Six Metre European Championship: Notorious and Aida dominate in light winds

The opening day of the Xacobea Six Metre European Championship 2021 in Sanxenxo, Spain, featured two tricky light airs races for the thirty-one competing teams from eleven nations.

Racing for the Open and Classic Divisions was run in a light and at times shifty north westerly that gave the tacticians plenty to think about, kept the trimmers busy changing gears and put the mark layers through their paces.

A fleet of boats line-up behind each other, sailing on a kite reach.
Conditions were light and shifty. Pic – María Muiña/Xacobeo 6mR Europeans

In the Open Division it was to be a Swedish affair with Claes Henningsson’s SWE114 Notorious winning both races from Richard Göransson’s SWE137 Filippa, putting them into first and second overall respectively. Third place in the opener went to Rainer Muller’s SUI111 Thisbe, and they followed up with a fifth to end the day third overall.

Patrick Monteiro De Barros and the POR4 Seljm crew had looked good in the early stages of race one, but then got the wrong side of a big shift and had to fight for a seventh place. They came back with a third in the second race to put them in fourth overall, three points ahead of Hugo Stenbeck’s SUI132 Sophie Racing.

It was a similar story in the Classic Division where Francisco Botas and Juan Carols Escotet’s GER59 Aida took victory in both races from Finland’s Ossie Paija in FIN80 Astrée III. K48 Caprice, owned by Spain’s Javier Monzón followed Astrée III across the line in race one and then added a fifth to her card in the second race putting them in third overall. ESP16 Bribon 500, skippered by Pedro Campos, claimed a sixth and third place so are now fourth overall, just one point ahead of Miguel Lago Cereceda’s GBR50 Alibaba II.

A white yacht sailing downwind, healing to leeward. Bow person preparing kite and skipper sitting to leeward, looking forward.
Sailors competing in the event have come from eleven different nations. Pic – María Muiña/Xacobeo 6mR Europeans

Back ashore Claes Henningsson talked us through his day saying, “In the first race we had a perfect start and came out on starboard going to the left side and we were in the lead at the first mark. We kept the lead all the way round and were quite well ahead.

“In the second race we had a little bit of a problem in the start and had to tack off onto port through the fleet onto the right side of the course. After a while we tacked onto starboard over to the left, we caught the windshift and rounded number three, and after that we took two boats downwind and by the second weather mark, we were into second.

“On the last downwind we were able to pass Seljm and keep Filippa behind us, so it was nice racing for us. The light to medium winds are best for us as it’s a quite light boat and it was very nice to race on the outer course, it’s a bit more open than the inside race area.”

Five boats sailing upwind on different tacks, with a beach and rocky headland in the background.
Some competitors struggled in the lights airs. Pic – María Muiña/Xacobeo 6mR Europeans

Whilst for some boats the light airs were a blessing, for others they were a curse. Violeta Alvarez’s ESP16 Stella led Open Division race one at the first mark but then got the wrong side of a big left hander and ended up fifth, then on the final run of race two they fell into a hole in the dying breeze and dropped from sixth to eleventh. It was also a day of mixed fortunes for Jeremy Thorp’s GBR89 Battlecry, they opened with a solid fifth but then struggled to find traction in the lighter second race and could do no better than thirteenth.

But whether they struggled or revelled in the conditions, all the boats made a spectacular sight as they spread out against the backdrop of the picturesque Galician coastline. Any Six is an elegant and powerful bit of sailing equipment, but many of the classics are also pieces of history.

The oldest boat racing in the championship is E26 Acacia, which was built to a Gustaf Estlander design by Abrahamsson and Son in Gothenburg in 1929. Her first owner was Luis de Allende, who kept her in Bilbao in northern Spain. She was built at a time when this area of Spain had a flourishing Six Metre fleet, and she sailed there with around 20 other boats. In 1954 she was sold to a new owner in Barcelona and became part of the burgeoning fleet there.

Aerial shot of a yacht sailing downwind with no kite. Bow crew are setting up pole.
The fleet is made up of both old and new yachts. Pic – María Muiña/Xacobeo 6mR Europeans

By the early 1960s the fleet was in decline, and she was fitted with an engine to facilitate cruising. In the early 1970s she made her way north again, to Castro Urdiales between Santander and Bilbao. At this point her story becomes vague, with the previous owners hearing news of her being badly damaged after hitting some rocks. They assumed that the boat had been lost for ever.

This was not so, however, and in the 1990s she was discovered and taken to the Astilleros Lagos shipyard where she waited for a new owner to restore her to her former glory. Here, she was spotted by her current owner who oversaw her restoration. She was re-launched in 2010, looking as good as the day she was built and is now an active member of the revived Spanish fleet.

After sailing the crews were able to enjoy the Real Club Nautico Sanxenxo’s delicious post racing drinks and nibbles and relax on the terrace as the sun set, but for the owners there was important business to settle at the International Six Metre Associations Annual General Meeting. One of the more important items on the agenda was confirming Louis Heckly, owner of FRA FRA111 Dix Août, as the new International Class President.

A skipper poking his head around the huge headsail.
Light airs are forecasted for day two of competition. Pic – María Muiña/Xacobeo 6mR Europeans

The forecast for day two of the championship is for further light airs and possible rain and thunderstorms. The Race Committee is keeping a close eye on the forecast and will update the competitors at the daily 09:30 briefing. The regatta continues until Saturday 18 September with up to eight races scheduled.

For the full results, see: https://6mreuropeans2021.com/en/results

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