The tension was tangible as the 61 boats contesting the Swan European Regatta off Cowes waited for the start of the final, Championship-deciding race

Yesterday’s deciding race in the Swan European Championships was once again delayed as cats’ paws clawed at the glassy water. With just five races held so far, a sixth was vital for the discard to come into play and the race committee wanted this one to start early enough to ensure a result.

So the race was started at 1130, with a three-knot southwesterly trying to fill spinnakers and a following tide emptying them. Halfway down the eastern Solent, the wind backed southeasterly, increased to 8-10kn and the fleet ended up beating to the windward mark.

The Swan 60 Island Fling and the S&S 48 Jacobite both made excellent starts, nailing the pin end, and rounded the ‘top’ mark in that order. Island Fling them streaked away for more line honours. Crackerjack, the less racy 60, finished second, five minutes after Island Fling to take the corrected victory.

Jacobite finished fourteenth, taking fifth on corrected to win the big boat class with 15.5 points. Island Fling was second on 22 points and Crackerjack third on 27. Robertson was delighted with the win but still grappling with the handicap concept.

“I really enjoyed the event and learnt a lot,” she said. “It was a great initiation for me to sail on such a good boat with such a good crew. The crew had high expectations coming into the event, so I had to rise to the occasion. From a helmsman’s point of view you just focus on your job of making the boat go fast, you don’t really know which boats are winning.”

The finish of the small boat class was far more dramatic. The Two French Swans, Xaossa, 42, and Saga, 441, were first and third, sandwiching the British Swan Menenes, also 441. With GBR Challenge’s Jo Richards calling tactics and Libby Deegan at the helm, Menenes needed to finish three places ahead of the Xaossa to take the overall win.

Despite the attentions of both French Swans, Menenes managed to hoist first and led down the eastern Solent trying everything to open a gap over Xaossa. Menenes did all she could, winning by over three minutes, but Xaossa rolled in second to take the small boat title and the overall championship title for both classes.

“There were a lot of wind shifts and bends on the course today,” said Richards after racing. “It was obvious to go all one way quite often. We did our best and could do no more today.” Graham and Libby Deegan can be well pleased with their second place, two points behind Xaossa and two points clear of Alain Foulquier’s Saga.

All week, we have seen excellent performances from the French under pressure, particularly from Xaossa owner Jean-Michel Carpentier who will be très heureux with his formidable week’s work. “I expected tough competition from both Saga and Menenes, which was the case,” said Carpentier. “I’m pleased to have won this prestigious regatta.”

He and his crew of daughters and friends will return to La Trinité sur Mer with the spoils of victory and celebrate Carpentier’s finest hour in over 20 years of Swan competition.

The next Swan regatta is the American, raced below the cliffs of Newport RI, from 7-13 July 2001.