Twenty RS500s gathered at the 75th North Sea Regatta at Scheveningen, on the coast by The Hague, The Netherlands over the Dutch long weekend of 4-6 June. This was one of the RS500 Eurocup events for this year. The fleet were mostly Dutch, with a number of well know teams, plus a few newcomers, and one team from the UK and one from Germany. Travelling and accommodation costs seem to be restricting participation a bit this year.
11 races were scheduled and the forecast was interesting, with nobody thinking we would get them all in. However, Saturday was forecast to be the best day, and we all gathered for what seemed like a rather early start with the prospect of a North Easterly along the shore, blowing in the mid-teens knots. For most of the fleet this was their first time in proper waves this year, and in some cases their first time ever. Emerging out of the harbour it really was very lumpy and quite confused. Many of us admitted to being a bit seasick for the first half hour or so of the day.
Race 1 started in fairly slack tide, and with 8 or 9 very keen 29ers sharing our start there was an inevitable general recall, even though we were on a U flag. We were away cleanly second time around and Peter and James Curtis decided to keep well away from the 29ers crowding the start boat and look for clean air in the middle of the line. Most of those with local knowledge went inshore to where the tide was weakest, and although this paid as the tide picked up it didn’t work on this first beat. Team Curtis came out ahead and started their three sail surfing practice down to the gate, followed by Hylke Kooistrata and Thomas Holewijn. Having the 29ers just ahead at least gave the leaders some clues as to where the gybe ought to be, and nobody really wanted to do more than one in the conditions. These two successfully made it to the gate and held their positions for lap 2, while behind them Lisanne Nijdam and Nerine Usman took 3rd and Bruno Goris in a scratch pairing with Oscar Duerloo came 4th.
Race 2 and the tide was full force, pushing boats back from the line and meaning there were no more recalls for the rest of the day. By now, everyone had realised you needed to head inshore up the beat, the only question was how far, and was it actually possible to go too far? The top mark was relatively close to the harbour entrance and the waves and current were particularly strong there. Approaching the mark Team Curtis and Team Kooistra were clear ahead of the pack, but Curtis managed to just get round the mark, while Kooistra needed two tacks against the tide, and the gap suddenly looked huge. However, after an average run and being messed up by a Nacra 15 round the gate (ah, the joys of multi-fleet racing), Kooistra and Jesper Overbeeke and Merle Meinhardt, having their best race of the day, were right behinid them at the start of the beat. Kooistra seemed to have got away, but again had to double tack into the tide at the top mark, and came out only just ahead of Curtis. Curtis managed to pressure Kooistra into an early gybe, but then stood on and found some excellent wind and waves to to take a comfortable lead to the finish. Team Overbeeke held on to third.
The target time for the races was 30 minutes, but each of the first two had taken 45+ for the leaders. For race 3 the course was shortened and the axis shifted right, as the wind came more off the shore. If anything it had also increased in strength a bit. Maybe it was time for the lighter crews to suffer a bit? Well, yes and no. Team Curtis led at the top mark, but team Nijdam, who were definitely towards the lightest in the fleet came through on the run to start the beat in the lead, which they held around the top mark, with team Curtis right behind them and applying pressure. Unfortunately, they capsized on their gybe eventually finishing 6th. Curtis again took the win, with Fleur Leijs and Viktor Haaksman coming in 2nd for their best result of the regatta. Team Goris came in 3rd.
The course was left in place for the unscheduled race 4. Again there was a mad scramble to go inshore, and although this writer couldn’t see the top mark we were still following the 29ers so it must be up there somewhere, mustn’t it? Well, of course it wasn’t; one of the Nacra 15s had hooked it up and dragged it about a quarter of the way down the run, well to the left of where it should have been. Team Nijdam were round it first, admitting later that it had just appeared in front of them, and the sudden realisation saw many in the fleet having to reach across to it. Some of the 29ers even hoist their kites to get down to the mark. Nijdam wasn’t troubled for the rest of the race, but there was some significant place changing behind her. Mathijs Hoogvliet and Katinka Vork took 2nd, with Marloes Rot and Raimond Mooij taking 3rd. It was a tiring day’s racing, but there were lots of good stories to tell with a beer in the warm evening sunshine at the club.
Day 2 - Sunday. Where had the warm sunshine gone? It had rained heavily in the night and was just starting again as the fleet gathered to prepare for the day - first race at 10.00. However, AP was raised due to reports of lightning and 20+knot gusts outside the harbour. We got changed in the rain and waited.
Eventually it all calmed down and we went out to the race area. From being c.12 knots north easterly when we arrived at the start boat the wind proceeded to die down and swing through about 270 degrees over the next hour. Eventually, they were able to set a course to the north west and it was about 10 knots. The tide was running fast across the course, which made it difficult to cross the line on starboard and many boats missed the pin and had to spin round. It also made the beat and run very one sided. While team Curtis made the top mark first, team Overbeeke recognised the tidal effects and gybed straight away, bringing them right up behind Curtis. With the wind being lighter we were in amongst the 29ers and one of these earned the €10 he had been promised to slow down the Brits in the RS500, diving in late at the gate and pushing Curtis wide and slow at the start of the beat. Overbeeke took full advantage and sailed away for an easy win, with Curtis 2nd and Nijdam 3rd.
The wind freshened a bit for race 6 and swung right, so that it was more aligned to the tide. Team Nijdam had the better of the first beat and led at the top mark, closely pursued by team Curtis, with team Overbeeke continuing their good day in 3rd. The top two were close at the gate and took different sides: Nijdam went left and Curtis went right. Curtis came out nicely ahead, but a twisted kite forced an unfavoured early gybe and a run through the chasing fleet; and they just held on for the win, with Nijdam 2nd, Overbeeke 3rd and Hooistra 4th.
Race 7 was on the same course. The leading group was tighter bunched at the top mark with Curtis in the lead. An earlyish gybe felt good at the time, but the chasing bunch stood on and gained considerably, including Ludo Schuurman and Auke Blokland, having their most consistent race of the regatta. This time there were Nacras and 29ers at the gate as the fleet came in, and some chaos. Overbeeke came out of it well and led the way round the final lap for his second win of the day, with Nijman 2nd and Schuurman 3rd.
Race 8 was the final one of day 2, with the top mark again unchanged. Team Curtis went up the middle of the course, playing a couple of shifts, while most of the fleet went right. Meanwhile team Kooistra came in from the left. Centre and left paid off big time and Curtis and Kooistra had a big lead over the pack going onto the run, which they easily maintained down to the gate. On the final beat the wind was starting to clock right and ease off a bit. Curtis extended his lead over Kooistra, who extended his lead over Overbeeke and by the end had the most commanding win of the regatta. Jorn Eerland and Lukas van der Broek had their best result in 4th. On the sail in the wind died completely and we all had to be towed in!
Oscar Duerloo organised a fleet meal in the evening at the Fat Mermaid beach bar which was well attended and very sociable - thanks Oscar. The forecast for Monday had been steadily getting worse, and we arrived at the club Monday mornnig to be greeted by AP over A being signalled - no sailing today. It looked absolutely wild outside of the harbour and nobody was complaining. Final results were team Curtis 1st, team Nijdam 2nd and team Overbeeke 3rd. It was a fun regatta and many thanks to all the volunteers at the Jachtclub Scheveningen for the smooth running of three courses and multiple fleets.