For the second day running the Half Ton Classics Cup fleet in Nieuwpoort faced strong winds and big seas as they completed races three to five of their series. The forecast promised grey skies and regular rain showers, which it delivered, but it somewhat understimated the 20-25+ knots that came with them. Going afloat the crews had anticipated winds in the mid to upper teens so the heavy conditions came as something of a surprise.
Fortunately the historic little yachts held up well against the elements and there was only one significant casualty in the shape of the rig of Philippe Pilate’s General Tapioca, which failed at the spreaders going upwind during the fifth race. There were three other retirements from that race due to minor gear failure, but otherwise everyone was able to complete all races.
The first two races of the day were windward/leeward format and produced more incredibly tight racing with packed mark roundings and constant place changes.
Race three proved to be a Celtic showdown and was decided by a mere two seconds with Roddy Angus and Dan Challis’s Trastada, from Fairlie Yacht Club on Scotland’s Clyde, just pipping David Cullen’s Checkmate XV, from Howth, Ireland, to the post. Fellow Howth Yacht Club member Johny Swann sailed Harmony into third, a mere six seconds behind Checkmate.
In a Half Ton trivia moment it is of interest to note that Checkmate’s tactician Mark Pettitt helmed the 1980 Humphrey designed Harmony to victory in the Irish Half Ton Championship of 1983 for original owners Tony Allen, of Holt Allen fame, and Mike Holmes, now one of the UK’s top Dragon sailors.
Local boat General Tapioca claimed victory in race four by a relatively comfortable 44 seconds from Checkmate with Paul Pullen’s Miss Whiplash from Cornwall third and Tom Florizoone’s Red Cloud, a 1980 Joubert design also based in Nieuwpoort, fourth.
Race five was to be something of a contrast using an inshore course with long beats against a rapidly building ebb tide. In the big waves the beats seemed to last for ever, whilst by contrast the downwind legs were over in moments. With the wind strengthening further it was a race for the heavy airs specialists and Toni Stoschek’s Superhero lived up to her name and roared to victory by almost half a minute on corrected time. Miss Whiplash follwed her home with Checkmate coming in third. General Tapioca had looked good for another podium finish, but as her rig came tumbling down her hopes for both the race and the rest of the week were dashed.
With a minimum of three races required for a series the first of two possibls scoring discards has now been applied and in the overall standings David Cullen’s Checkmate XV, a boat that is supposedly optimised for lights airs but which none the less seems to be relishing this week’s big winds, has jumped into the lead. Philippe Pilate’s General Tapioca discarded their Did Not Finish score in race five so tonight hold second overall, but sadly are very unlikely to race again this week. Paul Pullen’s Miss Whiplash has moved into third place, just 0.4 of a point behind General Tapioca and 5.5 points behind the leader, with Toni Stoschek’s Superhero 6.5 points back in fourth.
Apres racing the crews enjoyed a fabulous fancy dress party at which crews were asked to dress on a theme relating the name of their boats. There were some brilliant outfits including the entire crew and shore team of Charles Jacob and Bargibant’s Ballerina dressed in white dance tights and pink tutus, Jean-Luc Courbon’s crew from Half Capone in twenties gangster gear and David Cullen’s Checkmate team in bishop’s mitres and prawn hats. When asked for an explanation of the prawns David replied that they had been aiming for bishops and pawns in line with their boat’s chess themed name, but pawn outfits were hard to come by so prawns had to do – a very Irish play on words if ever we heard one.
Tomorrow the forecast promises sun and lighter winds at last and the race committee has indicated that it intends to give the sailors a shorter day. It will run one or two windward leeward races in the morning so that the crews can be back on the dock in time for a long lunch and a relaxed afternoon sampling the delights of this lovely town and it’s surroundings. The regatta continues until Friday 21 August.
Today’s sailing photos are courtesy of guest photographer Bernard Catry. Keep up with the latest news, results and photographs from the event via the Half Ton Classics Cup Blog and the Half Ton Class Facebook page.