#halfton – After five days, ten races, multiple parties and some amazingly close yacht racing, the 1985 Humphreys MG HS30 Checkmate XV, helmed by Ireland's David Cullen and crewed by Mark Pettitt, John Murphy, James Hynes, Andy George, Aidan Beggan and Gary Cullen, was declared the Half Ton Classics Cup Champion 2015 with a race to spare.
Whilst David and his team returned ashore to savour their victory after the penultimate race, the battle for second place between the 1986 Andreiu designed Miss Whiplash and the 1992 Ceccarelli designed Per Elisa went down to the wire in the final race. Roddy Angus and Dan Challic's Trestada had won race nine with Per Elisa second, Tom Florizoone's Red Cloud third and Miss Whiplash fourth. Whiplash still had the advantage, but with the tricky light conditions leaving the door open for the unexpected there was still a chance for Per Elisa to overtake.
The two boats were locked in battle royal throughout the last race, but ultimately race victory by 19 seconds and second place on the podium went to Paul Pullen, Timmy Bailey, Brian Steptoe, Jonathan Kneale, Edward Bolitho, Oliver Berryman and Amy Sharp sailing Miss Whiplash, with Robbie Tregear, John and Chris Darbyshire, Andy Jenmin, Dave Miller, Adam Furneaux and James Richardson aboard Per Elisa taking second in the race and third on the podium.
A hugely enthusiastic supporter of the class, David Cullen was a popular winner and magnanimous in his victory, thanking his crew, his fellow competitors, the members and volunteers of the Koninklijke Yacht Club Nieuwpoort and Race Officer Paul Charlier for an outstanding regatta. Asked how it felt to finally have his hands on the trophy after so many years he replied:
"We had a fantastic week, it's a beautiful place to sail and the organisers are superb. We got a mixture of all kinds of weather, a bit of Irish weather with the rain, light breezes and windy, so we were very happy with our overall performance and obviously to win the event is very gratifying.
"I actually started sailing the original Checkmate with Nigel Biggs when I was 19 - and I'm not going to tell you how long ago that was! I bought this boat from Nigel last year and we have spent all year upside down in it at very windy regattas, so to come over here and keep the boat upright is quite an achievement, never mind finishing and winning the regatta.
"It's a very tricky boat, the new boats are very very powerful and we're still trying to figure it out. But we've learnt a lot this week thanks to my ace tacktician Mark Pettitt, and we look forward to moving forward and maybe being a little bit faster for Falmouth next year."
The Corinthian Half Ton Classics Cup Trophy was awarded to local boat Skippy's Ton helmed by Nicolas Lejeune and crewed by Jean-Marie Gilles, Ann Lippens, Jean-Benoit Boels, Jan Vyvey and Philippe Piron, who finished in 12th place overall.
The prize for the leading Production Boat was won by Crakajax, an X95 built in 1985. After the prize giving co-owner Ursula Bagnall noted, "The navigation in Nieuwpoort is really difficult because of the sandbanks and how they effect the tidal flow. It makes racing in the Solent look like a doddle. We are one of the few boats that still sails to every HTCC and we have a full interior including a toilet and cooker and bunks for eight. It's a great event and we hope to see more Production boats in Falmouth next year, perhaps even enough to have a division of our own."
In addition to the main racing trophies there is a very special award presented at each Half Ton Classics Cup. The Half Ton True Spirit Trophy is awarded to the boat that, in the opinion of the judging committee, truly personifies the spirit of the class in that season. For their never ending enthusiasm, their commitment to their beautiful boat and their determination to throw themselves into every Half Ton event wholeheartedly, this year's recipients of the True Spirit Trophy are Jean-Luc Courbon, Jean Marty, Richard Carlie, Pierre-Yves Danet, Helen Frouin, Paul de la Renardiere and Louison Le Scouarnec of the 1988 Andreiu designed Half Capone - names after the famous American gangster who also inspires the crews crew uniform. The ladies of the KYCN shoreteam helped to decide the winner and came armed with water pistols and handcuffs to round up their man!
Alongside the serious prizes there were a number of humerous award, which caused much mirth amongst the sailors, and every boat in the fleet was called to the stage to receive special prizes including a copy of the Half Ton Classics Cup 2015 poster, a bottle of scotch whisky presented by Roddy Angus of Trastada and, most importantly, a special invitation to the 2016 Half Ton Classics Cup which will be held in Falmouth, UK during the third week of August.
David Cullen crewed by Mark Pettitt, John Murphy, James Hynes, Andy George, Aidan Beggan and Gary Cullen celebrate in Belgium
And so the sun sets on another amazing Half Ton Classics Cup and the boats are heading home to start dreaming about and preparing for next time. For next year's event the Class is also keen to encourage participation by Production Half Tonners and boats still being raced in "as original" condition.