The 12 square metre Sharpies met for the 2023 European championship in the last week of July at Vinkeveen Sailing club – a traditional stronghold of the Dutch fleet. The majority of the contestants were from the host nation, with Germany, Portugal and Great Britain making numbers up to over 30 boats. An 11 race series ensured all competitors had ample chance for their chance at glory, although in reality it was the usual names that occupied the top places at the end of each race.
Three home based boats quickly established themselves as a class apart from all others and fought out a very close end result, each of them enjoying their own specific day of dominance. On day one Patrick van Raalte and Jeroan Kool in NED128 recorded two wins and a second place. This was matched by Tom Weller and Jeroen van Veen in NED119 on day two and again this was matched by Dan Versteeg and Jaimie van Dorst in NED14 on day three. Five times champions Chris and Tim Gibbs in GBR125 recorded several top three places but never quite matched the top three boats for pace or consistency and were satisfied with an overall 4th position in conditions and at a venue with which they struggled.
Very pleasing to see was the clear progress made by Will Gibbs and Charlie Orton in GBR12, whose 11th overall position didn’t reflect their competitiveness, who look a few more big fleet weeks away from joining the classes top dogs.
In the end, on a controversial final day, Patrick and Jeroen ran out overall winners. Daan and Jaimie can feel slightly aggrieved, having led comfortably 40minutes into race 10 only for an abandonment due to committee error, a race in which when restarted they trailed the eventual champions over the finish line, leaving them in second overall. Tom Weller and Jeroen van Veen finished third, despite winning four races during the week.
Other British competitors Richard Mulderij, sailing with children Issy and Alex and Alex Smith sailing with Paul Beachell, had mixed fortunes throughout the week, but both boats had pleasing races along the way. Alongside this, Maddie Gibbs was called upon to sail for Dutch helm Dennis van Vliet due to injury from his crew.