The long awaited main event this year was finally there, 28 boats registered, 5 coming from Germany and another 5 from France. Also a strong Dutch field including a big fraction from Drimmelen, as well as from around the Braassem and of course the Student teams were registered.
The weather prediction was relatively cold, but well sailable with a light breeze from west/southwest increasing and decreasing – making the competition together with the current an interesting tactical game…
Audrey was studying the tides for our Jabbadabbadoo, Clive added his experience from sailing days around the Solent, I was the logistic and admin responsible and Stan was actually just organising the complete Europeans.
Our goal was set to play in the first third, with the occasional visit to the top ten and maybe top five in this superb field of the best J22 of Europe. So after the nice but long sail through the Zierickzee canal under the huge turbulent bridge to the racing area the first start was a bit sobering – we started more or less second row. There is a difference between 15 boats and 28 at the start (which we almost forgot in the last two years).
We worked and found some speed in the upwind legs managing a 11th place to start the series. Not exactly where we wanted to be, but acceptable. The second race went similar, with a slight worse start and some misjudgements on the good side of the course, so that we ended up 14th seeing the leaders Banarama, Jazzy, Jamsession, Kantoorbutler and Gap only from the far.
We almost missed the preparation signal for the next, thinking we had a slight break and were head over heels falling in the starting sequence of the third race; apparently that was not too bad for us, because we found our start and the speed crossing back after a couple of minutes most of the field on port. Woohoo what a feeling rounding the upwind buoy as part of the top five. Now our new purple spinnaker lily felt like the Whomper we named it after! The tides where correctly predicted and we started understanding the wind – giving us the third place on the finish.
Feeling this high we hungered for more, recklessly giving everything in spot-on manoeuvres and managed to cross the 4th race as first over the finish, what a feeling: Jabbadabbadoo!
The racing instructions allowed a fifth race and we were on a run, this race was dedicated to a fight on the last leg with Jazzy, millimetre trimm work and tacks gave us the 2nd place only leaving us behind Bananrama, who won deserved on incredible speed.
But back on shore we learned that the second place was scored as OCS, frustrated and devastated we saw the third place overall turning into a seventh. With sailing, being super happy and deeply frustrated are often just instances away… but some Champaign in the B&B and a dinner with all the class lifted the spirits (but not necessarily our tiredness 😉
The second day promised stronger winds and we wanted to fight back. However, first it stayed by the wish of the fighting as our start was mediocre and we could not gain enough speed seeing 14 boats finishing in front of us. But we had seen the influence of the tide and the favourite side of the course giving us an advantage in the second race. There after a clear start we were fighting in front of the fleet for a place in the top 3. Indeed a second place it was – appreciated with a great Jabbadabbadoo at the finish line and reinforced confidence.
It was not completely our day – like an elevator on random course we ended the third race 25th. At least it was due to our own fault as we had to do a 360 after a bit too close encounter with the mark: The field by now was very close together, so we found out that it is costly to do some honour rounds.
The conclusion of the day was a fourth place showing that we can be where we want to be, just not consistently – or that someone was pressing our elevator button in the right direction again.
In the harbour as a very nice surprise was Stan’s family welcoming us and sharing the stijger-beer together with the complete J22 class: Having 28 boats during the competition made the beer an excellent social event giving the opportunity to laugh about today’s encounters, brag about wind and tides and in general just having an awesome time a lot of other classes were jealous of.
It felt a bit a weird starting the third day with the last two races after such an elevator day. On one hand we knew we can, but on the other hand we exactly also knew too often we just don’t.
Anyway, we wanted to show that the good places where no accidents – so we trimmed in the hour before the race like mad, adjusted the rig (the wind prediction was medium wind, but in the hour before the race we had everything from wind still to strong gusts). And we found the right setting concluding a great wonderful European Championship with a 3rd and a 4th place ranking in the end result on place 7.
Despite some downs in the more ups in this regatta we enjoyed the sailing in a big fleet (yes even the starting!) and the chatting with so many nice people and crews. It was an event to be remembered being crowned on this last day with beautiful sunshine during the ceremony where we even got the price for the winner of the day.
Congratulations to the teams that achieved a top ranking. It was also a pleasure to see so many new crews sailing with enthusiasm that reminded us of our own fight up the tail of the fleet. All boats realised that competing in a large fleet is more fun, but the fun of competing is just as intense and rewarding in the top as it is in the tail of the fleet.
Thanks to all making this possible and a big thank you for Anna Schakel who provided some great pictures of the Europeans.