Women’s Snipe European Championship 2022
Last weekend, the Snipe Class concluded its Women’s European Championship in Antwerp, Belgium, with nine countries from three continents represented. The Spanish and American armadas battled it out for the podium positions throughout the three-day event culminating in an exciting, down to the wire medal race. Spaniards, Rosa Foruria & Laura Morata Lamadrid, jumped the standings to take the Championship with the American-Italian team of Kathleen Tocke & Arianna Buzzetti finishing second, and Irene de Tomas Perello & Rosario de Tomas Perello, also from Valencia, finishing third.
The Snipe Class continues its long tradition of women’s championships on the national, regional, and world level. The Snipe Women’s European Championship (SWEC) was established in the 1990s by the Moscow fleet. After a hiatus, the event was revived in 2019 by the Belgian Class Association, which was looking to host a major championship on the tiny lake of Galgenweel in the city of Antwerp. The event is now held every two years, alternating years with the Women’s World Championship.
Though Lake Galgenweel is small, it boasts five dinghy clubs and an enthusiastic fleet of Snipe sailors. The Class Championship rules were modified to allow for shorter courses with more laps, more races, as well as introducing a Medal Race to the Class. The idea being that a championship on the lake would help attract women who might be intimidated by a championship on the sea. The formula of lake sailing, easy charters from a big fleet, short courses, and traditional Belgian comradery proved successful again in 2022.
With twelve races planned over three-days on a small, very shifty lake with significant velocity changes, consistency was key to being in the top of the fleet.
And for the first time on the lake, seaweed was a major issue. There were teams of volunteers clearing the algae off the course in the morning and two boats dedicated to clearing the weed during the races. Seaweed management became a make or break it aspect of the racing. It easily slowed or even stopped teams. Avoiding weed often resulted in boats losing their lanes upwind. Good eyes and a little luck helped boats prevail. With such short races, a bad start or seaweed made the difference between being in the front or middle of the fleet.
The top places in the fleet changed every day, but with the Spanish and Americans always dominating the top three places. Young Americans, Sarah Alexander and Hollis Barth of Annapolis, USA sailed a fine event with two first places in their scoreline. Strong performances were also noted from the Belgian teams of Charlotte Martot & Aline Bongaerts and Helena de Munck & Marjan Vinck, as well as the Polish team of Ewa Kulesza & Weronika Glinkiewicz-Madej. For the former Europe Dinghy Olympian, Glinkiewicz-Madej, it was her first international event since retiring from Olympic sailing in 2004.
The Snipe Class attracts many former top women sailors looking for a competitive dinghy class for adults. Many have taken time off for school, careers, and to raise families. The Snipe Class allows the opportunity for women to compete at the local and international level, without a major financial or time commitment that many other classes require. The previous Women’s European Champion was Olympic Silver Medalist, Gintare Scheidt sailing with Kathleen Tocke as crew.
The final day of the SWEC, saw two fleet races in the morning, which shuffled the top of the fleet once again. All teams returned to shore (a two-minute sail), enjoyed lunch at the club and then the medal race competitors headed back out, as crowds gathered along the shore to watch the final race.
Only two points separated the de Tomas Perello sisters and Tocke & Buzzetti, so with double points in the medal race, it was a case of who beat who. Both teams were guaranteed a spot on the podium. Foruria & Morata Lamadrid, were in striking distance four points behind.
The breeze had built for the afternoon race, which advantaged some of the bigger teams and put the smaller Spanish teams at a disadvantage on the upwinds. The already short course were shortened even more and the course was moved closer to shore for spectators.
At the first mark, Belgians led with Tocke & Buzzetti in the first pack with the Spanish teams behind. With the breeze up, Tocke received a yellow flag from the jury for pumping the boat onto a plane going to the off-set mark. The two circles put the team back in the fleet. By the second upwind, Foruria & Morata Lamadrid moved toward the front pack, but Tocke and Buzetti were able to sail back into the top five, but did penalty circles again after tacking to close to another team near the second windward mark.
By the end of the second downwind, Foruria & Morata Lamadrid took over the lead and crossed the finish line first. It seemed the de Tomas Perello sisters would take the silver, but the American-Italian duo climbed back from their second set of penalty turns and tacked in front of the Spaniards on the starboard layline, forcing them to stay in bad air and finishing the race in seventh position, dropping them down to third places after an excellent series.
Being a women’s event and Antwerp being the diamond capital of the world, the teams on the podium were presented with diamond necklaces crafted by the Race Committee Chair. The curtain closed on one of the most fun and unique Snipe events of the year and teams are looking forward to preparing for the Women’s World Championship in Valencia in 2023.