Report by Luke and Emma McEwen
Yacht Club de Carnac is always a favourite venue for the British RS800 sailors on tour with its sunny white sand beaches and warm sea. Many of the British contingent started their holidays with an atmospheric sunset cruise out of Portsmouth harbour, beers in hand for a late evening of convivial chat on deck, setting the tone for the days to come. This year it was great to see a record turnout of French sailors, making up almost half the fleet, and nearly a third of the RS800s had female helms.
The first day of the championship dawned warm and windless. There was a long but pleasant wait ashore punctuated by coffees and croissants, providing a great opportunity to catch up with friends in all the RS fleets missed over the last two years. Finally the sea breeze arrived late afternoon, 8-10 knots from the SouthWest, and we hastily scrambled for the slipway. On the race course the committee and competitors coped with big swings in the wind, but by the time we came ashore at 7pm there were no big surprises in the results with UK National champions Tom Morris and Guy Filmore tied on points with the 2015 European champions Phil Walker and John Mather, scoring a 1st and 2nd each in the two races. The yacht club laid on a welcome spread of wine and nibbles for the sailors, kindly postponing it by a couple of hours because of the late evening racing.
Day two was almost a rinse and repeat in similarly light, sunny conditions. The race committee once again kept the fleets ashore until they were confident that the sea breeze had stabilised, so there was only time for two of the three scheduled races. This was perhaps a good thing for the eventual race winners who had gone large on night one, resulting in at least one of them allegedly wandering the streets of Carnac looking for their AirBnB at 3am. Waiting in the dinghy park, we were entertained by a seemingly endless parade of 850 very jolly vintage and classic cars, vans and motorbikes, including a van shaped like a beer barrel, driving along the seafront and all hooting their horns and cheering.
Out on the race course, Tom and Guy gained a two-point advantage over Phil and John thanks in part to the latter dropping the mainsheet at the last windward mark in race three to hand Tom and Guy a crucial win. Hugh Shone and Fiona Hampshire sailed brilliantly to win race four, chased by Team GBR pro sailors Steph Orton and Alex Hughes.
Saturday evening was the traditional RS800 Crews Union dinner, an opportunity for the crews to share hints and tips on how to cope with the trials and tribulations of getting the one at the back holding the stick safely around the race course. Meanwhile the helms met up at a different restaurant to talk boat bimbling and capsize technique, in a healthy mix of Franglais. The fleet converged afterwards at the Exit Bar, where the hardier sailors stayed on probably longer than they should have done, given the breezy forecast for day three and the likelihood of having four races instead of the scheduled three.
Day three lived up to the promise of the forecast, delivering perfect RS800 conditions of 15 knots, flat water and sunshine. The committee laid the course close inshore, giving the option to tack up the rocks with advantageous shifts on the right or blast out left in clear air.
Racing started pretty well on time after a couple of recalls. Hugh and Fiona led off the pin to win the first race. Tom and Guy were 2nd in that race and then banged in three more bullets to clinch their first European championship win with a day to spare. Meanwhile Luke and Emma McEwen continued their consistent run with 2nds and 3rds to pull through to second overall, happy to find some moments of good speed after changing to crew sheeting last year. They enjoyed close racing on the left side of the beats with the speedy new team of David Conlon and Ed Gibbons who were clearly revelling in the stronger breeze. Downwind was spiced up by dodging the RS700s and numerous lobster pot buoys. The leading French team of Gilles Peeters and Heloise Baize moved up the leader board with a well-deserved 2nd place in the last race. Phil and John took advantage of two of the longer gaps between races to pop back to the club for coffees.
Despite a big four-race day, we were ashore in time for baguettes and an afternoon nap before the big dinner of paella, chocolate brownies and tarte aux pommes laid on by YC de Carnac. After all that excitement, there didn’t seem to be much appetite for a tour of the bars afterwards.
The forecast for day four meant we weren’t going to be waiting for a sea breeze: drizzle turning to heavy rain, but at least there was a good 10 knots gradient wind from the south. Tom and Guy, with the championship in the bag, swapped over helm and crew. It turns out Guy is quite a handy helm despite Tom’s crew work. He was gracious enough to duck out at the finish of both races to avoid embarrassing the rest of us with what would have been a 3rd and a 5th. Phil and John sailed two great races holding Luke and Emma a place behind in each race to tie on points overall, taking 2nd on countback. Hugh and Fiona won their third bullet of the series in the last race to take 4th overall, hotly pursued by Gilles and Heloise who were 5th overall and first French team. Martin Orton and Ian Brooks took 3rd in race 9 to almost catch David and Ed for 6th overall, losing out on countback, but it was enough to clinch the all-important Orton Family Championship by one point ahead of daughter Steph and Alex in 8th. This secured Steph and Alex a ride back to Caen, as well as Steph being first female helm.
Bryan Ormond and Anna Prescott, sailing the oldest boat and without a doubt the oldest set of sails, found the accelerator pedal in the last race to finish 3rd, overtaking Guy and Tom and holding off Phil and John to the finish. This pulled them up to 11th overall to claim the mid-fleet heroes prize which was a very nice bottle from title sponsors Salcombe Gin.
Back ashore, the club laid on another delicious spread of Breton cider and croque-monsieur to help us on our way home. A slight hitch came when the protest committee declared that alcoholic prizes could not be presented at the prizegiving (apparently banned in French sport sponsorship). Our wonderful organiser Heather applied her mix of diplomacy and lateral thinking, splitting the prizegiving in two, firstly the Salcombe Gin prizes and then the YC de Carnac prizes, never to be caught together on camera. Meanwhile aerial entertainment was provided by a seagull attacking the photographer’s drone.
Our thanks go to all the volunteers at YC de Carnac who made the 2022 RS800 European championship a very enjoyable and convivial event afloat and ashore, Salcombe Gin for providing lovely bottles of their botanicals, La Boulange bakery for delicious food, Heather for all her hard work behind the scenes and all the new and older teams who made the effort to travel from all corners of France and Britain, putting the last two years behind us and getting back to the friendly, sociable but competitive racing we love. Congratulations to Tom and Guy, our new RS800 European champions.
We’re now looking forward to our Noble Marine RS800 Nationals at the RS Games 28-31 July. Info here: https://www.rssailing.com/rsgames/