The final day of the RS800 European Championship provided the best sailing conditions yet: the North wind was very weak and the temperature well in to the mid 30s by 1000hrs. It wasn’t long before the Ora arrived and all the talk, in the boat park, was about how Big the day would be and could anyone stop the McEwens running away with the trophy.
The race committee wisely held the fleet ashore until the conditions were settled while they set a big course up the middle to Torbole side of the lake. The short 10-minute sail out to the start area had most of the fleet setting their boats up for strong winds. It was clear the wind would only be increase in strength as the day developed.
Race 1 got away cleanly, with most of the fleet heading to the Eastern Torbole shore. Saxton and Hampshire were early leaders but a capsize, on a tack, saw them slip back into the “war zone” of the fleet. At the top mark the majority of the leaders came from the left but a few of the right hand boats also made it into the top 5. As Luke and Emma McEwen led the boats onto the run, a huge right hand gust saw the leading group of boast “launch it” down the lake, it was down to the knots and full on jumping conditions as, for a time, this group aimed below the leeward gate marks! The first gybe saw the leading 6 boats perform a simultaneous mass gybe to port worthy of the Red Arrows.
The next 2 laps saw Luke and Emma show exactly how well they could sail an RS800, pulling out a 200m lead by the end and securing them the title of European Champions. Next home were Hawkins and Hunter who showed their experience in a 49er was a transferable skill in these testing conditions. Finishing out the top 3 was the father and son team of Paul and Peter Jenkins.
So with first place wrapped up, all eyes were on micro battles for 2nd place and 6th place which were all very close. Further set-up changes were made all the way through the pre-race, for the final bash around the 3 lap race. As the gun fired for the final 10th race the whole fleet headed straight for the Eastern cliffs. Luke and Emma decided the best way of keeping out of the fleet’s way was to fly off into a leading position. This left the rest of the fleet to fight it out. At the top mark Saxton and Hampshire had a good 2nd position with all the regulars up in the leading group apart from the Jeffries who rounded 10th. As the fleet sailed the first run it was a case of which boats could judge the best gybe point, as the huge gusts came down the lake changing the angles by 20 degrees. At the bottom mark the leaders had consolidated their positions and the Jeffries were up to 5th. Another short tacking duel continued up the increasingly gusty Torbole shore with boats tacking within feet of the cliffs. On the final approach to the top mark the Jeffries took a huge left shift into the mark and sailed into 2nd place followed by Hawkins and Hunter, with Saxton and Hampshire just behind. The fleet took off down the run for another full throttle blast at the bottom mark. The fleet turned for their final beat. This time it was Hawkins and Hunter’s turn to capsize on a tack which helped Saxton and Hampshire to close to within one place of the Jeffries and that’s how it remained to the finish. L uke and Emma took another win, Andy and Allyson the 2nd , and Tim and Fiona the 3rd place they needed to finish on the same points as the Jeffries and secure 2nd place overall on countback.
Further back, Jack Hawkins and Rory Hunter took a steady 4th , and Dave Pike and Nick Jerkins finished the week 5th. At the prize giving Luke further impressed the fleet with a full winners speech in Italian. The class was complimented by Gianfranco Tonelli, the Presidente of Circolo Vela Torbole, for being the first class in their 50 year history to not have a single protest. The RS800 class has had another epic week on Lake Garda. A special thanks must go to the club who made every effort to make us feel very welcome. The class now looks forward to the Volvo Noble Marine National Championships at Hayling Island, where a 50 plus fleet is expected. Looking at this week’s form Luke and Emma are going to be hard to beat.
Report by Andy Jeffries