Nigel Young of North Sails reports from the Michel Herbelin sponsored French Open National Championship held from 28 June - 1 July in Brittany, France. I am travelling back from Le Crouesty in the North west of France having just competed in the French National Championships. The French class is very strong and has not really suffered a traditional drop in numbers after hosting the World Championships last year. 46 boats were competing and most of the top French teams were represented in this event. What was really great to see from our prospective was the number of UK boats taking part. 5 Teams made the effort to attend and I think most took advantage of the Commodore Ferries offer of a subsidised trip after attending the UK Nationals.

The racing was held over the traditional windward leeward courses and 8 races were run over four days. As is becoming normal now at the French regatta's the organisation was perfect both on and off the water. Competitors enjoyed the relaxed launching experience of being allowed to operate the crane themselves and the marina facilities were second to none. With an abundance of accommodation available this was the perfect setting for a great regatta.

The racing got underway on Thursday afternoon in a light breeze blowing in from the sea. After a general recall the fleet got away in approximately 6-8 knots of wind and a flat sea. The familiar French teams were showing at the top mark and so was the Black Seal team which I am sailing with. A 3rd place for us in race one was a nice start to the regatta. The winners came from Dinard YC, 2nd was P&P Racing sailed by Laurent Pages. The second race of day one should not have been started at all, but we started all the same! Fortunately the race officer was on the ball and called the race off half way down the first run. The wind had died to almost nothing and the direction was very random, a good decision. Day two saw the breeze in a similar direction but a little stronger, four races were held and today was going to be remembered as a "Gill" day!! Scoring a 2,5,3,2 in the four races Team Gill had their best days racing I can remember. Quentin Strauss has been sailing with his team for quite a few seasons and they have always had good races but lacked consistency. The second day of the event was a big change for them, sailing fast and tactically smart they looked in command of the race course and were in second overall at the end of day two.

Laurent Pages and the P&P team were leading the regatta with a 2,3,3,16,1 this fully professional side really show consistency and speed. Even when they look dead and buried you cannot write them off as they always manage to find a result from somewhere! On the Black Seal we didn't have the best of days for several reasons. In the first two races we had very poor starts and finished 14th and 20th, the race track was a little one sided and we found it very hard to recover. However we made up for it a little with a 1st and a 7th in the last two races to be 3rd overall at the end of day two.

Some of the other top French Teams appeared to be struggling for boat speed and we were very surprised that the Soromap- Plangestion-Big Ship team were not putting in a better showing in there home country. Also the local favourite Luc Videau was not looking to be on form as expected. We were not complaining at all but enjoying our speed advantage over the competition. Day three was the Black Seal day! The wind was up and so was the chop and
we were looking forward to some great racing. About 15 knots building to 18 by the end of the day and bright sunshine made for a great days racing. Placing 1,1,2 really put us back in contention for the title, we had great boat speed both up-wind and down. The first race was a close battle with Sorromap on the final run, but race two was a demolition job winning by over a minute and a half.

With the final day to go the points were: 1st P&P 16 points, 2nd Black Seal 20 points, 3rd Gill 29 points. Unfortunately the final show down never came, not a breath of wind on Sunday at all so racing was abandoned for the day at 12'O Clock and the fleet packed away for the trip home. The Michel Herbelin sponsored event will be fondly remembered by all who took part. The organisation was first class, the club was just fantastic in helping out all of the UK visitors and the whole regatta was run in a very professional way. Congratulations to the Le Crouesty Yacht Club for a first class job, we would love to come back again.

1st P&P Racing Laurent Pages 16 points
2nd Black Seal Jamie Lea 20 points
3rd Gill Stuart Rix 29 points
4th Minnie the Moocher 43 points

Full results available from the French Class Site.