Europe sailors from across the country converged on Highcliffe Sailing Club this morning for the UK Nationals, sharing with the Phantom class.
The initial outlook for sailing today didn't look great, but the race committee held their nerve, kept the fleet ashore until almost 2pm before launching into the 20 knot breeze.
A brisk sail out and a few Europes just checking the depth of water with the tips of masts and we were ready to go. A short postponement whilst the course was set and a further delay whilst the Phantoms decided to start early resulting in a general recall.
The Europes were better behaved and got away first time, with Malcolm Morley port taking the fleet at the pin end to win the start, Chris Gill showed that he's not forgotten how to sail a Europe whilst he's been off sailing Fireballs and led the fleet around the top mark, followed quickly by Malcolm Morley, Terry Curtis and Christine Slater. Off everyone went on a rapid top reach in great planing conditions, the Gybe mark saw a number of casualties with gains to be made for those who stuck the gybe, whilst others inspected the bottom of their boats.
A frisky broad reach down to the leeward mark with Chris extending his lead and Richard Eagleton showing the fleet how to control the boat in what was ever building conditions coming through into 2nd. Another windy upwind saw the fleet stretch out and with an ever increasing wind the race officer decided to shorten at the leeward mark, but this meant the fleet had a wobbly downwind with many of the fleet taking a swim or 2 on their way to the finish.
Sunday dawned with sunshine and 10 knots of breeze, but with the forecast for 25+ knots by midday. A wise decision the evening before from the race committee to bring the start forward to 10am meant that the fleet launched in 18 knots with the news that Portland already had 26 knots and it was coming our way.
Race 6 started with a clear split of the fleet, with half going hard left and the other half hard right, which was going to pay? At the top of the beat those on the right came in with a clear lead with Terry Curtis rounding 1st followed by Andrew Rushford in 2nd, Lucy Boreham and Christine Slater in 3rd & 4th. Chris Gill was the first of those who went left rounding in 5th. Terry maintained his lead, with Chris working his way back up to 2nd and Andrew 3rd. A photo finish between Christine and Lucy, with Christine's bow just in front to take 4th.
A quick turnaround in the increasing wind meant race 7 got under way in 20+ knots, the whole fleet took off to the right and Chris lead from start to finish and Terry rounded off a great event with another 2nd. Kathy Sherratt had a great final race, despite being one of the lighter helms in the fleet, sailed a fantastic race to take 7th.
With the wind increasing further and already a number of boats having spent some time upside down in race 7 the Race committee abandoned the idea of a final race, the fleet got ashore in time to pack away before the rain came and the wind increased further.
Chris Gill comfortably regained the title, with an almost perfect score line and a great display of how to handle the Europe in a breeze, Terry took a well deserved 2nd quickly learning the nuances of the Europe with Richard Eagleton in 3rd.
A fantastic event and turnout for the Europes, it was great to see such diversity in the fleet, with the youngest competitor 15, the oldest 69, the lightest at just 56kg, a few heavyweights at 75+kg and a good mix of both ladies and men, it was great to see so many new faces to the fleet and really close racing for everyone in some challenging conditions. Also great to see parent/child combinations sailing the class, with Malcolm and Hamish Morley joined by catamaran sailor duo of Olly & Ben Harris each racing their newly acquired Europes!
Massive thanks to Highcliffe Sailing Club for putting on a great event both on the water and ashore and the Phantom Class for sharing the event with us.