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Flying 15 European Championship at Morgat, France

by Simon Thompson 14 May 17:48 BST 9-11 May 2024
Flying 15 European Championship © FF Voile

A net 37 boats with visitors from Belgium, Ireland, Spain and Great Britain arrived in Morgat port for this event run as part of the GPEN Regatta which comprises 12 French fleets Nationals Championships including the Flying 15's.

The weather for the event was the first warm and sunny weather many of the competitors from the UK and Ireland had seen after a dismal and wet Spring. Temperatures ranged from 19c on Wednesday when many of the competitors arrived up to 24c on the Saturday.

Race Day 1

The programmed start time was 1400 hrs, but the Race Officer held the fleet in the port for an hour to allow time for the sea breeze to settle in from the West.

Race 1 was started in light winds from the South-West from a point offshore from Postolonnec with a two-lap windward / leeward course. The fleet split early on with a few boats heading for the cliffs by Morgat, while the main body of the fleet went out to sea in search of breeze.

GBR 4126 - Pinnell/Cadwallader rounded the windward mark first with GBR 3957 - Apthorps x 2 in second place. On arrival at the first leeward mark the Race Officer had signalled a change of heading to the second windward mark to a more westerly direction as the true sea breeze took hold and strengthened. This was a cause for confusion as the race team laid a spacer mark beyond the turning mark and the first 4 boats took this as part of the course whilst those who had read and understood the Sailing Instructions turned downwind immediately, thus boats 3 and 4 (ESP 3724 & GBR 4080) immediately lost 3 and 6 places respectively, whereas the first boats retained their top 2 places.

Race 2 started at about 1630 hrs in a solid sea breeze of 10 knots now established from 270 degrees. The boats that started at the committee boat end and tacked early picked up more pressure as they headed towards the cliffs (just like Lake Garda!). This included GBR 4126 - Pinnell/Cadwallader, GBR 4112 - Wells/Tulloch and GBR 4037 - Herbert/Fowler and these three were indeed 1,2,3 at the windward mark. On the run, Wells/Tulloch were able to get alongside Pinnell/Caddy and round the favourable cliff side port rounding leeward mark just ahead and thus forcing Pinnell and Cadwallader to tack so they could get cleaner wind. This move proved to be a race winner for Wells/Tulloch as they led the race to the cliffs and extended their lead which they held comfortably to the finish. Pinnell/Caddy were 2nd. GBR 4005 - McKee/Jones sailed well to come back and take 3rd ahead of Herbert/Fowler.

Race 3 - By now it was 1730 hrs and the sea breeze was at its strongest 12+ knots so the Race Officer set the course with 2 laps plus a beat to the harbour finish line. By now everyone had worked out the cliffs advantage, so the committee boat end was extremely busy and inevitably the first start was called a general recall. The fleet got away on the 2nd start under the black flag. Again, those that could get onto port early and head to the cliffs took the early lead. This time, the charge was led by GBR 4033 - Waples J/Jackie closely pursued by GBR 4112 - Wells/Tulloch, GBR 4017 - Dave and Harry Lucas father and son duo and GBR 4005 - McKee/Jones.

Wells/Tulloch found a favourable shift near the windward mark and squeezed round in first place just ahead of Mckee/Jones with the Lucas' and Waples J/Jackie both in close pursuit. On the run Wells/Tulloch sailed down the middle but the Lucas' stayed out to sea and came into the bottom mark very fast but Wells/Tulloch just held on to round the favourable port rounding mark in the lead and led the way to the cliffs and extend their lead. For the last lap the breeze was starting to fade and shift more which gave opportunities for place gains.

Wells/Tulloch closely covered the Lucas' to take the win. Waples J/Jackie worked the shifts well on the final beat to the harbour finish and passed McKee/Jones to take 3rd place.

The fleet berthed in the harbour at around 1930 hrs in fading light and a lighter wind. The onshore team who were due to feed us from 1800 hrs were keen to make their presence felt so by 2000 hrs beer and wine was being taken with food provided by the local Basketball club.

Race Day 2

The Race Officer had posted an earlier start time of 0930 hrs to catch the normal wind at a Force 3 before the midday break for the sea breeze to kick in again.

Reality was that the day dawned with no wind at all and the fleet was held ashore until mid-afternoon, by which time the fleet was released to wait for the arrival of the sea breeze, and wait, and wait.....

In the end the fleet voted with their paddles and slowly crept closer back to Morgat from where it could return to the start area under spinnaker if the breeze came but closer to the port if it did not. Eventually the Race Officer bowed to the inevitable and cancelled racing for the day just in time for an evening sea breeze to kick in as the fleet moored up at around 1930 hrs

Race Day 3

Another day in the sunshine and another delay in launching due to no wind. The fleet launched late in a very light southerly breeze to reach the start line set not far from the harbour and waited whilst a light Force 1-2 breeze built. The Race Officer commenced the start sequence in a Force 1 wind and the frustrations of the lack of sailing soon showed with two general recalls, the second one under black flag. Eight boats were thrown out including the two series leaders, GBR 4126 - Pinnell/Cadwallader and GBR 4112 - Wells/Tulloch, which was the ultimate deciding factor in who turned out series winner and European Champions.

The third start proved successful, and most boats opted to start at the committee boat end whilst one boat attempted to ram the pin end boat but missed. Clear air off the line was key and the boats near the pin end had the best of the light wind and were the first group to the windward mark, which was a little congested.

GBR 3957 - the Apthorps were the first boat round and led the fleet back to the leeward marks in a dying breeze. The second beat saw the wind drop to zephyr levels and it took concentration to keep up momentum. The lack of tidal flow off Morgat bay was the saving of the race.

The Race Officer saw fit to shorten course and set a finish at the second windward mark. GBR 3957 - family Apthorp took the gun and after a long period the next two boats finished, being GBR 4114 - Whitworth/Jones and GBR 4005 - McKee/Jones. It was now a challenge for the rest of the fleet to get to the line within the time limit. Many did not achieve that.

Having reassembled back at the start it was another waiting game for a sea breeze, but as the 1530 hrs time limit for starting another race drew close the fleet again started making its way to the harbour, conscious of the need to pack boats way for the journey home. At 1500 hrs the Race Officer bowed to the wisdom of the fleet and abandoned racing. By 1530 hrs the sea breeze arrived in time to help the boats get back to the harbour!

The prize-giving was held at the French Naval School, a drive across the Crozon peninsula. It stands in large extensive grounds on the South shore of the Brest estuary (and not where Google thinks it is!). The ceremony covered all the fleets that had been racing and was held in warm sunshine with typical French flair and lots of navy uniforms on view.

All agreed that the on the water organisation was excellent and enhanced by the requirement for all boats to carry VHF radio which enabled following the Race Officer's countdown to the flags to be heard without crowding the committee boat.

The venue for the 2026 European championships was discussed and the current favourite would be Palma de Majorca in the Autumn. This will be confirmed in due course.

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