(Monte Carlo, Monaco)- A record turnout with 67 boats, 11 nations and a top level playing field sums up the J/24 European Championship (Open) hosted for the second time by the Yacht Club de Monaco 20 years after it organized the first edition, with the invaluable support of Stuart Jardine, a legend on the sailing scene in England and the J/24 class.
An International Race Committee presided by Englishman John Coveney fired the gun on eight hard-fought races over the four days, in east to south-westerly wind conditions ranging from 5 to 30 knots. It was a tactical as well as physically challenging championship for the 335 sailors, who had to cope with varied conditions, complicated by the Ligurian current, not counting practice races and a succession of starts.
Faced with a compact fleet it was difficult to avoid the 67 J/24s when rounding the mark or to fight for a place on the start to be sure of clean wind. With courses averaging five nautical miles and taking less than an hour, the competition was intense, with less than 10 minutes separating the first from the last in each race. In the end, it was Englishman Ian Southworth, triple European Champion, who lifted his fourth title with Chris MacLaughlin (Il Riccio). Despite not winning a race, they were impressively consistent and always in the top six.
The racing itself was quite complex and challenging. The sailors often found themselves at odds with the wind, current and fleet. Tight fleets and some local knowledge helped. In fact, by the end of the second day, the Monegasque team skippered by Ian Ilsley was leading the fleet thanks to a sound second place in the fourth race. “These are the conditions we really enjoy! It’s great to be competing in a championship regatta organized by one’s own club. It is so motivating especially because the level is higher than the world championship that was held in August in Dublin,” commented Ilsley.
Nevertheless, as everyone knows in this level of competition, "it ain't over 'till it's over". Hot on their heels was the English team of Ian Southworth & Chris MacLaughlin, hanging in for second place with 5 points and the Italian Pietro Diamanto skippering JAMAICA in third with 6 points. Not far off the pace and expecting to get on the podium were past J/24 World Champion Mauricio Santa Cruz from Brazil sailing BRUSCHETTA and also American Mike Ingham sailing JULIA.
The third day of racing dawned with a very strong south-westerly breeze with ginormous cresting waves (more like breaking swells). Making the most of the conditions, the PRO managed to sail three very fast races for the large fleet. BRUSCHETTA made a comeback, moving from fourth to second place in the overall rankings and winning one race hands down by a country mile. A steady performance was also turned in by the IL RICCIO team, taking a top ten for each race, and took the lead in the ranking from the day’s first race. Monaco sailor Ian Ilsley managed to cling on to his place in the top three, despite a poor performance on the seventh leg of the last race.
However, there was disappointment for one of the favourites, Pietro Diamanti's JAMAICA, third yesterday and 15th after day three's sailing; proof of the quality of competitors and just how hard-fought the racing has been on the Monaco courses. The general view is that a hierarchy seems to be establishing itself with the gaps widening in the fleet as the breeze increases in strength. And, so it went for the next two days with close racing and great camaraderies amongst the European J/24 teams.
In the overall event, second place went to another favorite, triple world champion Mauricio Santa Cruz on the famous BRUSCHETTA- he was second in the Dublin Worlds in August 2013. Surprised by the level and high quality of the playing field, he won one race in style, leading from start to finish and widening the gap to put him well ahead of his competitors in the fifth race.
But the title of vice-champion of Europe went to the Monegasque ST ANDREWS SECURITIES team helmed by Ian Ilsley with François Brenac on tactics. They pulled off a coup by coming third, just three points shy of the Brazilian. “This is the culmination of a year’s hard work. We made the trip to the World Championship in Ireland in August to prepare for this one and hone our boat. Our efforts have paid off and the contract largely fulfilled, beyond our expectations as we had set our sights on finishing in the top ten,”comments Ian Ilsley, for whom the next meeting is the Primo Cup (31 Jan/2 Feb & 7/9 Feb 2014) then the North American Championship in Mexico in March 2014.
Fourth for the regatta and third European was the Italian team on LA SUPERBA skippered by Ignazio Bonanno sailing for Centre Veico Marina Militare. Fifth was early regatta leader EVNIKI, skippered by the popular Greek helmsman Dimitris Altsiadis.
Rounding out the top ten were 6th- Aurelio Bini from Italy (VIGNE SURRA), 7th- MacCathy Duncan from England (MADELEINE), 8th- Marco Stefanoni from Italy (KONG EASYNET GRIFONE), 9th- Claude Rodelato from Monaco (TOPO TOO) and 10th- Stephan Mais from Germany (RUNNING MEN).
The top three women's teams included Ragna Thoennessen from Germany sailing JUELSSAND in first place, she was part of the twenty team contingent from Germany-- the largest at the regatta from any single country. In second was her team-mate, Lea-Katharina Witt sailing ALICE for the Hamburg Segel-Club. Then, third was Francesca Guzzo from the host club YC Monaco sailing COOL J! Sailing photo credits- YC Monaco/ Franck Terlin For more J/24 Europeans sailing information