Dragons on Tour – La Baule 31 May 2015
With four and two third boats heading to La Baule from Burnham, racing in Burnham over the Whitsun weekend was a little quiet. Sunday on the other hand saw the Burnham boats appearing in La Baule over the course of the day. Luckily the journey was by all accounts largely uneventful, although booking accommodation in French did cause a small problem regarding linen for one team. An evening stroll along the Pouliguen front felt almost like home as each restaurant seemed to have a different group from Burnham enjoying the French food and wine
Monday was the day for rigging, launching and registration followed by a lazy afternoon before the welcome drinks reception in the club marquee for the event, which, as the French Nationals and only two weeks before the Worlds, was fully subscribed with 52 boats entered.
As La Baule is very tidal, the start times move according to when the boats can actually get out the harbour, and with Tuesday scheduled as the earliest of the week, the fleet slowly gathered for breakfast in the club from 08h00. Lack of wind meant the fleet spent a long time drifting round near the committee boat before an announcement over the radio and some sound signals “herded” the fleet closer together. Each boat was to drop a white rose over board in memory of “FanFan”, Jean-Francois Baley, the President of YCLB of 24 years who passed away suddenly earlier this year.
After this moving tribute, the wind began to fill and after the first black flag of the event, one race was completed in very tricky conditions The fleet then beat the tide back to the club for the traditional club hospitality which this year included a Rosé wine fountain, declared by Trudi (doing her first regatta with Geoff Butcher on Vibe, making up the two thirds of a boat) as something that Burnham should adopt! During the afternoon David Andrassy and Nick Hyde put in an appearance as part of their French driving holiday, and joined Burnham in being the last “men standing in the bar.
Wednesday started with more sunshine, very light wind and plenty of drifting. Gerry, Penny and Dan managed to get out on the water for the day to watch the proceedings, and their laughter and the popping of champagne corks meant the spectator boat was hard to miss. They even sang happy Birthday to Simon Howard, sailing with David Crabb and Roy Roberts on Seafire before we eventually managed to get the second challenging race started after another black flag. The Pages found this race particularly challenging as according to Clive they “tried hard but managed to sail the entire race in DBL position until the last hook leg where we made about 6 places in 100 yards. That evening saw the crew dinner in the club, with local produce, a raffle in which the Pages won some bubbles, the traditional opera singing and yet more free drinks. The highlight of the week for Simon was a further rendition of Happy Birthday by around 200 people.
Having lost a number of races, Thursday racing was brought forward by an hour, and although it was still pretty light on the way out, the wind built just in time for the first start. Quicksilver V sailed by Rob Campbell, crewed by Julie Thomas-Page and Martin Makey managed an excellent 8th position in the 3rd race. The wind held for the rest of the race time so three races were managed back to back. The third race eventually started on the third attempt after six boats had been black flagged, and was then shortened after the second beat to ensure we finished near the harbour entrance. The evening saw the majority of the Burnham fleet taking over most of a local restaurant where dinner was concluded with shots of an apple liqueur dispensed from a long glass “gun”.
With only five races completed, the Friday start time was again earlier than scheduled. By the time we got out on the water, the best breeze of the week had filled which meant the race officer could get straight into the first race of the day, in much less fluky and variable conditions which gave Quicksilver V their second 8th place of the week. Unbelievably, after the light wind conditions all week, the final race saw the Y flag go up before the start as the wind continued to build. The conditions obviously suited Clive, Graeme and Rory Page in Pageboy XI as they managed their best result of the week with a 9th
After the inevitable craning out and packing up chaos, the fleet retired indoors for the final prize giving. The event was won by Anatoly Loginov in RUS27 Annapurna, with Poul Hoj-Jensen in GBR775 Danish Blue the top British boat. Consistency across the races meant that Ian Gray in Scorpio (GBR586) crewed by Nigel Cole and René Nel were the first Burnham boat in a very creditable 14th overall.
Overall, everyone had a great time and as Martin said “The fine weather was the icing on the cake for a great four days of racing!” Obviously we would like to say a huge thank you to the staff and members of YCLB for their friendliness, great hospitality and organisation.