The 2018 Belgian Flying Fifteen National Championships took place over the weekend of 6th and 7th of October, hosted by the Sports Nautiques de l'Eau d'Heure (SNEH) in the picturesque South of Belgium.
A total of 11 boats from Belgium, France and Britain took part. The event has a long tradition of British boats making the journey over, being an easy trip from Calais, with a warm welcome from the host fleet on arrival, literally a beer in our hands within 15 minutes!
Saturday morning saw the fleet rigging and launching in the lovely unseasonably warm temperatures and a good South Westerly breeze. Racing started promptly with a two lap sausage / triangle course that was used for all nine races over the two days.
Honours in the first race went to the Belgian pair and the event past winners for the previous three years...(was this a pattern?) Ezekiel Desantoine and Aurelie Chantrenne (BEL 3915) with Justin & Amanda Waples (GBR 4033) second and Chris Waples and Adrian Simpson (GBR 3994) third. Race 2 saw (GBR4033) first, (GBR3994) second and Nick Heath and Pippa Noon (GBR 3692) third. Race three went to (GBR4033), from (BEL3915) and (GBR3994). Race four was won by (GBR3994), with (GBR4033) second and (BEL3915) third. The final race on Saturday was won by (GBR3692) with (GBR3994) second and (GBR4033) third.
On Saturday night the fleet had a fantastic dinner with free flowing wine and cheese boards to die for! every ff sailor was there...and more it seemed. This was followed by a brilliant band, accompanied by a thunderstorm half way through which seemed to just add to the occasion rather than pull the plug, the hosts just erected more umbrellas, and cranked up the volume to drown out the noise of the rain!
Sunday morning saw a change to more seasonal temperatures, and a firm North Easterly breeze. Race 6 was won by (GBR4033), followed by (GBR3994) and (GBR3682). After a short delay whilst the course was reset following a softening of the wind, race seven was under way, with honours again going to the visitors in (GBR4033) followed by (GBR3994) and the locals in (BEL3915). Race eight was won by (GBR3994) with (BEL3915) second and (GBR4033) in third.
Although a maximum of 10 races were scheduled, as the wind continued to ease, race 9 proved to be the final race of the series. This one looked like it might introduce some new names to the leader board. The oldest boat in the fleet, (BEL 2785), sailed by the youngest crew, Gauthier de Mamix and Mathis Doyen (14 and 15yrs old), were mixing it with the leaders on the first beat (as well as singing as they sailed), however they weren't able to hold on to their position in the long term. At the second windward mark, (GBR4033) lead from (GBR3692) (BEL3915 and (BEL 3742), Michel Vincent and Kevin Vincent with (GBR3994) close behind. By the final gybe mark, (GBR3994) had come through to third behind (GBR3692), with (GBR4033) claiming their 5th win of the series.
Overall Results: (top three)
1st GBR 4033 'Sparks and Bubbles Take Two' Justin and Amanda Waples (RCYC) 9pts
2nd GBR 3994 'Mad Sparks' Chris Waples and Adrian Simpson (Hayling Island SC) 13pts
3rd BEL 3915 'Eflexor' Ezekiel Desantoine and Aurelie Chantrenne (SNEH) 19pts
The silver fleet prize went to BEL 2785 Magau Gauthier de Mamix and Mathis Doyen from SNEH.
Special thanks must go to Véronique (President of the Belgian Flying Fifteen Association) for organising the event, to Henri the Race Officer for his often witty and amusing and helpful translations! and his team for running the racing, and very importantly to the sponsors Chimay brewery for keeping us refreshed.
So to wrap up, a fantastic event, never a dull moment, the Chimay beers were outstanding, so too the cheese boards, it's only an easy 2.5 hours' drive from Calais, and the Belgian's certainly now how to be the perfect hosts, will we go back? Absolutely, hopefully with some other travelling Flying Fifteen's too. Winning is good, but just being there and having fun is equally as good at this Nationals!