50 Europes descended on Weymouth & Portland National Sailing Academy this weekend for the 2021 UK Europe National Championships, the largest turnout for the class in several decades!
With some early arrivals during the week, the majority of the fleet arrived at WPNSA on Thursday morning, and the boat park quickly became a showroom, with brand new boats, beautiful restorations and innovative solutions all attracting the attention of sailors, who spent the morning catching up with old friends, and making new friends with those new to the fleet.
The class worked with WPNSA and event sponsor Rooster to minimise the environmental impact of the event, with reusable water bottles provided to every competitor by Rooster upon arrival, and with Laura Baldwin's 'Ocean Rebellion' boat branding raising awareness of the environmental issues faced by our seas.
Around 35 sailors took the water in the afternoon for some informal practice racing, run by class chair, Malcolm Morley, with 5 quick one lap races run throughout the afternoon. The practice racing was a great opportunity to get back into racing after a long break, with the sun shining and a perfect 10 knot breeze blowing across Portland Harbour, and all sailors returned ashore excited for the event to begin the following day!
Friday morning brought very different conditions, with wind blowing from 20-30 knots, however the majority of the fleet launched for the first day of racing at midday. Race 1 got off to a clean start, with Steve Cockerill showing incredible boat speed and technique to take the lead, followed by Alex Scoles, racing his brand new Idol Composites Europe, and British Sailing Team's Arran Holman. After a rudder problem for Alex, it was Arran who took second place behind Steve, with Laura Baldwin in third.
Race 2 saw very similar conditions to start with, and with a U-Flag for Laura Baldwin, Steve Cockerill and Arran Holman went on to lead the race, taking first and second again. The strongest gust of the day hit the fleet on the first downwind, with 31 knots recorded. With several capsizes, and countless more wobbly moments throughout the fleet, several sailors found their places re-shuffled, and Harry Kennedy took third, chased by windy-weather specialist Terry Curtis in fourth. A strong race for Mandy Horton saw her take fifth, and further back in the fleet, Ben Harris recovered from an early capsize to pull back seven places in the final downwind leg, making full use of the open downwind pumping to finish just outside the top ten.
Despite the increase in wind strength, the majority of the sailors stayed out for the final race of the day, all still smiling and excited to race! Steve Cockerill again showed his form to take his third bullet of the day, having got back out on the water, Alex Scoles took second place, with Harry Kennedy wrapping up a consistent day with another third, just ahead of Sarah Cockerill, Arran Holman and Laura Baldwin.
The fleet returned ashore with huge smiles, and lots of stories to share! It was impressive to see that despite the wide range of sailors, and with some boats well over 40 years old, there were no major breakages or issues, and everyone had an enjoyable days racing in some top-end conditions.
Saturday brought yet another set of different conditions, as the fleet launched into very light wind. After a postponement on the water as the wind filled in, racing finally got under way, and 2004 Olympic representative Laura Baldwin got off to a strong start. Rounding the windward mark in first, she was followed by a group of boats who came from the left hand side of the course, with light-wind Europe specialist Emma Pearson close behind, and experienced Moth sailor David Jessop in third. Steve Cockerill finished the race in fourth, followed by Mandy Horton just ahead of Arran Holman. Special mention goes to Luke Lazell, who finished in seventh place in his Gerry Ledger-built wooden boat!
Race 5 started in slightly more wind, with the fleet beginning to hike upwind, and surfing downwind within Rule 42 became key. It was Laura Baldwin who again took an early lead, with Steve Cockerill chasing hard to finish in second. Arran Holman and Sarah Cockerill followed in third and fourth, with Harry Kennedy in fifth.
Race 6 saw Laura continue her light wind masterclass to take her third race win of the day, again followed by Steve, Arran and Sarah. Mandy Horton followed in fifth, having sailed excellently across the wind range, with David Jessop and Natalie Campbell in sixth and seventh respectively. Behind that was one of the closest battles of the day, with four boats battling just meters apart for the entire final lap. It was Gareth Tweedle who took eighth, just in front of Tim Laws, Lucy Boreham and Ben Harris, After another great day of racing, the fleet were welcomed back to a drizzly boat park, however that did little to dampen the mood for the barbeque hosted by WPNSA. The weather meant that sailors sat at distanced tables of six, but provided a great opportunity to get to know new people, and share advice and experience throughout the evening.
After six races, it was Steve Cockerill who took the UK Europe National Champion title, his eighth title in the class. Laura Baldwin won the Ladies National Champion title, finishing in second overall, and Arran Holman finished in third overall. The Junior National Champion title went to Adam Catlow, aged just 16, and David Summerville took the 'Swinging Sixties' trophy for first Over-60, having recently moved into the class! Alex Watts won the beautiful 'Classic Rig' trophy, racing in his newly-refurbished wooden boat, awarded to the first boat with an aluminium mast!A misty start to Sunday morning with very little wind saw a postponement onshore. Many sailors took the opportunity to take a closer look at some of the other boats and kit onsite, which included some beautifully restored boats, brand new boats from Winner and from Idol Composites, as well as a wide range of new sails, masts and foils! Unfortunately, the wind remained unsettled and very light, and racing was cancelled for the day.
Huge thanks to WPNSA for hosting yet another world class event, both on and off the water, to Paul Kimmens and his team for great race management throughout the event, and to Rooster for providing every competitor with a reusable water bottle and sponsoring the event with prizes, allowing us to ensure no competitor left empty-handed and minimising the use of single-use plastics, and to Alejandro at Sailtech for providing some prize vouchers!
It was great to see so many boats racing at the 2021 UK Europe National Championships, with a huge range of sailors including Olympic level sailors, as well as some for whom this was their first event outside of their home club. There was similarly a huge range of boats, with some of the oldest boats built over 40 years ago, as well as some brand new boats new to the fleet very recently! The top 10 saw a wide range of hull manufacturers, hull ages and equipment suppliers, a very healthy position for the class, and for sailors looking for new equipment!
We hope to continue this growth moving forwards, maintaining the class' friendly and welcoming nature and ensuring that our events are enjoyable for all sailors! If you are interested in getting into our exciting class, make sure to take a look at our website here, as well as joining the 'UK Europe Sailors' Facebook group, where you will find the answer to any questions you might have!