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Howth Yacht Club's Checkmate Leads Half–Tonners At Classics Cup in Belgium

18th August 2015
First day action at the Half Ton Classics Cup. Photo: Fiona Brown
Howth Yacht Club's Checkmate Leads Half–Tonners At Classics Cup in Belgium

#halfton – Dave Cullen's Howth crew has taken the immediate advantage on day one of the 23 strong Half Ton Classics Cup 2015 on the North Sea. The regatta got underway in big confused seas with a practise race followed by the first two races of the championship series. With racing being run by the Koninklijke Yacht Club Nieuwpoort (KYCN) and the Bruxelles Royal Yacht Club (BRYC) the race committee was on time and on the case with both a tricky north easterly breeze, which was shifting up to 25 degrees and varied from mid teens to low twenties, and the cross course tide which turned during racing.

See full results downloadable below

First up they ran a practice race, followed by a windward leeward and then a short inshore race around the cans. A general recall in the practice race confirmed that the fleet was eager to go, but fortunately they managed to start at the first time of asking for both championship races, although three boats fell foul of the "U" flag in race two and were disqualified.

Richard and Ursula Hollis's X98 Crakajax got two super starts, creating space at the committee boat end so she could tack off for clear air right away. Minimising the number of tacks was a clever way to go, as those who became embroiled in tit for tat tacking battles in the middle of the course discovered to their cost. Whilst the sea state remained lumpy throughout the day the wind dropped off a little in the afternoon meaning the trimmers and helmsmen has their work cut out to keep traction.

Having acquired the 1985 Humphrey designed MG HS30 Checkmate from friend Nigel Biggs over the winter and spent time preparing and tuning her at home in Ireland, David Cullen was keen to see how she would go in the hurly burly of serious Half Ton competition. Checkmate happily delivered and her well drilled crew never really put a foot wrong, although they certainly didn't have it all their own way. In race one they narrowly scraped victory by just 13 seconds from Paul Pullen's 1986 Andrieu designed Miss Whiplash from Cornwall, while local hero Philippe Pilate sailing the 1978 General Tapioca, designed by Berrett, took third and Finland's Toni Stoschek 1988 Andrieu designs, carbon built Superhero fourth.

The second race, a short inshore race attracting a scoring coeffecient of 1.1, was almost as close and it was only on the final beat that Checkmate secured her second victory of the day by 32 seconds from General Tapioca with Albert Pierrard's A+, a 1985 Nissen design which came second in the 1985 Half Ton Cup in Italy and third a year later in Finland, in third and Miss Whiplash fourth. Superhero stormed the pin end at the start and almost achieved domination, but sadly her timing was just off and she fell foul of the U Flag so was one of those disqualified for being over the line.

In the overall standings Checkmate now has a 3.1 point lead over General Tapioca with Miss Whiplash 1.2 points behind in third. With two fifth places, Nicolas Spilleboudt's 1989 Blue Berret drops into the scoreboard in fourth place overall,

Back ashore Philippe Pilate summed up the day saying "Today was not easy. The level is very high and getting higher. The boats are all well prepared. We gave everything, the wind was over 15 knots with a big sea, but the day was very positive. We sailed to our potential, we are in the top three overall and that's where we would like to stay. The windier conditions of today suit us very well, tomorrow we will see. If the wind drops it will be more open. We are satisfied to have come and satisfied to be able to share this with many friends, which is always good and indeed the most important.

Tomorrow's forecast is for a little more wind and possibly further rough seas. The regatta committee has confirmed it intends to run at least three races tomorrow with the first start scheduled for 11.00. The regatta continues until Friday 21 August.

Published in Half Tonners Team

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The Half Ton Class was created by the Offshore Racing Council for boats within the racing band not exceeding 22'-0". The ORC decided that the rule should "....permit the development of seaworthy offshore racing yachts...The Council will endeavour to protect the majority of the existing IOR fleet from rapid obsolescence caused by ....developments which produce increased performance without corresponding changes in ratings..."

When first introduced the IOR rule was perfectly adequate for rating boats in existence at that time. However yacht designers naturally examined the rule to seize upon any advantage they could find, the most noticeable of which has been a reduction in displacement and a return to fractional rigs.

After 1993, when the IOR Mk.III rule reached it termination due to lack of people building new boats, the rule was replaced by the CHS (Channel) Handicap system which in turn developed into the IRC system now used.

The IRC handicap system operates by a secret formula which tries to develop boats which are 'Cruising type' of relatively heavy boats with good internal accommodation. It tends to penalise boats with excessive stability or excessive sail area.


The most significant events for the Half Ton Class has been the annual Half Ton Cup which was sailed under the IOR rules until 1993. More recently this has been replaced with the Half Ton Classics Cup. The venue of the event moved from continent to continent with over-representation on French or British ports. In later years the event is held biennially. Initially, it was proposed to hold events in Ireland, Britain and France by rotation. However, it was the Belgians who took the ball and ran with it. The Class is now managed from Belgium. 

At A Glance – Half Ton Classics Cup Winners

  • 2017 – Kinsale – Swuzzlebubble – Phil Plumtree – Farr 1977
  • 2016 – Falmouth – Swuzzlebubble – Greg Peck – Farr 1977
  • 2015 – Nieuwport – Checkmate XV – David Cullen – Humphreys 1985
  • 2014 – St Quay Portrieux – Swuzzlebubble – Peter Morton – Farr 1977
  • 2013 – Boulogne – Checkmate XV – Nigel Biggs – Humphreys 1985
  • 2011 – Cowes – Chimp – Michael Kershaw – Berret 1978
  • 2009 – Nieuwpoort – Général Tapioca – Philippe Pilate – Berret 1978
  • 2007 – Dun Laoghaire – Henri-Lloyd Harmony – Nigel Biggs – Humphreys 1980~
  • 2005 – Dinard – Gingko – Patrick Lobrichon – Mauric 1968
  • 2003 – Nieuwpoort – Général Tapioca – Philippe Pilate – Berret 1978

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