IC Europa Cup and UK Nationals 1998
Lester Noble ultimately swept the board in a close fought regatta at Weymouth SC on July 26-30. Of the 43 competitors from Sweden, Germany, Wales, Ireland and England taking part in the International Canoe Europa Cup and British open championship, Ola Barthelson Swedish national champion, suffered the greatest blow from a malignant fate. Fifty yards from crossing the line to win the European title, gear failure brought him to a sudden stop. He limped home in sixth place, which could only bring him the silver medal.
In six days the northerly winds provide everything from a light zephyr to a testing Force 6 with gusts to 30 knots and more. All the nine races for the Europa Cup and the six for the British championship ran in accordance with the race programme, which confirmed the competitors' belief that Portland Harbour provides some of the finest sailing water for small sailboats in the British Isles.
The competition began with one race on Sunday in a gentle breeze. Noble led Mark Goodchild and Chris Haworth over the line with Anders Peterson, the first over seas competitor, in fourth place.
Two races on the following day were sailed in light conditions and once again Noble dominated the proceedings but Barthelson began to show his championship form, taking two second places to Noble’s victories.
Tuesday proved to be the last light weather day and the one race scheduled was sailed in very shifty conditions. Noble was again to the fore taking the win easily, followed by Haworth and Goodchild. Barthelson could manage no better than sixth place.
Wednesday produced a dramatic change as a front moved in, giving Force 5 in the morning with promise of stronger wind later on. Barthelson soon showed his mastery, travelling fast and pointing high on the windward legs, displaying the ability he had shown under these conditions at the worlds in Australia. Despite the forecast, the wind moderated in the afternoon and Haworth won with Barthelson second, followed by Goodchild and Noble.
These six races (with one discard) decided the British championship. Noble was the clear winner with four firsts and a second place.
On Thursday there was a clear blue sky for the first time, with the wind up to Force 5 and gusting. Barthelson revelled in these conditions and was never challenged. Noble sailed steadily into third place ahead of Simon Allen and Haworth. By afternoon, with the sky still clear and bright sunshine, the wind was up to Force 6 with gusts of 30 knots and more. Again Barthelson raced away. Noble retired, leaving Goodchild and Allen to second and third places.
On Friday, with the wind moderated to Force 3-4, the stage was set for the European title to be disputed between Noble and Barthelson. It was not to be. While Noble struggled with a faulty kicker, Barthelson went ahead and 50 yards from the finish, when the title appeared to be in the bag, his sliding seat gear failed, precipitating a capsize. He dropped back to sixth place, Noble retired, but allowing for discards he had accumulated enough points to add the European to his British title.