by Tom Phipps
At the start of June the town of Cavalaire-sur-Mer in the south of France hosted the 2019 Dart 18 European championships. As ever the draw of some warm Mediterranean weather pulled in dart sailors from all over Europe to compete in the 4 day event. It’s always a little nerve wracking showing up in the boat park a few days before racing, in fleet that you haven’t sailed as part of for a while, but as ever the dart family, welcome and friendly made us feel so at home.
I was racing this time with my sister (KP), for those of you that don’t know Katy, normally her rules for boating include – vessel must have patio doors and a well-stocked drinks cabinet. However on this occasion, and through a lot of parent manipulation she was convinced to join me on the Dart.
We like many other arrived a couple of days early into France, and thanks to the brilliant logistics service provided by the class, had a day to get our bearings and settle in before the lorry with all the boats arrived. Katy and I took the opportunity to have a quick tour up the coast and sample some of the French riviera’s finer things, have to say, I’m not sure I am cut for it!
On Tuesday morning the lorry arrived from the UK, massive thanks to the organisation and time Mike Gomme spent making that happen. It really is a treat to be able to fly in to a venue, have your boat delivered and not need to worry about all the logistics involved. Plus Andy the lorry driver is a complete legend and now definitely a full member of the dart family. We began rigging, I spent a lot of time telling KP where each bit went and what it did, I’m 100% sure she immediately forgot it, but we at least tried. Halfway through rigging KP decided mojitos were a far better idea (a decision which she might later regret), and with a looming mistral wind coming through we, like many other teams decided to leave the mast down and retreat to the bar for some afternoon refreshments.
Wednesday was the first day of racing, and having not quite finished rigging the day before, KP and I were down in the boat park early to get the mast up and make all the final adjustments before racing. I enjoy the boat park in the morning, everyone exchanging ideas on set-up, the weather forecast and of course debriefing the previous evenings antics! Finally we made it to the water where we met some really challenging conditions, huge shifts and very variable pressure meant laying a fair course was incredibly hard for the committee. That said they did a good job under the circumstances and eventually got a race away – little did we know that was going to be a bit of theme over the week!
Because of the changeable conditions, I knew it would be very easy to have a bit of a shocker by getting stuck on the wrong side of the course, so we decided to play things a little safe and stay quite conservative in our decisions. That combined with some great boat speed meant we were able to work forward from a solid position, rounding the first mark in about 12th we were able to pick off a few each leg and eventually cross the line behind Dave and Louise in 2nd. A solid start. As the wind continued to die away the committee send us in for the day.
Like most international dart events, during the first evening of racing we have Nations Night, this is a great opportunity for all of the dart family to share some of their home comforts with the rest of the fleet. It is always an eclectic mix and this year I sampled everything form, English Yorkshire pudding to some of the most potent Swiss liquor (still not sure what it was, but I am sure that it’s not for me), And amongst many other delicious local delicacies washed it all down with a good old Italian bruschetta. The evening is another great opportunity to break away from your normal bubble of friends and meet a few new people.
Day 2 of racing provided a much more promising forecast, once again following all the morning boat park chats and banter we were back on the water. With a slightly more stable breeze the committee got in 3 great races, still huge gains and losses over course meant a safe strategy was probably best. We continued to start well, round the first mark in a solid position and then work our way forward from there. KP did an incredible job over the day, only tangling herself up a few times. It was a day when things were never over so we kept sailing as hard as we could right until the end of the race. Over the races we scored a 3, 2, 5, and for a day like that we returned the beach relieved more than anything. Following a long day on the water, KP and I were very happy to have a bit more of a quiet evening and try to catch up on a bit of the missing sleep from the past couple evenings.
