Kristian MALMSJÖ and Pontus JOHNSSON from Sweden won an eventful 31st Zwitserleven Round Texel Race.
Xander POLS and Tjiddo VEENSTRA (NED) took the line honours for the second year in row. They needed 3 hours, 44 minutes and 44 seconds to steer their M20 around the island. On Saturday morning, a fleet of 500 beach catamarans lined up for an impressive and eventful start. The strong current pushed many teams early over the line, but the race committee made a procedure error in the starting sequence. That is why nobody got disqualified, except for Wouter SAMAMA and Paul BUYSE (NED). They were the very first finishers, but sailed the wrong course.
Only a few minutes prior to the start at 10:00, a huge crowd of coloured sails gathered at the beach side of the starting line. As it was a beautiful sunny summer day, many spectators came to the Texel beach and witnessed an exciting set off. At five minutes, the race committee hoisted the black flag that was supposed to be hoisted at four minutes. SAMAMA and BUYSE, sailing an Extreme 20, pulled on their sheet with one minute to go. Since the flags determine the procedure, the Dutchmen could not be disqualified. The same is true for all the other boats, being pushed over the line early by the strong tide. By then, the north-eastern breeze was maybe 5 knots strong and started to pick up in the afternoon.
Battle for line honours
The top finishers had different tactics for the first leg towards the light house, as Herbert DERCKSEN (NED) and Mark BULKELY (GBR) sailed off hundred metres below the beachside starting vessel (windward). They went for clean air and carried on, while POLS and VEENSTRA and other front runners went inshore. DERCKSEN: "Once we tacked back, we crossed about 120 metres behind them, so we lost quite a bit in the beginning."
POLS and VEENSTRA stayed close to shore. POLS: "If you have a good start, you are off. Especially with this boat. It was just great. We had some difficulties on our way to the VC-buoy, as we were very cautious. Last year, we lost a dagger board on that lap. But after we could hoist the spinnaker, we gained again."
However, it was the Swedish M20, crewed by Kristian MALMSJÖ and Pontus JOHNSSON, that entered the Wadden Sea in second position.
SAMAMA and BUYSE were flying towards the VC-buoy, where they were first to hoist the spinnaker. According to the race committee on location, the blue Extreme 20 made a small short cut after rounding the VC. They were supposed to leave the two remaining yellow buoys at starboard, which they did not. As a result, the Dutchmen got disqualified for not sailing the course according to the rules. SAMAMA disagreed and handed in a protest, which they lost.
Meanwhile, the top M20s continued the fight. MALMSJÖ and JOHNSSON took over the official lead, followed by POLS and VEENSTRA and DERCKSEN and BULKELY. It was not until the south of Texel, at two third of the race, that the Dutch carbon 20-feet cats could catch up on the Swedish duo. MALMSJÖ: "That is where we lost the game, because they stayed close to shore and we choose the seaside. I think that is local knowledge, but it was a fantastic race."
It certainly was for them, since MALMSJÖ and JOHNSSON sailed fast enough to beat everybody else on handicap.
Entering the North Sea, POLS and VEENSTRA went as far as possible to the beach. POLS: "We took many risks by doing so. We even tacked in between two shore breakers, which paid off well. That was the golden move, as we extended our lead. It was a beautiful race and it feels great to beat Olympic sailors."
BULKELY enjoyed the competition as well: "It was more a race than the other editions I did, with interesting beats and gibing duels."
Not all boats made the 13:00 deadline at the light house, so they returned to the beach at Paal 17, where they met the first finishing teams.
Podium On Handicap
Reindert-Jan VAN DER MEULEN and Carina KNOL, sailing a Capricorn, are the only F18 sailors that made it to a podium finish on handicap. They ended second overall. VAN DER MEULEN: "At the start it was guessing what would be the best side of the course. We decided to go to the seaside. Initially, it did not look right, but it turned out to be pretty good. We were third F18 at the light house and overtook Mischa on our way to the VC-buoy."
VAN DER MEULEN seemed to be surprised about their downwind performance: "This season, we have struggled on the run, but we had good speed today. We switched to a Hobie spinnaker and that seems to work well. After having hoisted the kite, we took the F18 lead pretty soon and kept it. I am very happy."
KNOL is also the fastest woman at this year's Zwitserleven Round Texel Race. KNOL: "It is slowly sinking in that we are second overall. During the race, I thought something had to go wrong, but fortunately it did not happen."
Göran MARSTRÖM, builder of the M20, Tornado and Extreme 40, and his crew Thomas PETERSSON (SWE) won bronze.
Zwitserleven Continues Sponsorship
After six years of enthusiastic sponsorship, Zwitserleven will remain the title sponsor of worlds' biggest Cat Race for another two editions. This afternoon in a sunny pit lane, Eliot SCHUCHART, Communications Manager at Zwitserleven, announced the continuation of partnership. SCHUCHART: "We will closely work together with the organization and Zwitserleven will closely work together to unfold new activities. In addition, they will work on the publicity side of the Zwitserleven Round Texel Race."
Zwitserleven Round Texel Race - www.roundtexel.com