International Canoe Europa Cup 2016
Pwllheli Sailing Club / Clwb Hwylio, Wales / Cymru
The Championship started on Wednesday afternoon with a good force 4. With the panoramic mountain views from the racecourse the decision was either to head out to sea for more wind at the cost of a larger swell or head inshore in search of flatter water. It was great to see so many new faces on the start line and as the wind eased slightly the racing got tighter with close battles for positions throughout the fleet.
The race management were very quick to turn around the races with minimum delays and the scheduled program was adjusted for the second day to fitin three races ahead of a strong wind forecast for the coming weekend. At the end of day two, after 4 races, Gareth Caldwell and Alistair Warren were tied for 1st place, with Robin Wood just a point behind. Then there was a 5 point gap to the main body of the fleet.
The liquid Welsh sunshine was in full flow as competitors awoke for the third day of competition. But at the top of the leader board the completion was as close as ever. With a slight change to the program race 6 was the first race sailed with race 5 being the rescheduled long distance race held shortly afterwards.
Race 6 got underway in 14 knots of wind that freshened throughout the race to make each lap slightly more challenging than the one before. The reaches provided a chance to provide surfing lessons with seats needing to be moved fore and aft in order to maintain trim and avoid any visits to some of the famous local mines. Robin Wood sailed clear ahead of the fleet, But was eventually chased down by Alistair Warren who was unable to pass before the finish.
With time travel now in full flow race 5 started shortly after the last boat had finished race 6 and the wind had decided to give everyone a little respite with helms now perched around half way along their sliding seats. Alistair Warren hit out hard left whilst Robin Wood had a shocking start to be held up in the pack. This allowed Warren to extend a very large lead and on this longer course he was able to lap a good percentage of the fleet. Robin Wood managed to catch the back of the pack but could only fight through to 5th place. Gareth Caldwell took a comfortable 2nd place ahead of Colin Brown.
Day 4 came and the weather was particularly Welsh and with strong winds forecast the race officer gave everybody a day of rest. Overall Alistair Warren's consistent top three places gives him a two point lead heading into the final day. Tied in second just two points adrift are Gareth Caldwell and Robin Wood. With the weather looking to clear on Sunday there will be a final showdown to decide the podium positions.
The final day brought much lighter conditions for those competitors who had held on beyond the previous day's storm. With the wind blowing from the North West, the beat into towards the shore was always going to have opportunities to pass. With a 10am start the race officer excelled in hosting two races without any delays, despite the challenging shifts.
Alistair Warren from Aldeburgh Yacht Club sealed overall victory with a race to spare winning race 8 by a clear margin. Robin Wood took the victory in the final race to take second place from Gareth Caldwell. Phil Robin spent the day closely matching Arne Stahl in order to say ahead of the German overall.
In the AC fleet Roger Howell was able to snatch third place from Stephen Bowen. Andy Gordon, with one race win, finished 2nd and Phil Allen, who had dominated the early part of the series using a smaller spinnaker, finished a clear leader.
With all but one of the scheduled races sailed, the event was a huge success. Many thanks go to our race officer and all the staff at Plas Heli for providing such a great week of racing.