The ability to read what was happening underneath the surface with the Solent’s tricky tides, as well as finding your way through the pressure on the course above, was undoubtedly the key to success on the first day of racing at the Europe European Championships at Hayling Island Sailing Club.
Some smart sailing from Britain’s Shirley Robertson, an Elite performer on the World Class Performance programme, and current World Champion Margriet Matthjsse (Netherlands), makes them the leading pair going into the first night, having recorded one win and one second place each from the first two races.
The 120 strong girls fleet, which is divided into three sets for the qualification series sailed out into Hayling Bay just after 10 am for the first of their two scheduled races, although immediately faced a postponement flag as the race committee waited for the sea breeze to settle in just after midday.
Using the Olympic style trapezoid courses (with each group revolving between the inner and outer loop over the two races), each heat started in quick succession once the breeze had steadied to about 8 knots.
With no one wishing to use their discard on the opening day, all starts were clean although the first group paid heavily for misreading the strong East bound tide, whilst the reaming two heats were able to sit back and learn from their mistakes.
Matthjsse proved her status by choosing a wise middle course up the first beat, building on her front row start and picking her way through the pressure to round the windward mark a clear 20 seconds in front of the pursuing pack.
Amongst the casualties of the tidal race in the first group was 1996 Olympic Gold Medallist Kristine Roug (Denmark) who, despite some good starts, tried to hit the right hand corner to compensate the current. She filed into the first mark in the middle of her group with little hope for recovery.
Robertson opted for the same route as Matthjsse also going onto win by a healthy margin with Meg Gailard (USA) taking the third winners gun of the day.
Whilst some of the lighter crews were able to make big gains downwind, the likes of Melannie Dennison, seeded second, suffered from bad starts and the difficult tide, finishing 14th in race one and 18th in race 2, although, in the words of her coach, Eric Stibbe, “came off lightly for someone her build on a day like today”.
The breeze continued to build gradually for the second race of the day to an adequate 12 knots, while the tide started to work its way round, leading to more confusion for those who thought they had realised the error of the ways after the first race.
Whilst Margriet followed up her opening race win by slotting in to second at the first mark in her race, a position she was able to hold to the finish, Robertson had to fight back from seventh at the top of the beat to second on the final downwind leg, making the most of her local knowledge and using the current to her advantage. Denise Cesry (Austria) went onto win the race by one of the largest margins of the day.
“I’m quite pleased with that as a start. I’ve got good speed in the light winds which means I can pretty much go where I want although I think a lot of the other girls are confused by the tides. It isn’t an easy place to sail” said Shirley.
Following what she regarded as a “bad open week”, Matthjsse, felt happier with her performance today in comparison although she feels that Robertson’s home advantage can only last so long, commenting: “It helps at the beginning but there are five more days to go yet”.
HAMPSHIRE: Hayling Island. Europe European Championships (after day 1) Race 1: Flight 1
1, M Matthijsse (NED)
2, V Almeida (ESP)
3, P Niemann (GER)
1, S Robertson (GBR)
2, I Gurvin (NOR)
3, E Oikonomopoulou (GRE)
1, M Gailard (USA)
2, S Blanck (AUS)
3, J Kriznie (ITA)
1, A Bogatec (ITA)