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Howth Half–Tonner Checkmate Consolidates In Belgium

20th August 2015
Howth Yacht Club's Checkmate took a text book win in Belgium yesterday. Photo: Fiona Brown
Howth Half–Tonner Checkmate Consolidates In Belgium

#halfton –The sun finally shone on the Half Ton Classics Cup fleet on the third day of the regatta, which also brought more moderate wind and sea conditions. The crews enjoyed a fabulous day of classic champagne sailing to complete races six and seven of their series.

Both races were run on three lap windward/leeward courses which gave the boats some terrific racing, but still enabled them to be back on the dock by early afternoon for some well deserved relaxation time at the Koninklijke Yacht Club Nieuwpoort.

The lighter conditions saw some new faces making it to the front of the fleet and the day's top performer was Robbie Tregear's beautiful baby blue Per Elisa, the last custom Half Tonner ever built - in 1992 to a Ceccarelli design - which finished second in the Half Ton Cup of that same year. Per Elisa has raced in all the revival Half Ton Classics Cups and with a second and first place today Robbie and his crew made it clear that they hope to improve on their previous best result, which was a third in 2009, the last time the event was held in Nieuwpoort.

In the first race of the day overnight leader Checkmate XV, owned by Ireland's David Cullen, sailed a text book race to win by 68 seconds. Per Elisa had led the race early on but couldn't hold off Checkmate's onslought so had to be content with second. Happy to be back racing in more moderate conditions, Johny Swan's Harmony took third with Jeremy Florizoone's Alf fourth.

Race seven saw both Per Elisa and Checkmate XV down at the pin end which Checkmate technically won, however Per Elisa came off the line slightly to weather and with fantastic pace and stormed her way up the first beat, never missing a shift. By the first mark she already had a confident lead and she continued to build on that throughout the race, eventually winning by an impressive 6 minutes 47 seconds.

Whilst Per Elisa was out on her own, the chasing pack fought an incredible battle for second. Initially Checkmate had looked good for it, but mainsheet man John Murphy got a little overenthusiastic on the second run and the jury penalised them for pumping. The resulting penalty lost them three places on the water, but they sailed their socks off to catch back up. On corrected time with only 38 seconds between second and fifith on corrected time only 38 seconds separated second to fifth and it was Paul Pullen's Miss Whiplash who took second by a mere three seconds from Checkmate XV with the Spilleboudt brothers' Blue Berry Pi in fourth and Harmony fifth.

In the overall standings the completion of race seven means that the boats are now allowed two discards. With their worst result a third place David Cullen and his boys from Howth aboard Checkmate XV lead the regatta with 7.1 points. Paul Pullen's Cornishmen in Miss Whiplash are now in second with 13.6 points and Robby Tregear and Per Elisa jump from tenth into third with 22 points. The Spilleboudt's Blue Berry Pi has moved from seventh to fourth on 24.9 points.

Today the race committee intends to run the long coastal race, which carries a scoring coefficient of 1.5 and cannot be discarded. The forecast is for the grey skies and rain showers to return and for the wind to be southerly, but somewhat shifty and squally as the showers come through.

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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