Last week I was selected and raced a J80 during the university European championships. The event was held down in Cherbourg, France. We left on Tuesday night and caught the over night ferry from Portsmouth to Caen. Arriving at Cherbourg early on Wednesday morning gave us time to get through registration and find our accommodation for the week. Later that day a training session was planned so that we could go out and get a feel for the boats we would be racing on. It was nice to get out on the water have the first look at what the competition had to offer. We came in from the session knowing that we had pretty good speed and were happy with our boat handling manoeuvres. That evening we attended the opening ceremony and were put into the C Flight. Then it was back to the accommodation the hit the sack for the next days racing.
Thursday morning brought sunshine but very little wind, luckily we were in the 2nd flight of the day so were able to chill out over the morning and hit the water just after lunch. As we were motoring out to the boats the wind picked up a lot an as we rolled into the first start a huge front came through meaning the race officer postponed the first race, and we were told to reef the mainsail. In the next start we had an awesome start and powered out to the left side of the course, rounding the windward mark in 3rd we had a few issues on the downwind leg and lost loads of places, but we able to make some back up on the next lap and eventually finished in 5th. The Second race went much more to plan and with no issues we managed to cruise across the line in 2nd, only to find out that the boat in front of us was OCS, boosting us up to 1st. Coming out of the final day with a 1st and 5th we were put into second overall but because there were 2 flights the points were so tight!
Day 2 of racing and I was feeling stoked after the success we had the day before, again, we were in the second flight onto the water, and had a good breeze for our racing, We started the day with a great race with the other Plymouth boat finishing neck and neck, but they managed to just pop out in front putting us in 4th, We were happy as the plan was to keep it consistent in the top 5. The second race we had a smoking start off the line and sailed a near on perfect race giving us another convincing bullet. Taking this into the next race we managed to pull of another 1st again. The team was beginning to really believe that we could do this! In our final race of the day we had an awesome battle with the other boats all the way around and eventually crossed to line in 3rd. This strong day consolidated our position at the top of the leader board. And we were still in 2nd at the end of the day.
On Saturday morning they made the cut between gold and silver fleets, we were safely in the gold fleet. Also the draw for boats was made and we got boat 8 which we were all very happy with. We knew it was going to be a hard day now all the good teams were together. The silver fleet raced first and then we were out later, the plan was to get 3 races in and then a long distance race. In the first race we struggled after making a poor call on the first beat after fighting back all the way through the race we managed to get 7th. I the next race things were looking really good until we had an incident with one of the French boats upwind. I don’t think we were in the wrong but he managed to get a French witness so we were forced to take 720° penalty turn. Again fighting back through the fleet we finished 5th. I was now very motivated to have a good race we had been cheated out of 2 already. With and absolute blinding start we lead the next race from the beginning and brought the boat home in 1st place. The Long distance race we had next was hard, we were part of the leading 3 all the way around the long course, chopping and changing for position as we went. But finally ending up in 3rd across the line. When we got back ashore we discovered that we were still in second but the boats in 1st and 3rd were being protested. Both boats were disqualified from their protests which then boosted us up into 1st overall, we were leading into the final day.
The final day brought a lot of wind, again with an increasing breeze the silver fleet was sent 1st so we waited on the shore. When got out to the boats the wind was very strong and we had an amazing downwind sail to the start line! In the first race our plan was to try and stick close to second which we were doing well until he managed to just squeeze a boat in between us. He managed to pull away a bit and won the race with us in 4th. He was now leading by 0.2 of a point! There was only one thing we could do, we had to sail him back down the fleet because he had a worse discard than us we would win overall. We managed to get him on the start line and two of use crossed the line very late, we sat on him all the way upwind and everything was going to plan. On the down wind leg we controlled him and sailed him passed the lay line, but as we heated up out of the gybe the block on the end of our spinnaker pole exploded! We were forced to drop the kite and at that point had to retire, racing a 3 lap race without a spinnaker was not going to work. We sailed in very annoyed but ready to go and ask for redress and average points. The Jury took a very long time discussing the matter as the European championship was on the line. But finally the made the decision to award us redress! We had done it European Champions!
Helm – Tom Phipps
Main – James Hopson
Trim – Mark Yeabsley
Pit – Amy Patch
Bow – Patrick Adams