oliver Weiss) who also finished fiftgh overall, and had a great week, often competing equally with many of the moderns.

The first Classic was Alzira (SUI 20/GER 117, Olaf Schulz, Holger Bock, Florian Hentschel). Alzira is actually owned by Jörg Sonntag, who this was helming No Stress, SUI 201/GER 122, a modern 5.5 Metre which has recently moved to Germany. As SUI 201 No Stress is a former double world championship winning boat with Jürg Menzi but was recently bought by Schulz.

Sailing with Sonntag was a 21-year-old Bundesliga sailor, Jacob Rek, normally seen on a J 70. He has been sailing 5.5 Metres for around 2 years, crewing for Sonntag, and is really enjoying the racing and looking forward to doing more in the future.

Jörg Sonntag's daughter, Sandra Sonntag, also joined him for some racing this week and sums up why so many love sailing the 5.5 Metre in Cannes

She said, "The speed, the competition and the camaraderie. It's a lot of fun. You definitely have to be very alert. We have good chemistry on the boat and good peers on the other boats, so it's also the culture. I love sailing 5.5 Metres because they are fast. They are wonderful boats."

"My dad starting sailing 5.5s in 2004. He sails a modern as well as the Classic Alzira. I join him once in a while. I was last here in Cannes in 2018. Cannes is beautiful. Everyone should come and visit in September, wonderful sailing and beautiful boats."

Kusznierewicz commented, "The racing was awesome, one of the best 5.5 Metre regattas we have had. A lot of 5.5 sailors were thrilled about the conditions we had in Cannes, the whole venue, the old port, everything on shore but also on the water. It's just a great venue and so many sailors were saying we should have a championship here as soon as possible, maybe for a worlds or Europeans combined with Regates Royales. I think that would be great."

Crew member Przemyslaw Gacek steered the boat for some of the races and he explained this is part of the ongoing programme for team Aspire. "We made some changes and went sailing. This is the project that we are running in Aspire that's a transformation for my friend Przemek, who in the future will be steering the boat but we need time and some more training for him. So this was just really to start doing it and probably next year we will continue with that for some regattas and from 2024 Przemek will be ready to steer the boat in every regatta and every condition."

Finally he spoke about the friendliness of the competition. "I also experienced that the teams got closer to each other during the regatta, talking more and having dinners together and there was a lot of encouragement between the teams. We are all competitive of course, but also friendly and supportive, as well as sharing information about the new electronic devices we will be using next year. Some boats were coming to us and asking questions, and we were very supportive of that, so that's all positive for the class."

The 5.5 Metre Class hopes to return to Cannes again in 2024. Unfortunately in 2023, the Regates Royales clashes with the 5.5 Metre Scandinavian Gold Cup and World Championship in Porto Cervo, Sardinia.

Meanwhile, the 2022 5.5 Metre international circuit concludes in two weeks' time at the Herbstpreis on the Thunersee in Switzerland.

Overall Results: (top five)

1 Aspire (POL 17, Mateusz Kusznierewicz, Przemyslaw Gacek, Flavio Marazzi) 7pts
2 New Moon III (BAH 25, Mark Holowesko, Christoph Burger, Peter Vlasov) 10pts
3 Otto (NOR 68, Bent Christian Wilhelmsen, Herve Cunningham, Lasse Berthelsen) 16pts
4 Pungin (SUI 213, Hans-Peter Schmid, Gilbert Dürr, Walter Dürr) 25pts
5 Ali Baba (GER 84, Wolf-Eberhard, Richter Beata Kallkowski, Oliver Weiss) 32pts

Full results available here.

Photo gallery available here.

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