Ex-Sharpie sailors just beaten in 505 Riva Cup
Former champion Sharpie sailors, Tasmanian Nick (‘Camel’) Johnston and South Australian Mal Higgins, now joined forces in the International 505 class, have finished the closest of seconds in the prestigious Euro Cup Rival del Garda sailed on Italy’s famous Lake Garda.
The Australian lost by a boat length and one point in a 51 boat fleet in the final race.
“The regatta came down to the last two-sail reach and unfortunately we were beaten by thee times world champions Mike Holt and Carl Smit – by a boat length,” Camel said in a brief report to the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmanian.
Since joining as a team to contest international and world championship regattas, Higgins and Johnson have produced some top level results but the Euro Cup at Riva is certainly one of their best;
Reporting on the final day of the regatta, the International 505 Association said today that the 51 505 crews were greeted with a warm sunny morning and the promise of another stunning day on Lake Garda. Those that have been to Riva before will tell you if it is sunny and warm the southerly wind will blow and yet again it delivered.
The fleet launched into the gentle fingers of the breeze as it filled in and by race time it was blowing a perfect 15-18, with a few shifts to make it interesting.
Race 7 the fleet got away cleanly and those that started at the committee boat and were quickest away on to port held the advantage, with Canadian’s Tennant and Bourdow getting their bow ahead chased by a pack of boats.
They were to hold their lead the whole way around while some real drama played out behind them.
The Australian team of Higgins and Johnson had pulled through the fleet to 2nd, which would have put them in the lead with a race to go. However, they tried to fly their spinnaker across the short top leg, could not make it and dropped to 4th, the British team of Clark and Clark taking advantage to score a 2nd place.
Going into the final race it was a tie at the top and essentially the winner of the Riva Cup would come down to who beat who between the US team of Holt and Smit and the Aussies Higgins and Johnson, with the tussle for 3rd equally close between two British teams, Pinnell and Needham, the Clarks and Canadians Tennant and Bourdow.
The race got away cleanly, with a big split with the bulk of the fleet going for a committee boat start and an early tack to the “cliffs” and a smaller but this time smarter group who went for a pin end port tack start.
Holt and Smit got this call right to lead at the top, followed by British team of Andy Smith and Stewart Mears. Close behind them were Higgins and Johnson. The race was now on!
By the first bottom mark Smith and Mears had moved into the lead and importantly, Higgins and Johnson rounded just ahead of Holt and Smit. The positions remained unchanged up the next beat so it was all on the last run and short reach to the finish.
Holt and Smit gybed out to the middle of the lake while the leading two went to the eastern shore, when the three boats came back together the places were the same but the gaps had closed.
By the leeward mark Smith and Mears had done enough to close out with a race win, Higgins and Johnson gybed with the kite up and Holt and Smit followed tight behind them, but without the kite.
No kite was the right call and Holt and Smit sneaked across just ahead in 2nd to take the win by one point. Could not have been any tighter. Yet again Riva delivered a fantastic event, great breeze, stunning scenery, food and racing. No wonder so many people keep coming back!
Words: Mike Holt
Photos: International 505 Association
5 June 2019