Hellecat summer regatta back on!
Once again, the Dutch Hellecat club were their usual happy and friendly selves as they hosted the July A-Cat open meeting. This international affair featured sailors from Holland, Germany, Belgium, Wales, England and Scotland. Attendance was reduced a little as a few of the usual Dutch luminaries were absent as one of their number was getting married, and Thijs Visser's new bride seemed strangely reluctant to hold their wedding reception in an old sand filled hut on the beach surrounded by catamarans and smelly neoprene. We all wish them well though!.
The forecast started to look scary earlier in the week, as some reported 31kt winds and continuous rain. However, although the winds were somewhat high, they were at least for the more 'fearless' sailors, sailable in the end for at least one day. The Friday was just for practice and setup, so various sailors ventured out to try the conditions. All returned safe, but with tales of horror and recanting stories of massive gusts and wind-shifts together with rather large waves.
The Race officer and her crew proposed that 4 races were held on Saturday, in case the Sunday proved unsailable. After about an hours postponement, in order to let the cold front clear away, the boats were released from the beach to sail the 2 km or so to the start area. Both Classic and Open fleets were to start together as numbers were suitable for a safe start. On the way down, Hugh MacGregor's new replacement rudder were playing up badly. He was unfortunately forced into this change after an alarming crack appeared in one of his usual ones a week earlier. This left him with little choice to use the new ones. But as ever with these things, the conditions were unsuitable for him to get the setup correct, so he returned back to shore. Then at the 4 min gun, Gordon Upton's sail detached itself from the lower mast track during a sharp gybe, leaving him with no option to sail back to the beach in 1st gear too. But for all the others, the show went on and at the gun, they all blasted off on their 2km upwind leg in winds of 19-24 knots, with the odd puff over 26. At the top, the one remaining GBR sailor rammed his tiller extension into the mark buoy breaking it into 3 parts, so he came back too, along with Wim Deca and Thorsten Lorenz both for whom decided discretion was the better part of valor and wanted to return with intact boats. David Van Aart proved the master of that race's conditions, beating Rutger Krijger and Gert-Jan Kos in the open fleet. In the classics, the two remaining boats, both Belgians, battled out, with Francois Lambotte just beating Walter Gomez. Hellecat run a 3 lap for Open and 2 lap for Classic system. This works very well, especially in the higher winds as most finished within a few minutes of each other and allowed the PRO to turn around the races faster, something that is most appreciated by the sailors in these full on conditions.
Race 2 started in similar winds, although some of the higher gusts had abated as the unstable air following in the wake of the cold front was starting to settle a bit. This time Rutger finished first, his blistering upwind foiling speed made him outpace the others. In the Classics, Water swapped places to get the bullet there.
Race 3 saw two of the GBR boats rejoin the frey. Owen had swapped the tiller end to his spare, and Gordon was forced out by Hugh telling him that the smoother clouds fortold a steadying of the winds, and had lashed his sail foot onto the mast. Fortunately for them, the PRO had been forced to delay a bit after a significant shift arrived and the top mark needed moving. All got away cleanly, and quickly got into the high wind uphill mode that makes these boats such an addictive thing to sail. The waves and gusts had become manageable, so you could switch out of that full on survival mode a little now. At the front of the open fleet, Rutger battled with Gert-Jan, who's downhill speed saw him outpace Rutger in that race that wend right down to the line. Lower down their fleet, the 3 remaining GER sailors, Jorn Knop, Manfred Syrowy and Alex Zylka battled each other and swapped positions all day. On the Classics, Owen's return proved fatal for the others as he powered his way around the course, leaving Walter in his wake and Francois and Gordon swapping places several times, with the Belgian getting that last podium slot.
Race 4 saw Rutger get the bullet from Gert-Jan, closely followed by David. The Classics was Owen over Walter again, and Francois just beating Gord by 10m after a close downwind tactical battle.
All returned ashore exhausted but happy to have raced and beaten the conditions. A great, seemingly never-ending BBQ was laid on in the evening with the Brits winning by being last out of the bar.
Sunday proved to be too windy, 28kts+ for most of the day, so the event ended. May thanks to the Hellecat club for their hospitality and helpfulness and for proving yet again that clubs and races should always be run by women....