Section 16 and Cape Crow Vikings on a charge as racing gets underway off Medemblik
After the light winds of Pisa last month, event two of the M32 European Series in Medemblik, Holland seems to be lining up great conditions. Today’s opening day saw sun and a variable wind shifting through 40-50° and 8 to 15 knots over the afternoon, but still allowing six good races to be held, on the flat water for which the Ijsselmeer, Netherland’s inland sea is famous. But particularly welcome was that in the six races, there were four different winners from the seven boat fleet and at the end of day one there is a tie for the lead with just two points separating the top four.
Three new teams have joined this event with two local, Good Vibes led by Finn veteran PJ Postma and Harold Vermeulen’s LeeLoo team, which comes from a MAT 1180 keelboat. However the most surprising performance came from the young team of New Zealand match racers, Knots Racing Team, skippered by Nick Egnot-Johnson, that won a start and finished second only to GAC Pindar race four.
In addition to the pro teams of Ian Williams’ GAC Pindar and the Xavier Revil-skippered Spindrift racing, falling into the ‘much improved’ category, or possibly just enjoying the brisker conditions compared to Pisa, were Zurich-based Brit Richard Davies on Section 16 and Aston Harald boss Håkan Svensson, racing Valhalla Cape Crow Vikings.
Section 16 won the final day in Pisa and today, with her international mix of British, Swiss-American, French, Russian and Austrian crew, was fastest out of the blocks, claiming race one and then finishing off the podium in only the final race –impressive consistency given the tricky conditions. Section 16 ended the day tied on points with GAC Pindar, but second overall on countback.
According to Richard Davies much of their race one win came out of the start: “We were able to lead the rest of the boats back to the start line, really work on the position we wanted, pull the trigger at the right moment and hit the fast angle to the reaching mark.”
In race three they were fortunate because they and two other boats were called OCS, but by leaving their gybe late on the first downwind leg they had been able to recover.
However doing a still better job in this race were the Valhalla Cape Crow Vikings. They too were called OCS, yet went on to win the race, a feat the Swedish team repeated in race five. Considering they only made it to the podium of one event last year, they seem to have upped their game. In race three Svensson’s Aston Harald works team – that includes top Swedish match racer Nicklas Dackhammar – positioned themselves so well on the first run and subsequently beat that they had taken the lead, going from last to first, by the top mark.
In race five Svensson admitted they had got a little lucky, picking the right side for a significant wind shift. This left them overstood going into the top mark and cracked off had been to make 16-17 knots.
“It was definitely one of the best days of racing I’ve done – it was good fun,” said Svensson. As to why, he said: “The communication on board was brilliant. The boys are good at guiding me. I trust their knowledge and guidance and when I feel comfortable I steer well. Especially speed-wise, we were very good today.”
Winner of today’s second race was the Franco-Swiss pro team, Spindrift racing on which French Tornado Olympian Xavier Revil is standing in for Yann Guichard as helm. Revil is no stranger to Medemblik having competed here countless time when he was campaigning a Tornado and since then on his A-Class catamaran. Today, he explained, was all about joining up the gusts. “It was good fun, but difficult because the wind was really shifty because it was coming from the coast. There are only two points between the top four boats, so it’ll be like a new start tomorrow and we’ll have a good fight on the water.”
Leading at the end of the day one, albeit tied on points, is GAC Pindar. But despite having won the M32 European Series last year, plus the first two events this season, skipper Ian Williams maintains that this was not a forgone conclusion.
“We have a new team here – Pete Nicholas has been with us forever, but Will [Alloway] has only done one event with us before and Rory [Hunter] is new and didn’t get much practice in. It was a big learning day for us, so really I pleased to get through it without too many shockers and to still be in contention. We’ll have a chat tonight to improve things for tomorrow.”
Williams observed that a significant difference between the teams racing here in the former Dutch Olympic sailing capital is that the ‘pro’ teams, such as GAC Pindar and Spindrift racing, are sailing with four, whereas most of the rest are five up. “In light air, not only do we have pro helms, but we have a weight advantage. Whereas today I would say we had a speed disadvantage against the five person teams – that was noticeable especially on the first reach.”
Tomorrow the forecast is for a similar wind strength to day only it should be blowing from the opposite direction – the east. Racing is due to start an hour earlier at 1300 CET.