01 October 2016
Velsheda Les Vainquers, Saint Tropez Victors
A constructive if slightly diversified 2016 season for the J Class finished on a high note today for Velsheda as they completed a narrow win over Lionheart to win the J Class match up at Les Voiles de St Tropez regatta. Velsheda also finish second overall in the IRC Class A.
But Velsheda's win came at the end of one of the closest and most spirited jousting matches of the European summer season. While they had eased away from Lionheart after another neatly executed start, on each downwind Lionheart came back at them hard. And it was only because the Velsheda team backed themselves on the final run and let Lionheart gybe away that they managed to hold off the 'men in black'.
"I am sure that if we had carried on trying to match Lionheart through each gybe they would have rolled us. So we picked our side and stuck with it." Grinned a delighted Tom Dodson, the wily Velsheda tactician, "They were quicker on the downwinds each time, sometimes bringing up the breeze with them so let's just say we were always pleased when the leeward mark appeared. Sometimes it could not come fast enough!"
The last run into the finish off Saint Tropez was a pure picture postcard spectacle. The two giant Js were surrounded by every size, age and variety of classic yacht racing, plus a massive throng of spectator craft battling each other for the best seats in the house to witness the last throws of the dice for the 2016 season. The waterborne crowd were duly rewarded as the big pair went at each other hammer and tongs until Velsheda chose to stand their ground which secured the race win and the J prize for Saint Tropez.
The last contest of the season brings to a close the racing season for the Js with all roads leading to Bermuda where the J Class America's Cup regatta will feature an incredible fleet of seven/eight boats. Velsheda won Saint Barths and Saint Tropez, Lionheart won the Js at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup. All of the season's racing has been around coastal courses. Only at Gaastra Palma Vela where Lionheart raced as a lone J Class warrior among a mixed fleet handicap class and won was there windward-leeward racing.
"I think that over the piece we are very happy with where we are. Our crew manoeuvres have improved. We had a great race to finish with today. It is hard against Velsheda on reaching courses because they are that metre longer and faster reaching and so if they get ahead but that has been good for us as we have had to sail harder and get better." Says Bouwe Bekking Lionheart's tactician. "When I close my eyes and think of Bermuda racing against seven Js it will be fantastic. We had a glamour year two years ago. We won a couple last year. We believe in ourselves and can't wait for next year."
Velsheda's Dodson concluded: "It was a great day today. We were fending them off all the way." "Overall we are sailing well. I don't think we really can sail the boat any better. Next season we will have three or four new sails to replace sails which are really at the end of their life. But it will be tough next season against the replica boats, the Lionheart, Hanuman, Ranger and the new boats will all be quicker upwind and downwind."
"Lionheart have been great rivals and all credit to them they really sail their boat very well. They give nothing away and I really have to congratulate them for how well they sail."