Europa Cup 1989
Consistency, and an ability to keep his boat moving through the boat-stopping Swedish waves at Varberg from August 17th to 20th, gave Kjell Pettersson the International Canoe Europa Cup to add to his Swedish National championship title, which he won the previous week. His win, beating his main rival, Jens Reichert of Germany, was a true last-ditch affair. His last tack for the line in the final race gave him the title.
The six-race series for the 22-boat fleet was due to be held over three days, with two races a day_ The first race was led from start to finish by Ola Barthelson, with Sven-Olaf Ahlönius second, Reichert recovering well for third, and Pettersson fourth. The two British entries, Simon Allen, the new UK national champion and George Gyngell were eighth and tenth respectively. Allen attempted, and failed, a port tack start resulting in a 720 degree penalty on the first beat and Gyngell was unable to get on the pace upwind through the chop.
Reichert gave a superb display of power sailing in the second race, when the wind increased to Force 5. He had demonstrated his ability in these conditions the previous week at UK nationals at Loch Lomond, by winning the open title. Pettersson was second, with Jens Österlund third. Allen was ninth, after trouble with his centreboard constantly unhinging from its pivot pin. Gyngell was tenth again.
Day two of the programme was blown off for the Canoes with a stiff Force 6 blowing and big seas running. The OK fleet, who were holding their nationals at the same time, did go out. The decision to postpone the Canoe programme was vindicated when some of the world's top OK sailors retired, saying the waves were impossible.
ln order to keep on schedule, it was decided to hold three races on the third day. This was achieved at the expense of some sore bums (the most vulnerable part of a Canoe sailor's body} and bursting bladders for those in rear-entry one piece dry suits, the competitors having spent nearly nine hours on the water.
The third race was about F3 at the start, with big waves left over from the previous day's breeze, which made upwind conditions especially quite tricky. The race brought Pettersson's only win, with Österlund second, Ahlönius third and Reichert 4th. British fortunes perked up a bit with Allen fifth (having been third for much of the race) and Gyngell eighth.
Reichert, who had won the Europa up in Germany last year, was determined to repeat his success and won the 4th race, beating Pettersson into second place, to hold a 0.3 point advantage going into the last race. Ahlönius was consistent again and looking for third place overall. Allen was getting used to the waves, which had died down a bit, and was fourth.
The climax to the Europa cup was held in brilliant sunshine with the breeze dropping to Force 3 or less. The two contenders did not cover each other, with Reichert going right initially and Pettersson heading left. At the first mark, however, it was Barthelson first, with Allen second, Reichert 3rd and Pettersson fourth. These positions held until the final beat when Pettersson tacked early for the line and was able to squeeze up underneath Reichert to clinch the trophy. This highlighted a feature of the week, Pettersson and Barthelson were able to point very high and make headway over the difficult chop, while Reichert sailed remarkably fast and free, but covered a lot of ground.
Pettersson had the flattest sails at the championship and left a number of people wondering how he generated any drive out of them at all let alone win. Reichert had much fuller sails which were German copies of those he bought with the boat from former world champion, Max Tollquist.
Next year, the International Canoe world championship will be on flat water at Steinhuder-Meer in Germany, and it will be interesting to see if the Swedes are still on the pace, whether the fast expanding German team has more than one star, and whether the British fleet will once more be competitive.