Friday, the penultimate day of racing. With a forecast of more of the same it felt a little like ground hog day. Very light, very variable winds made it really hard for the committee to get any kind of race in. As it happened we did manage to just about get one in, but it was one of the longest slowest races of my life. As the wind eased more and more, the differences on the race course became increasingly important, after a bit of a shocker up the first beat KP and I sailed as cleanly as we could and eventually finished in 11th (I think). It was one of those races where literally anything could have happened on the first beat, and sadly after that it became a bit of precession. Until this point in the regatta, KP’s positions on the boat had been fairly consistent, by the mast upwind and over to leeward down wind, but when I asked her to lay on the leeward hull upwind during the race, not only was she a little confused but also we knew that it must have been super light! As the fleet coasted across the finish line, the committee had no option but to send us back to the beach. Sadly without the Seabreeze establishing, the wind never filled back in and so that was racing for the day. Fortunately despite not having our best race, the boats around us in the result also had a bad one and so we finished the final day with a 2 point lead over Dave and Louise, and a few more points back to Rob and Fi.
Friday night was big Dart meal, I hadn’t realised the effect French rosé (probably too much) and cheesy music has on Dart sailors. But I do know it’s a lot of fun. Too many dance moves and a little karaoke later and I was shattered. That night we retired to the camp site very late and very ready for bed.
And suddenly it was the final day. With and earlier start planned and a time limit before we needed to be back off the water, the race committee were keen for us to be ready. We launched into very light winds, but with a building forecast it was important for the fleet to be there as and when it did come in. After a little waiting around, suddenly the orange flag was up, another good start KP and I were struggling a little for speed on the first leg. We rounded the windward mark a lot further back than we would have liked, and could see Dave and Louise doing a brilliant job out towards the front. We were going to have to work for this, KP did brilliantly, we kept our heads down and kept picking off one boat at a time, slowly making our way back up the fleet. Only issue was Dave and Louise were also doing the same in front of us! I think at the final windward mark Dave and Louise were leading and we were back in 9/10th. After an amazing effort by KP, we flew down the last run, gybing inside a group of boats and managed to just get the jump on them. My butt cheeks were so tense as we gybed back towards them on port and just squeaked across in front, sailing ourselves into 2nd place. With Dave and Louise in 1st the championship came down to 1 point. I quickly made a few adjustments to our boat to try and make us a little more competitive upwind, but before I had even finished and to our surprise the Committee decided it was too late in the day and the championship was over! KP and I were so shocked, we were just gearing up for the showdown! I truly am sorry we didn’t manage to get that final race in, it really would have been a lot of fun battling it out for the championship, winner takes all! That said I’m sure there will be many more battles to come. We returned to the shore and as ever were greeted and congratulated by the friendliest and loveliest competitors you can ask for.
After a quick pack up and loading everything into the back of the lorry, it was time for prize giving. It was so nice watching everyone from the fleet go up and accept their goodies, Its an amazing thing where you can have a class so welcoming and nice, regardless of position we all come away so happy at the end of a regatta. Finally it was our turn, I was very proud to be stood up there with my little sister, she is a very talented girl and despite not knowing exactly what was going on all the time, she gave it everything and we had a really good laugh in the process. I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to say a few words at the prize giving and it was a great chance for me to thank you guys as a class for always being so welcoming, the racing is important, but I have to say it is the people and the friendships that keep the class going. I really hope to be back out on the water (and on the dancefloor) with you lot soon, its always a pleasure.
Congratulations to all the other sailors, but especially the top 5 for pushing us so hard during the racing,
2nd, Dave and Louise Robers
3rd, Alessandro Siviero and Lorenzo Casament
4th, Rob Garcka and Fi Goegebeur
5th, Herve and Mllania Le Maux
Huge thanks to,
Windsport – providing the boat
Mike Gomme/Andy (Lorry Driver)/Neil and Brown – Boat haulage
All those at the Yacht Club Cavalaire – Race and Event management
IDA – Regatta Organisation
Katy Phipps – Putting up with me for the week
The Whole Dart Family – The warm welcome and endless fun