(Hamble, England)- This year’s J/70 European Championship, hosted by the Royal Southern Yacht Club, promised a feast of big-breeze racing for forty-two teams from eleven countries. After nine scintillating races on the Hill Head Plateau, Central Solent, the J/70 European Championship saw a rare “two-peat” unfold before their collective eyes. Claudia Rossi’s Italian team, racing PETITE TERRIBLE, retained her title in a thrilling final day of high-speed action in the Central Solent; her all Italian crew included Michele Paoletti, Matteo Mason, Simone Spangaro, and Verena Weber.
In a field boasting Olympic Medallists and numerous World Champions from other classes, one third of the teams had mixed or full women teams and both the Open and Corinthian European Champions featured women at the helm- the Corinthian Champion skipper on the RTYC Academy team was Fiona Hampshire. Notably, there were THREE women skippers in the top ten, including top Russian women keelboat skipper- Valerya Kovalenko; her crew managed tenth overall on RUS 1 ARTTUBE. Here is how the thrilling racing on the Solent unfolded over the course of four days.
Day 1- Blown Out!
The weather won the first battle on the opening day of the Europeans! The RSYC Principal Race Officer, Stuart Childerley, and his Race Committee team, braved the conditions to monitor the situation on the racecourse and relayed their updates to competitors ashore, using a closed user group via cell phone. However at 13:30 BST, they called off racing for the day since it was gusting up to 40 kts at times!
Day 2- Baptism By Fire!
The weather conditions did not change much for the second day of racing. It started windy and just got windier. Two races were completed, but only just. While the first race was conducted in a lively 18 knots of westerly wind. By the second race, the wind had veered northwest and strengthened to survival conditions of 25 knots, and at times gusts of 30 kts. PRO Stu Childerley, again, wisely stopped the action after a brutal last race, which had plenty of competitors spinning out downwind, with a few spectacular broaches, and plenty of shredded nylon blowing across the race course. Despite the physically demanding conditions, it was a women helm at the top of the leaderboard. Claudia Rossi’s PETITE TERRIBLE posted a 1-2, while in second place was the Spanish J/70 NOTICIA, skippered by José María Torcida (a past two-time J/80 World Champion) that posted 3-1, then Martin Dent’s British team racing JELVIS 7 posted 4-4 to claim third at the end of the day’s racing.
Watch this ballistic video action from Day Two of the J/70 European Championship (VRSport.tv)
“It was an exciting day, very fast conditions and I love to drive the boat when it is like this,” smiled Claudia Rossi. “We have only completed two races, so it is early in the regatta, but we had two good races, so it was a good day for us. Our tactician made some good calls today.” She was referring to Olympic Finn Medallist and TP52 tactician- Michele Paoletti.
In the Corinthian Class, Tim Gratton’s Royal Thames YC Academy Team with woman skipper Fiona Hampshire guiding them around the course, led from Patrick Liardet’s COSMIC. The 2015 Corinthian J/70 World Champion, Simon Ling’s SPITFIRE, scored well in the first race but spun out and destroyed their spinnaker in the second race, to end the day third in the Corinthian Class. “I know it sounds cheesy but that was full-on today,” commented Simon Ling. “I have raced J/70s since they first came out and that was a first; we blew out both kites. We dug out an old kite and got it measured, so SPITFIRE will be back fighting tomorrow!!”
Day 3- Spanish Conquistadores Take Lead!
After four races on day three, there were aching limbs and bloodshot eyes among the sailors, but plenty of smiling faces after another fantastic day on the water. José María Torcida’s Spanish NOTICIA team cracked the Italian defense, with a 1-2-1-2 tally, taking the lead in the championship by a single point, from current J/70 European Champion, Rossi’s Petite Terrible.
Peter Duncan’s American RELATIVE OBSCURITY team, including past Etchells World Champion Jud Smith, scored three keepers with their 3-1-23-4 tallies to move into third. Martin Dent’s British team, including past J/80 World Champion Ruairidh Scott, had the same points as the Americans, but placed fourth on countback.
“Pichu” Torcida and his Spanish NOTICIA team are new to the J/70 Class. However, Torcida has won the J/80 World Championship on two occasions. “Balance is so important, in any wind strength, but especially in surfing conditions,” explained Torcida. “You need to get all of the crew to the back and then you will fly faster, and when you need to change direction, you will have more control. My team are from all over Spain, from the Canary Islands to the very North, and I am not the only world champion on the boat: Rayco (Tabares) has won the J/80 World Championship three times, including the last two years!!” Indeed, a very, very talented and competitive crew!
With the wind initially from the southwest, PRO Stuart Childerley positioned the racetrack further to the east, with a top mark in the vicinity of Osbourne Bay, giving the J/70 fleet some relief from the easterly going tide and the 20 knots plus of wind. The tide turned later in the morning, as did the wind. Giving the opportunity to move back to the preferred Hill Head Plateau – Brambles Bank runway. With a slight moderation in wind speed, the penultimate day of the J/70 European Championship was a more tactical affair, and after close to five hours on the racecourse, stamina and tenacity were also keys to success.
One of the day’s top performers was past Etchells 22 European Champion, Jeremy Thorp, racing the J/70 PHAN. “Starts are always important, but especially, in big one design fleets. If you manage to just get your bow ahead, and hold your lane, you can break out of the pack into the leading boats and clear air. If you don’t, you don’t start well, you have to tack away and take so many sterns that you end up over 100 metres behind. In this fleet, you can never expect to make that back. We are a new team to the class and it is exciting to be racing at such high speeds. On the helm, I find concentration to be the biggest challenge, I have quite a young crew, they put in the huge physical effort.”
In the Corinthian Class, the Royal Thames YC Academy Team, helmed by Fiona Hampshire continued to impress. However, after two top-ten finishes, Jack Davies Team YETI, from the Isle of Wight, closed the gap on the Corinthian Class leaders. Simon Ling’s Team SPITFIRE remained in third.
Day 4- Epic Finale
The last day of racing was full of drama; PETITE TERRIBLE won the first race, putting pressure on overnight leader, NOTICIA. The Spanish team fought back in the penultimate race, to get ahead of PETITE TERRIBLE at the crucial first top mark, only to see their spinnaker explode in a gybe. NOTICIA quickly hoisted their second kite, but in a high caliber fleet, they could not recover. PETITE TERRIBLE held their nerve in the last race to win the J/70 Open European Championship for the second year running.
As the Italian team went up to collect their award, a huge cheer went up from the J/70 crowd. “I want to say ‘Thank You’ to everyone, the standard of the competition and the regatta was very high,” smiled Claudia Rossi. “I also want to say ‘Thank You’ to my team, without them I could not have done this.”
Torcida’s World Championship caliber Spanish team on NOTICIA was second. Peter Duncan’s American team on RELATIVE OBSCURITY scored an impressive 2-1-1 to snatch third place, just two pts back from the Spanish crew. The top British boat was the Maltese/British alliance of Calascione & Ripard on CALYPSO, finishing the regatta in fourth place.