Reigning Marblehead World Champion Brad Gibson (GBR) successfully defending his title in a 68-boat fleet on the Lakes of Reeuwijk in the Netherlands.
A truly international fleet gathered in Gouda with boats far afield as Australian and the USA together with ten European Nations.
It was reigning World Champion Gibson who in the end successfully defended his title sailing more consistently than former World Champion Graham Bantock (GBR) who had the greater number of wins but was less consistent overall. In third place was Ante Kovacevic (CRO), who races the One Metre Class extensively in Croatian. He showed the transferability of skills returning to the Marblehead Class in a Bantock design boat. Local skipper Joop de Jong (NED) sailed a steady event to finish in fourth place ahead of another GBR skipper and former one metre World Champion Peter Stollery in fifth.
The week long event was a fantastic advertisement for the Marblehead Class with a range of conditions and course variations challenging skipper race skill and boatspeed.
Race day one started with challenging oscillating winds ranging from 2 - 7 knots and made life difficult for the race team but racing got under way just after 10:00 local time. The seeding races were followed by four full races in which every skipper is given the opportunity to come first as boats have the opportunity to get promoted between the 5 heats racing under the heat management system. The second day was much fresher although not as much as had been predicted and with it the rain arrived this leading to a gusty day near the top of the A rig conditions where start placement and second beat management were crucial. The half way point of the regatta and the predicted stronger winds arrived with skippers changing to smaller sail plans as wind gusted in the region of 10 - 20 knots.
The fourth day is traditionally the day when those with an eye on the prize need to step forward. Sailors were greeted with light winds covering all points of the compass during the day and it was a credit to the race management team that another four full races were completed over the day in tricky, yet fair racing conditions. It was Bantock who started the day with a 1,2,3 to significantly close the gap on defending champion Gibson. Gibson himself looked to struggle to find his rhythm and started with a 2,4 and 14 and having to gain promotion from B heat. The good form then returned for Gibson with 1,1 placings in the final 2 A fleet heats of the day to once again open the points gap up on Bantock who scored a 9,2 to an overnight lead of 14 points after a nail biting finish in the final heat of the day.
After a tense wait for the wind to arrive the final day of racing saw only 2 full rounds completed in the day and Gibson was able to retain his title by scoring a 2,3. After a tough regatta and some brilliant sailing, Bantock took a very well deserved second place.
The Marblehead is a measurement controlled class so variation in boat designs adds another element to the racing. What was encouraging was that no design dominated the fleet with race wins in A fleet varied from the latest designs of Gibson (Grunge), Bantock (Quark) and Pomerade (Tramontane) through to the 20 year old Margo design sailed by Frenchman Remi Bres in which he achieved two masterful light air wins. Home design and builds are also making a solid return to the class as seen by the very narrow Honcho of Joop de Jong in 4th, the Kokillo of Roberto Zanassi in 12th and the Chiwawa of Massimo Apostoli in 18th of which all had fine placings in the A fleet over the week. A 15 year old ROK (Bantock) sailed by Darin Ballington (GBR) and Walliki Skalpel sailed by Gilles Di Crescenzo showed that well rigged and sailed older designs are more than competitive at the highest level in the sport.
ISAF affiliate member the International Radio Sailing Association who newly elected Chairman Lester Gilbert (GBR) Chaired a meeting with the skippers. In which he outlined his commitment to supporting the revival in Marblehead Class racing and he formed a working party from sailors present to look into various options of restructuring and future regattas.