The North Sea was throwing some interesting shapes today off Nieuwport as the 23 strong Half Ton Classics Cup 2015 fleet got their regatta underway in big confused seas with a practise race followed by the first two races of the championship series. With racing being run by the Koninklijke Yacht Club Nieuwpoort (KYCN) and the Bruxelles Royal Yacht Club (BRYC) the race committee was on time and on the case with both a tricky north easterly breeze, which was shifting up to 25 degrees and varied from mid teens to low twenties, and the cross course tide which turned during racing.
First up they ran a practice race, followed by a windward leeward and then a short inshore race around the cans. A general recall in the practice race confirmed that the fleet was eager to go, but fortunately they managed to start at the first time of asking for both championship races, although three boats fell foul of the “U” flag in race two and were disqualified.
Richard and Ursula Hollis’s X98 Crakajax got two super starts, creating space at the committee boat end so she could tack off for clear air right away. Minimising the number of tacks was a clever way to go, as those who became embroiled in tit for tat tacking battles in the middle of the course discovered to their cost. Whilst the sea state remained lumpy throughout the day the wind dropped off a little in the afternoon meaning the trimmers and helmsmen has their work cut out to keep traction.
Having acquired the 1985 Humphrey designed MG HS30 Checkmate from friend Nigel Biggs over the winter and spent time preparing and tuning her at home in Ireland, David Cullen was keen to see how she would go in the hurly burly of serious Half Ton competition. Checkmate happily delivered and her well drilled crew never really put a foot wrong, although they certainly didn’t have it all their own way. In race one they narrowly scraped victory by just 13 seconds from Paul Pullen’s 1986 Andrieu designed Miss Whiplash from Cornwall, while local hero Philippe Pilate sailing the 1978 General Tapioca, designed by Berrett, took third and Finland’s Toni Stoschek 1988 Andrieu designs, carbon built Superhero fourth.
The second race, a short inshore race attracting a scoring coeffecient of 1.1, was almost as close and it was only on the final beat that Checkmate secured her second victory of the day by 32 seconds from General Tapioca with Albert Pierrard’s A+, a 1985 Nissen design which came second in the 1985 Half Ton Cup in Italy and third a year later in Finland, in third and Miss Whiplash fourth. Superhero stormed the pin end at the start and almost achieved domination, but sadly her timing was just off and she fell foul of the U Flag so was one of those disqualified for being over the line.
In the overall standings Checkmate now has a 3.1 point lead over General Tapioca with Miss Whiplash 1.2 points behind in third. With two fifth places, Nicolas Spilleboudt’s 1989 Blue Berret drops into the scoreboard in fourth place overall,
Back ashore Philippe Pilate summed up the day saying “Today was not easy. The level is very high and getting higher. The boats are all well prepared. We gave everything, the wind was over 15 knots with a big sea, but the day was very positive. We sailed to our potential, we are in the top three overall and that’s where we would like to stay. The windier conditions of today suit us very well, tomorrow we will see. If the wind drops it will be more open. We are satisfied to have come and satisfied to be able to share this with many friends, which is always good and indeed the most important.
Tomorrow’s forecast is for a little more wind and possibly further rough seas. The regatta committee has confirmed it intends to run at least three races tomorrow with the first start scheduled for 11.00. The regatta continues until Friday 21 August.