Spanish Teams Leading, English & French Fill Top Ten
(Dartmouth, England)- It was a tough first day of racing for the 76 boats sailing the J/80 Worlds in Dartmouth, England. The day started ashore with a postponement. Then breeze built in from the south light air and rainy. Just one race for the fleet doing a double windward-leeward. As a result, many of the top contenders were all over the map, some finishing mid-fleet. The podium was Frenchman Patrick Bot 1st, Englishman Robert Larke 2nd and Spaniard Javier Aguado 3rd. French were 5 of top 15, showing their hard-work this spring has been paying off. English were 8 of top 15 and Spanish were 2 of top 15, the latter was a surprise to many sailing.
Racing commenced in Dartmouth on Tuesday. The World Championship is being co-hosted by the Britannia Yacht Club and the Royal Dart Yacht Club. Principal Race Officer Mike Pearson held the crews of the seventy six competing teams ashore for a postponement of just over two hours in order to wait for the breeze to fill in and settle. Light airs meant that only one race of the three scheduled for today was raced but the fleet returned to the Regatta Centre happy to have completed the first race of the eleven scheduled for the World Championship series.
Out in the race area in Start Bay the breeze eventually filled in to a very tricky four to six knots from 180 to 190 degrees and a windward-leeward course was set. Keen to get going, competitors pushed the line on the first start resulting in a general recall and the PRO immediately deployed the black flag and at the next start all boats got away cleanly. Crews from nine nations are racing in Dartmouth and today it was Frenchman Patrick Bot sailing Ecole Navale CG29 who took the win in Race 1.
Patrick explained I had a good start, not perfect, but I arrived at the first windward mark in eighth place having sailed the left hand side of the beat. We then just worked our way through the fleet. The gate at the bottom on the leeward leg was important: I took the left hand mark and it paid. The boats around us on the race course are all evenly matched in terms of boat-speed.
Rob Larke of Great Britain took second place in Race 1. He said We also chose the left hand side of the beat but it was hard to call. Our boat speed and were happy with our second place today.
All in all it was a good day on the water for British teams with five GBR sail numbers in the top ten at the end of day one. Four races are scheduled for Wednesday 13th June and all the competitors are hoping for a little more breeze to add to the excitement.
On the second day of sailing, clearly the sun was shining brightly on the Spanish Teams. Dartmouth was blessed with blue skies, sunshine and just a little more breeze on Wednesday for the second day of racing. Four races were sailed in 6 to 9 knots of breeze oscillating through the day between 095 and 135 degrees. As the crews came ashore after racing it was clear that the fleet were delighted to have enjoyed really tight racing and top flight competition albeit the days sport had been both physically and mentally challenging. The overnight leader of the regatta is Jose Maria Van der Ploeg from Spain and his crew on board NILFISK, a result of this crews consistency across the regatta series so far, never scoring a result outside of the top 10 boats in the fleet of 76.
The first race of the day (Race Two of the series) was won by Laurent Sambron of France racing EJP 10 with the young crew of Henry Bomby on Team Baltic who are all from Dartmouth in second place. Simon Ling and Ian Southworth took third in RAF Benevolent Fund Team Spitfire. Eric Brezellec from France won Race Three in Interface Concept 1 and his friend Maxime Rousseaux won Race Four in his J/80 called CN St Cast Grand-Ouest Etiquette. The final race of the day (Race Five) belonged to Javier Aguados team on board CROCS, a win that puts him second in the overnight rankings.
The two top boats in the fleet going into Day Three on Thursday are both Spanish teams. Speaking to Jose Maria Van der Ploeg, skipper of NILFISK after racing he said We are very satisfied to be leading but it was hard on the water today. We are not used to sailing with this much current and we found it very difficult. We have tried not to take too many risks but we were very close to being over the start-line in Race Four and that would have meant a Black Flag disqualification for us. Van der Ploegs son Junior is just twelve years old and is a crucial part of this talented race-crew. He explained that today the crew work and boat handling was good on board NILFISK but that the J/80s racing in Dartmouth are all very evenly matched in terms of speed across the water.
Javier Aguado helmsman and skipper of CROCS are in second place overall and he said The racing was close and exciting although the light airs and strong current are not what we are used to and it has made judging the start-line very difficult. We were over cautious in Race Two and found ourselves late when the start signal sounded but we were tactically strong for the next three races and I am pleased to be in second place overall.
The top placed British boat is Kevin Sprouls J.A.T. and this crew currently sits in third place on the leader-board. Sproul is a formidable sailor and is well known in racing circles for his dry humor. I was feeling close to suicidal when I came ashore he joked. It was so hard out there with 76 boats on the race-track and I really felt that I could have sailed better. I suspect that I may have been just a little hard on my crew today but when we came off the water and I saw our points score and our position in the rankings I have to say I felt a lot better. My crew definitely deserve a beer or two on me tonight.
The next two days of racing promise more wind, more weather and, most certainly, much tougher racing as the top teams from Spain, UK, France and Germany fight it out for the podium and top ten. Sailing photo credits- Tim Wright- http://www.photoaction.com For more J/80 Worlds sailing information