2012 French Access Class Championships in Calais
Photograph:La Voile Ensemble
Held on a man-made lake west of Calais from 15 to 17 June, this event attracted competitors from the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Australia as well as the host country. The Base de Voile Tom Souville has been completed less than 2 years and offered excellent facilities including economical bunkhouse accommodation. Many competitors were able to use boats owned by the host club.
Very strong winds were forecast for the weekend and when racing was due to start on the Friday afternoon, the race officer decided on a postponement. When the wind eventually moderated racing got under way and all classes completed two short races using the standard trapezoidal course with windward/leeward legs and separate start and finish lines often used for international competitions. As the wind was still about 18 knots, gusting 25, virtually all competitors decided to reef their mainsails and some their jibs.
In all three classes, one crew dominated both Friday races with Lindsay Burns (GBR) taking both races in the 2.3 class, Cedric Castaldi & Damien Peysson (FRA) with two bullets in the Access 303 two-person Gerard Eychenne (FRA) claiming the honours in both 303 single person heats.
On the Saturday, the forecast strong westerly winds were apparent with around a steady 25 knots blowing up the English Channel and funnelling through the Dover Straits. With even stronger winds forecast for later, the race officer published an earlier start time and decided to race one class only at a time to allow him to use a simple windward/leeward course and have all safety boats available for a smaller fleet of racers.
The mixed Access 2.3 fleet with some sailing solo and some two-up started first, well reefed against a steady 25 knot wind, but only four of the eleven entrants in the class completed the race, with Lindsay Burns again first, so they were sent home and the twelve 303-solo boats then went out. They fared slightly better with eight well-reefed boats completing the course and Barry Coates (AUS) using his experience to come home first with Margaret Foreman (GBR) second.
Needless to say, with increasing wind forecast the race officer then called off racing and later abandoned racing for the day with “petits moutons” (white horses) racing across the water. The day was rounded off by a regatta dinner and party with fireworks and generous French hospitality.
Sunday dawned with bright sunshine and moderate winds but these soon increased and, as they had only completed two races, it was decided to start with the 19-strong 303 two-person division who completed two races on the windward/leeward course. Castaldi & Peysson scored 1-2 to consolidate their position at the top of the table.
The 303 single-person division then completed two further races. These proved to be very competitive with 2012 UK National Champion Margaret Foreman (GBR) making her mark in the leading group and just squeezing through to win both races. However, this was not quite enough to beat Gerard Eychenne (FRA) who claimed the National title. Barry Coates (AUS) was third and Julian Muller (SUI) fourth making this a truly international result.
With the wind increasing, the overall results effectively decided, and a fixed time for the Mayor of Calais to present the prizes, the decision was taken not to race the Access 2.3s which was a disappointment as they had only completed three of the eight races scheduled over the three days. Lindsay Burns (UK) retained the French National title for a second year with three straight first places.
The competitors returned home with much heavy weather Access racing experience, happy memories of French hospitality and, despite the conditions, a well-run championships. The 2013 event is likely to be near Bordeaux in June and it is hoped that a significant international contingent will take part.