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Three new European title holders crowned in ORC Championships

The Be Wild crew in jubilant mood at the ORC Championships. Photo: Alex Turnbull

Elusive II land Yachting Malta Trophy

The skies cleared and northerly wind filled enough on Tuesday after a long postponement to complete one final inshore race of the 2023 ORC European Championship, co-hosted by the Royal Malta Yacht Club and Yachting Malta.

The new ORC European champions in each class sailed well all week, but their overall victories were not guaranteed when they left the dock this morning.

The compression of points in the standings after Sunday’s non-discardable light-air coastal race and the possibility that if the wind filled to be stronger and more stable they might have had to race twice yesterday introduced many possible scenarios that would threaten any lead in the standings.

Yet this did not happen for two of the newly crowned champions. Karl Kwok’s TP 52 Beau Geste won the ORC World Championship twice – in 2018 in The Hague and last year in Porto Cervo, and with all bullets on their scoreline seemed assured of winning their first ORC European Class A crown…until Sunday’s coastal race when they finished well down the ranks in seventh place and their nearest rival – Claudio Terrieri’s Swan 45 Blue Sky – won the race, compressing their lead into a two-point margin.

Worse yet, Blue Sky had a fourth-place finish in Race 5 to discard and had Beau Geste not won the race on Tuesday then Blue Sky would have taken the title.

Sure enough, Beau Geste won the race by 48 seconds over Blue Sky, allowing them to take the win but only on a tiebreak.

The Blue Sky team had to settle for the silver medal instead of gold.

“We feel great, but this was a very hard win,” said Kwok.

“We were led to great heights then yesterday we came down, squashed. This shows how hard it is to win when the competition is so tough. We think the ORC system is working well, especially this week.”

Racing with Kwok was helmsman Gavin Brady, tactician Alan Smith, Edward Davison, Tom Cheney, Matt Humphries, Nathan Ellis, Ryan Houston, Max South, David Swete, Chris Cowen, Samuel Bell, Margaret Chan, and Cowen Chiu.

Class A Bronze medal winners are the Malta-based team on Elusive II, a modified First 45 owned by Maya and Christoph Podesta who finished only five points away from the tied leaders in the class.

For this achievement, the team won the Yachting Malta Trophy awarded to the highest-placed local-based team in the championship.

Class B provided this week with some of the most competitive ORC racing seen in recent times. There were several teams in contention all week, races were won and lost by seconds in both elapsed and corrected times, with teams sailing at exceptionally high levels with few mistakes.

Tuesday’s race sailed in 8-10 knots of wind: Marcin Sutkowski’s Grand Soleil 44 P Wind Whisperer 44 won the short 48-minute race with a margin of only 24 seconds over runner-up Be Wild, Renzo Grottesi’s Club Swan 42.

Lying only 15 seconds back to take third was Stergios Leontaridis’s Farr 40 OD Ellinix Farr Away, five seconds back Nicola De Gemmis’ Club Swan 42 Morgan V, Aivar Tuulberg’s Club Swan 42 Katariina II another six seconds back in fifth place, and Michalis Belegris’s Grand Soleil 42 R Code Zero Mastihashop only eight seconds back in sixth place.

This meant that the top six places finished within less than one minute of each other in ORC-scored corrected time.

With Katariina II having an eighth place in the coastal race and sailing their drop, Wind Whisper 44 winning Tuesday’s race but having to swallow a 13th in the coastal race, it was Be Wild who emerged as the new 2023 ORC Class B European champion.

Owner Renzo Grottesi was ecstatic.

“We’re very happy, but this week was very very difficult, the level of the other boats is very high,” he said.

“I’m very proud of our team, our communication was very good.” He added that the experience Enrico Zennaro had with knowing speed tricks on Swan 42s was really helpful.

Also racing with Grottesi and Zennaro was Luigi Masturzo, Sandro Iesari, Giovanni Sanfelice di Monteforte, Nicola Stedile, Alberto Grippo, Nikolaos Mascoli, Manuel Polo, Lorenzo Cantarini, and Guido Antar Vigna.

In Class C, the new ORC European champions – Ott Kikkas’s Italia 11.98 Sugar 3 – are no strangers to winning: they have won the ORC Class C World Championship every year but one since 2019, including last year in Porto Cervo.
However, this mixed Estonian and Italian team have won the European Championship only once in 2013 in their previous boat.

When asked what was different about this championship compared to others, Kikkas said: “The conditions were very good, except in the offshore races when the wind dropped for hours. But we were lucky and made it good.”

He also echoed what other winning skippers said in appreciating the intense rivalry they had with the other boats, especially Vincenzo De Blasio’s sistership Scugnizza who finished as silver medalists.

Racing with Kikkas was Sandro Montefusco, Paolo Bucciafelli, Matteo Ivaldi, Matteo Polli, Marko Uulits, Siim Ots, and Marjaliisa Umb.

“We congratulate the new ORC European Champions and thank all those who have made this championship in Malta so special,” said ORC chairman Bruno Finzi.

“This event was the result of a tremendous effort made by all volunteers and staff from Royal Malta Yacht Club, the support from Yachting Malta, the time and effort made by the Race Committee, the jury and all the technical and communications team from ORC.”

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