Report by Luke McEwen
Lake Garda delivered its best for the final day of the RS800 European Championships, with sunshine and a good Ora breeze for plenty of twin-wire action. With two races left in the series and only seven points separating the top four boats, the podium places were still very much up for grabs and there were many more battles being fought throughout the 30-boat fleet. It was destined to be the hottest day of the regatta both for weather and racing action.
Every day the race team from Circolo Vela Torbole laid our course in a slightly different place on the lake, taking advantage of the GPS-controlled marks to keep the tacticians on their toes. This time the leeward marks were almost on the North shore of the lake, where many of the windsurfers play. The lake narrows from this point Southwards, concentrating the wind along the Western cliffs but a wind bend on the East side meant it was not obvious which way to go.
Reigning champions Tom Morris and Guy Fillmore, with a narrow two-point lead, hit the right hand side hard off the first start to lead the race to the finish, chased hard by Chris Feibusch and Cam Mitchell in their best race of the series, who were eventually overhauled by Phil Walker and John Mather, with James Penty and Eddie Grayson taking a well-deserved fourth. Tom and Guy’s win meant they clinched the championship with a race to spare.
Meanwhile the battle for third overall was heating up with Luke and Emma McEwen taking a spin after their spinnaker touched Maria Stanley and Tommy Darling during the gybe-hoist. Maria and Tommy sportingly rinsed their mast at the leeward gate to let Luke and Emma catch up for a photo finish.
The final race got even more exciting when the wind shifted hard left just after the four-minute gun. Some optimistic attempts to cross the fleet on port resulted in a big pile-up at the pin end – after several previous port-flyers by Ralph and Ollie Singleton, the fleet was well used to shutting that gap on starboard. The more prudent port-tackers ducked a few transoms to find a clean lane out to the cliffs on the right side, Phil and John showing the way with Tom and Guy on their hip, while Luke and Emma won the pin on starboard but with an extra tack to get back onto port came in third at the windward mark to secure their place on the podium. Phil and John sailed brilliantly to claim their third race win and close the gap to two points between gold and silver.
As we planed back to Torbole, overtaking windsurfers and wing foilers, we reflected on a great week: top competition, many friendships made and renewed, six nations represented (Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Great Britain, Italy and Switzerland), excellent race management and of course lots of pizza, prosecco and gelato. The usual pre-regatta worries of “will Garda deliver” and dodgy forecasts were forgotten in almost wall-to-wall sunshine, other than the biblical storm on Tuesday night during the Crews’ Union dinner. Even those Brits who came out unlucky with fines from the French customs officials at the Channel Tunnel were smiling by the end of the week (hopefully they can get their money back too).
Phil and John deserve a medal for seamanship as their windward shroud pin fell out on the beat and they somehow managed to get it back in, without losing second place in the race, let alone breaking the mast which is the usual outcome from such a mishap. Hero of the week is surely Jean Schweizer who cool-headedly rescued crew Josiane when she got stuck under their capsized boat. And class co-chairm Tom Morris (“El Presidente” in Italian) not only showed us the way round on the water but also ran a popular daily de-briefing to answer everyone’s questions on how to make an RS800 go fast, as well as buying a beer for anyone whose GPS top speed beat his own each day (not many as it turned out!).
The team at Circolo Vela Torbole were great hosts, laying on pasta or an apero after racing most days. Jessica in the office and Giovanni on the waterfront were always helpful. We’re all looking forward to returning to Garda in 2025 after next year’s European Championships in France, which also promises to be a great event.
Credit: Mozzy Sails Video | Thanks to: Circolo Vela Torbole for hosting us Emilio Sabtinelli for great event photography Eddie Grayson for narration Ben Palmer for camera mounts