This year’s much anticipated Audi-sponsored Eurocup event at Lake Garda was hosted by the Fraglia Della Vella in Riva Del Garda from 12-14 July.
The promise of sunshine, wind, Italian hospitality and one of the most dramatic dinghy sailing venues in the world combined to bring 18 crews to the event. They were not disappointed. Classic Italian Lake thermal breeze conditions resulted in some absolutely awesome sailing. Making a return to the class after a number of years sailing the 49er was Andy Budgen (Ronstan) and after an enforced lay off due to injury the defending champions Andy and Dave Richards (mStation) were back in action.
The regatta started on Thursday 12 July and many of the crews having arrived earlier in the week to soak up some sun and get in a bit of sailing. Conditions during the week had been perfect and there was some concern that come Thursday this may change. Not the case. By 1100 the wind was Force 5 and gusting more as the crews launched. Launching off a lee-shore in 20 knots is tricky at the best of times, couple this with a narrow, very slippery slipway and a very rocky shore and you have the stuff of nightmares. Impromptu swimming parties were assembled on more then one occasion to save those who didn’t get it quite right.
Out on the race course, two races were held in some of the most testing conditions, staying upright and finishing was a solid race strategy for most crews. Andy Budgen/Ian Glasspool (Ronstan) soon showed their pedigree with a 1,2 to head the leader board. The second race was won by Mark and Olly Ponsford but they had a DNF from they first race. They were not alone either, over half the fleet recording DNFs in the first two races as the extreme conditions tested handling and gear. At the end of the day, Nick Jones and Spencer Schlachter found themselves fourth in the queue at the local sailmaker for some overnight repairs!
Friday, day two, and conditions were much the same as Thursday. Andy Budgen and Ian Glasspool continued to stamp their authority on the event with a 1,1,1 from the three races. Behind them the battle for the places was hotting up. Mark Emmet and Anthony Esse (Hermes Insurance/Juice Plus/Ronstan) had a good day with a 2,2,5 as did Jamie Shelton and Graham White (West Country Watersports) with a 3,5,3 and Andy and Dave Richards (mStation) who ended with a 4,3,2.
After two days in the most testing of conditions the on-shore activity was a little subdued but the competition for best crews-bruises and the closest-encounter-with-the-forestay was no less intense and just as colourful with Claire Webber-Walton, the plucky 16 year-old from Hayling Island , just holding the edge in the Crews-bruises category! Seamus Kilpatrick (who’s starting technique has improved) had his GPS on board with him on the Friday and recorded a top speed of 22mph with the kite up.
Saturday, the wind arrived a little later and, with some relief, slightly lighter then the previous days – Force 4-5 rather then Force 5-6. In the comparatively lighter breeze the competition through the fleet was intense and reading the shifts and catching the gusts proving essential to get into the top five. Once again Andy Budgen and Ian Glasspool (Ronstan) had a superb day recording a 1,1,3 to wrap up the regatta with a day to spare. Jamie Shelton and Graham White (West Country Watersports) also had a stormer with a 2,2,6 to hold a tenuous second place going into the final day. Andy and Dave Richards (mStation) were not so lucky, suffering gear failure in race one for their second DNF of the series. Their day did get bit better though and they finished with a 5,1 in the remaining races. Mark Emmett and Anthony Esse (Hermes Insurance/Juice Plus/Ronstan) had a 4,7,2 and Simon Spolton and Ed Browne (Spinlock) recording a 3,8,4.
While the top spot had already been claimed by Andy Budgen and Ian Glasspool, the battle for the places was far from over with a handful of points separating th