French Access National Championships – Conchil le Temple, Berck-sur-Mer, France. Report…
Well, what a weekend!! The French Access Nationals were held from the 27th to the 29th June in an attractive town about 60 miles south of Calais. The British Squad included me representing Papercourt, one person representing Shoreham (we stuck together!!), 4 representing Frensham Pond, and 7 from Rutland. Plus support crew, the overall figure came to about 25. There were also representatives from Australia (including the Aussie Beijing Paralympic sailor) and Spain… Oh yes, and France.
We stayed in a hotel called ‘Mister Bed’, which was about 5-6 miles away from the lake – pretty ideal right? Not so… The mattresses were hard (meaning sleepless nights for some), and a step up to a pink bathroom (much to my delight!!).
I was sailing in the Access 2.3 class (single person, single sail) and there were about 17 other entries in this class, including 5 Brits and the 3 Aussies. Therefore the competition was tough.
So ‘Team Papercourt’ (Me, Mum, David, Sylvia and Derek Hayden, and Peter and Diane Burt) arrived on the Thursday. Sylvia had put the boat on top of her and Derek’s car, and they came early, arriving a couple of hours before Peter and Diane.
We (Me, Mum and David) arrived at about 9pm.
The next day we woke to an overcast day with winds reaching 25knots (the maximum for an Access). On arrival at the Lake, we realised that there wasn’t a proper clubhouse – only a couple of marquees and a hut with toilets in.
The briefing took place at roughly 1:30pm (or was meant to) and what a circus it was. The race officer would say 8 sentences in French, to 2 sentences in English, and when asked ‘In what order would the classes start’ (a vital piece of information), his response was ‘I do not know zis… I vill decide on ze water’. Now that I look back, it was really quite funny!
So that afternoon, the racing began. Our race finally got underway at about 5pm. On the first lap, one of the people from Rutland went for a short swim (that gave me visions of the 1:30race the previous Sunday – everyone there will know what I mean!!). On the second leeward leg, I was lying in third place, with another boat on my tail. The races were only 2 laps, but the first and second placed boats (at this point), didn’t notice the Shortened course flag (so we thought), so went for another lap. That left the gap open for me to seize a victory. 5 metres off the line a gust caught me and I broached. So the other boat naturally overtook me and crossed the line. I was still delighted at myself for gaining 2nd place… that was until I got to the jetty and heard rumours that the race had been abandoned. Those rumours were correct!!
That evening, the Rutland and Papercourt team enjoyed a relaxed meal in the restaurant next to the hotel. We also celebrated Peter and Diane’s 49th Wedding anniversary!!
The next day we arrived at the lake prepared for the early start. However Sylvia noticed that the ‘Postponed’ flag had been launched. This was because the winds were exceeding 25 knots, therefore it was deemed unsafe to sail. In the meantime we had to listen to speeches by various local and national organisation, on God knows what (it was all in French!!).
In the afternoon, racing finally got underway. In the first race, I was set to finish third, HOWEVER, metres away from the finish line, the boat broached (again). I tried to pull the boat back onto the correct course, but I heard a loud snap – the joystick had come off the boat. I eventually drifted across the line gaining me 5th place. They towed me back to shore, following which there was a mad rush to get it fixed by the 4th race. I had already missed the 3rd race, so I got ‘DNS 19’. Eventually they got it fixed in time (Thanks to my support crew and the Liberty person) and I got 9th place in the 4th race.
That evening a buffet meal was hosted, followed by a local band playing music. Mum, a guy called Mac and I persuaded the Brits that they should really make an effort to show the French that we’re not all that bad, so we sang ‘La Marseillaise’, which they liked a lot!
The next day was another early start. The wind had dropped a little and was now about 20knots. We had two races on this day. In one of them I got a 6th place, and I’m not sure about the other. In the afternoon, the prizegiving ceremony took place. I was given 8th place out of 18. Although I am pleased by this, I do know that I could have done better, which is in some ways frustrating!!
Overall a good (and in some parts rather amusing) sailing event, which I am keen to take part in next year (and do better)!!!
A big thank you to all of my support team for making it possible, and to the Papercourt committee for allowing me to borrow the boat!! Alex Hovden