The first Europa Cup event of 2018 saw familiar team at the front.
40 5O5’s descended on Cannes in the South of France for the first of 4 Europa Cup events in 2018 over the long Easter weekend. The boats came from 8 countries, including Australia and the USA, with 5 of the boats having World Champions sailing in them, including the current holder of the trophy. So, it was going to be a very competitive fleet racing in the Mediterranean Sea.
Racing started on Friday in very variable conditions but generally in the 10-15 knot wind range out of the South East. As tradition dictates races were started via the gate start method and we were quickly up, running and racing. First blood went to the American team, (although British born!) of Mike Holt, sailing with Rob Woelfel who had a big lead by the finish, British team of Nathan Batchelor and Sam Pascoe crossed in second and Germany’s Jan-Philipp Hofmann and Felix Brockerhoff rounded off the podium. After a delay with the ever-shifting breeze Race 2 was underway with the Hofmann/Brockerhoff team taking up the running with a group of 4 to 5 boats in close attendance and places rapidly changing, however there is always only one place that it matters and Holt and Woelfel were the team to take the win, pushing the German team back to second, with another German team, 5 times World Champion Wolfgang Hunger sailing with Julien Kliener taking 3rd. After an action-packed day reigning World Champion Holt and crew Woelfel sat atop the leaderboard with 2 points from Hofman/Brockerhoff on 5 and Batchelor/Pascoe on 7.
Saturday started with a light but shifty Easterly and an abandoned first race of the day, before the wind switched to the West and the fleet moved from the Eastern Bay to the Western one. Two races were held in building breeze, topping out at the end of the day close to 30 knots and a strong swell rolling in saw some extremely fruity conditions. Holt and Woelfel made no mistakes to win race 3 by a long distance from Hofmann/Brockerhoff, with Pascoe/Batchelor 3rd, only to have a much tighter race 4, finally taking the lead on the last beat for win 4. Behind them Philip Boite and Mathieu Fountaine took a very well earned second and Hunger/Kliener added another 3rd. By the end of the day Holt/Woelfel had a strong grip on the event, although in the shifty conditions anything could yet happen. Following sailing the Yacht Club de Cannes treated all the sailors to a delicious dinner in their lovely clubhouse.
An early start was called for on Sunday and the breeze was still set to fresh for the fleet, but signs of its demise were starting to show, however we got away in 12-18 knots. By this point to no big surprise Holt and Woelfel popped up at the top mark with a commanding lead to notch up a 5th win in 5 starts. Chased by fellow Americans Howie Hamlin and Jeff Nelson in second and the ever consistent, Hofmann/Brockerhoff team in third. By the finish of the race the wind was down to less than 5 knots and more racing was starting to look unlikely, however the race team knew their stuff and waited for the Easterly to return and moved the fleet back to the Eastern Bay for race 6. This time Batchelor and Pascoe took up the running to lead from start to finish, with the group behind fighting for the scraps, in among them was Holt/Woelfel, who assuming this would be the last race bailed for an early shower and to get a head start on the pack up, sailing past the committee boat to say thanks were told, wait, we will have another race…. Ah, disaster. They rejoined the race but could only finish 15th, leaving the title all to race for in race 7. By now the Easterly had built to a decent 12 knots or so and to win the event Holt/Woelfel needed a top 7 finish, would they blow it at this stage? Fast out of the block was the Hamlin/Nelson team, but close on their heels was… Holt/Woelfel. The two had a race long battle, but Hamlin and Nelson held off their Californian compatriots to take a race win, with 2nd good enough to secure the title from Hofmann and Brockerhoff who finished the race in 5th but the regatta in 2nd. Hamlin and Nelson’s last race win enough to take the last podium spot.
Everyone at the event will certainly agree that the Yacht Club and Race team did a fantastic job to pull off a 7-race series in extremely challenging conditions, with all wind strengths and directions represented! Next up in May is the Europa Cup in Riva, Italy.