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France Lac du Der 1999

24.April -25.April 1999

Courtesy Rod Andrew (BEL1)

On the weekend of 24/25 April Jo and I went to an OK Dinghy event at the Lac du Der (reservoir de la Marne) in France,- said to be the largest man-made lake in Europe, 280km SE from Mons. I sailed there some years ago, and we thought a nice open piece of water would make a change from Galgenweel. Lac du Der makes Plate Taille look small.

We knew that some of the keener French OK sailors would be there; 5 of them have just got equipped with complete new rigs from Green, and we wanted to test the competition prior to Madine. At the same time, I made my old mast stiffer over the winter (after breaking it at Nieuwpoort), and was curious to see if it made any difference.

This was principally a meeting for Finn Dinghy, and on the Saturday, there were 18 Finns(mostly new) and 8 OK's, launching off a nice shingle beach. For OK's we sailed with FRA-1769 Renè Delecluse, FRA-1110 Jacques Tiefaine, FRA-1675 Michel Henriet (not quite as old as Jos, but not far off), FRA-1336 Maxime Manca (always in short trousers and bare legs, even in winter!), these four with new rigs, plus F-338 Franáois Sara, and F-426 Jerome Gianetti, in older boats more like ours.

At first race start 16.00h Bft4, but falling, with somewhat bigger waves from earlier 4-5, nice sailing conditions. The 'new rig' guys used their new masts but with old sails, expect Maxime, who tried the complete outfit. A long start line with no bias left plenty of room for everyone. This was a big course, I could not see the windward mark buoy, and only just the boat moored by it as a pointer.

I got a clear start in the middle of the Finns, and found that under these conditions BEL-1 ran very nicely with the traveller a little bit further out than usual to get through the waves. When I got time to look around I found I was easily in the lead of the OK's, with around 1/3 of the Finns behind as well. A few of those passed me on the reaches, but many in front mistook the start buoy for the downwind mark and made a big unnecessary detour, so I started the 'sausage' still in the middle of the Finns, with René well behind, and the other OK's nearly out of sight. I played safe, covering René, who caught up a little on the final windward leg to make 2nd placed OK, Fran´┐Żois 3rd, Michel Henriet 4th, Jacques 5th, Jo 6th, Maxime 7th. For the honour of the OK class, I had 3 new Finns behind me at the finish. Good for pride.

Second race started in Bft2 dropping to flat calm. I stayed in 2nd place after René until 30m from the line of a rapidly shortened course, and was then overtaken on both sides by 4 boats including Jo. Good for humility.

After a glass of champagne, Jo and I camped on the beach, and reflected on some principal differences between typical OK dinghy sailors, and the Finn sailors:-

  1. Finn sailors are bigger, makes me look like the guy on the beach who has sand kicked into his face by the Charles Atlas lookalike.
  2. They have new boats
  3. They drive BMW's, Mercedes etc. OK-Dinghy sailors have beat-up old vans etc.
  4. They don't camp on the beach or sleep in the car like many OK sailors we know,- they go to the hotel.
  5. They don't suffer malnutrition like us, they go to the restaurant.

Sunday we woke up to a beautiful sunny day with Bft0. 10a.m. all boats rigged, 4 OK sailors trying new sails, but no start, much discussions on the beach. Finally a breath of wind came, and a start was announced, with added Lasers and Europes, plus around 15 Opty's starting first.

There followed three general recalls(no Z flag) as mainly Lasers and Europes mistook downwind course mark for start line end marker. Of course I got an incredibly good start in all those starts.

In falling wind, on the 4th start I got stuck behind a crowd. Jerome got the best start to leeward and stayed clear out to around 2/3 of the way to the 1st mark, then the wind went, at leeward first, stranding Jerome. Jo started very late to windward, but caught up nicely with a private wind. I ended up 20m to the leeward of Rene in 1st place, he 100m from the 1st mark. He went round the mark maybe 5min before me. After drifting down the 1st reach, being eaten by small flies, and at this point reasonably close to the beach, I abandoned my 2nd place, and paddled ashore with Jo. Many others did the same, but some boats eventually finished a shortened course, with a 50m windward leg.

It was clear that sailing was over for the day. Jo and I missed the prize giving ceremony, and visited the beautiful old wooden frame churches in several villages very close to the lake, before heading home.