The May Bank Holiday weekend saw a fleet of 50 Laser 4000s set off for the French National Sailing base in Quiberon, Brittany to begin the search for the 2001 Audi Euro cup winner. With the 2000 winner Ricky Tagg not competing and the early UK events showing no conclusive front-runners, the outcome was to be eagerly awaited.
Newly introduced to the Laser 4000 class has been the updated category C advertising code. ‘Team Control’ has taken full advantage of this, sponsoring three identical boats sailed by Kiwi Olympic 470 crew Pete Nicholas and his wife, Pete Barton and Simon Knatchbull and Mark Cotgrove with class chairman Ian Gotts. Resplendent in team colours of orange and black, the boats resemble mini 18-foot skiffs in livery, however the identical orange spinnakers with “We’re in Control” are just waiting for an eagle eyed photographer out at a windy gybe mark!
The forecast for the weekend was for light winds and Saturday did not disappoint with the wind rarely rising above 7 knots. Cotgrove and Gotts were justifying the sponsors hype by recording a 1,2,1 in the tricky conditions. The other race winner was ex national champions Alan Hillman and Rob Andrews, supported by ‘TEAM unlimited’ who sailed a consistent day with 3,1,5. Conditions were suiting the light wind sailors and the home waters of Lake Geneva must be pretty similar to a flat Quiberon bay as Swiss sailors Ralf Plaenkers and Isaline Marcel were next best with a 8,5,2. Local ex-470 Olympian Florence Le Brun was also getting the hang of sailing the 4000, that is before two OCS on Sunday morning took her out of the running.
As with any very competitive fleet the ability to stay consistent when huge gains and losses are possible was going to be the key. Having complained of a shortage of pace, Chris Fox and Richard Bully re-calibrated their rig on Saturday night and went out to take the biggest win on Sunday morning again in light if not lighter winds than Saturday. However, with Cotgrove firing in another third and Plaenkers and Hillman scoring an 11th and an eighth, ‘Team Control’ was establishing a grip on the regatta at the half way stage. Fox and “Bully” were too quick out of the start on the next race scoring an OCS, while Cotgrove sailed another great race to take his third victory although this time chased by the Swiss in second and ‘TEAM unlimited’ in fourth.
Apart from the graphics on the ‘Team Control’ boats, the sail numbers had also been causing a small controversy in the boat park as to how easy they were to read. As Cotgrove and Gotts were OCS to join the other members of the TEAM in previous races then the guess is there is no problem reading them! The Swiss went on to take race six from 2000 Euro Cup runner up Douglas Baker and Hilary Sutton, who by their own high standards were having a tough time eventually ending the regatta in 18th.
Sunday evening will be remembered for the amazing seafood buffet laid on for competitors by the ENV, where some sailors probably got close to eating their entry fee in fresh Atlantic Oysters!
With three races on Monday and the second discard coming in, the battle was to be between the three leading contenders although Cotgrove/Gotts probably were only in danger of losing it rather than the others taking it. Alas this was not to be as not even the brilliance of the local race team could run races in the windless conditions.
Round one to ‘Team Control’ and the fleet looks forward to Round 2 in Garda in July. Hopefully after the light round in Brittany the windy round will be next on the Audi Euro cup circuit 2001.
1st Mark Cotgrove and Ian Gotts ‘Team Control’ 8 pts
2nd Ralf Plaenkers and Isiline Marcel 18 pts
3rd Alan Hillman and Rob Andrews ‘Team Unlimited 20 pts
4th Luke McEwen and Emma Evans ‘SP systems’ 30 pts
5th Nicolas Honor and Richard Gibson ‘lasersailing.com’ 39 pts
6th Pete and Lisa Nicholas ‘Team Control’ 40 pts