Tom Jeffcoate and Dave Hynes (GBR) have won the 2008 Fireball European Championships.
56 Teams from 9 countries took part in a windy weeks sailing off the Belgium coast. Sunday's racing began with sun, waves and a steady force four. Race 1 saw Dave Wade and Ben McGrane (GBR) lead comfortably from the windward mark to take victory with Ludovic Alleaume and Etienne Perdon (FRA) 2nd in their only finish of the day due to a broken rudder. Vince Horey and Tim Saunders (GBR) rather ruined any chances they might have had by colliding with the pin end boat.
The wind built for the second race of the day and it was locals (and winners of the previous weeks Belgian Trophy) Manu Hens and Jan Peeters (BEL) who went hard right up the first beat to lead by 100 metres at the windward mark. This lead was slowly eroded by Wade and McGrane as the race went on, Kenny Rumball and David Moran's (IRL) capsize at the gybe mark gifting Wade 2nd. Jeffcoate and Hynes took 3rd.
Monday saw the wind reach 40 knots and so racing was abandoned early for the day.
Tuesday's forecast was similar to Sunday's and the fleet launched expecting another exicting days racing. Those who got to the end of the river were soon treated to similar conditions to Monday and its wasn't long before the decision to abandon for the day was made. This didn't deter some competitors from taking a spin!
Race 3 finally kicked off on Thursday again in excellent sailing conditions. Jeffcoate and Hynes lead at the first mark but were overhauled by Hens/Peeters who went on to take the gun, only to be disqualified following a protest for an incident with Wade/McGrane whilst hoisting their spinnaker at the 1st windward mark. Wade/McGrane were also disqualified for failing to correctly complete their turns after being flagged for pumping approaching the gybe mark. This gave Jeffcoate and Hynes the victory followed by Donald Smith and Matthew Richardson (GBR), Horey/Saunders and Phil Popple/Gavin Tilson (GBR).
Race 4 Hens and Peeters lead again at the top mark on to a very tight first reach which saw much place changing. At the leeward mark Alleaume and Perdon had pullled through to 2nd having gone low on the second reach and they subsequently overhauled Jeffcoate/Hynes on the 2nd beat to take the victory. Hens/Peeters held 3rd with Horey/Saunders 4th.
Race 5 started with the sea state building. Horey and Saunders lead only to be passed by Jeffcoate and Hynes on the 2nd reach and these boats held there positions comfortably on the huge triangle/sausage course. Popple and Tilson had there best placing of a solid week with a 3rd and Alleaume and Perdon kept on the pressure with a 4th. At the end of the days racing the leading four boats all looked to be in contention but Jeffcoate and Hynes looked the most secure with 4th place as their discard.
Friday morning was damp and the wind dropped slightly at the start of the race. Alleaume and Perdon made the best of these conditions and lead from start to finish extending their lead as the race went on. With Hens and Peeters 2nd and Wade/McGrane 3rd, it was set to be a match race between Jeffcoate/Hynes and Alleaume/Perdon. After 3 attempts at a start and 3 match races, the time limit was reached.
All looked set for a Jeffcoate/Hynes victory, but they were made to wait as Hens/Peeters asked for their protest earlier in the week to be reopened, a reinstatement would hand them victory. This request was denied meaning Jeffcoate and Hynes could relax and enjoy packing up in the sunshine, which had finally arrived, at the end of a damp but enjoyable week. The journey back to Chester from Dover for Dave's passport the day before the event suddenly didn't seem quite such a stupid move.
The final results saw 5 British boats joined in the top ten by teams from France, Czech Republic, Ireland and two from Belgium. First lady helm was Derian Scott in 10th just holding Eva Skorepova who finished 11th. The Belgian Association were great hosts, in particular putting on an excellent BBQ and live band before Wednesday's lay day which meant some people couldn't make the tour of the Bruges Brewery.