“It was absolutely an exciting battle”, said Remco Kenbeek, who won the 29th Zwitserleven Round Texel Race on handicap. And not only for the overall victory, but also for the line honours. The surf and waves were calm this year, but the conditions were tricky with a variabale wind. It was a matter of patience, endurance, concentration, tactics and luck. Favourite crews forfeited their chances and others became unexpected heroes. Meanwhile, the crowd onshore enjoyed the sun and the competition, which was broadcasted live on a television screen on the Texel beach at Paal 17. They witnessed a close fought finish of Göran Marström and Thomas Persson (SWE).
On June 17th 2006 at noon, 436 catamarans lined up for the 29th edition of the Zwitserleven Round Texel Race. Nothing could go wrong with a light westerly breeze and a pretty flat North Sea. Thanks to title sponsor Zwitserleven the beach was fitted with easy red beach chairs, so people onshore were ready for the race as well. Most of the top teams chose the favoured beach side of the starting line or a little bit above it. As the helicopter spit the smoke over the fleet, the competitors were off towards the light house. The high tech carbon boats in front, followed by a number of top Formula 18-teams and at a distance the rest of the participants.
Although Göran Marström and Thomas Persson (SWE) were first over the line after 04:10:34 hours, it was not before the southern point of Texel that the Swedish could overtake the Dutchmen Hans Bouscholte and Ruurd van Wieren, sailing an Eagle 20. The second Swedish entry on a M20, Mattsson and Malmsjo, was leading by far at the first gate in the north of Texel. Mitch Booth and Herbert Dercksen (NED), aiming at the line honours with their red Hobie Fox Concept Spi, changed positions with Bouscholte and Van Wieren. Van Wieren: “They were ahead of us at the light house. We caught up on him and we were about to go through the second gate side by side, but Mitch passed the mark at the wrong side and had to turn back.” On its way to Oudeschild, the black eagle managed to come closer to the Swedish M20. At that moment the wind died and all of them were parked with Booth's red devil as most easterly boat on the Wadden Sea. Van Wieren: “We saw a breeze along the coast and hoisted the spinnaker to get back to the island as soon as possible. We picked up the wind first and could even double trapeze. That was great.” The M20's filled their sails a bit later, but had more boat speed. Van Wieren: “I don't know where Marström came from, but he overtook us before the ferry and Mattsson and Malmsjo at the Razende Bol.” Meanwhile, Booth and Dercksen were still waiting for a puff.
The F18's provided another interesting competition, as there were also several changes in leading positions. “Our start was not too bad”, said Remco Kenbeek afterwards. He and his crew Paul Brouwer did not want to take any risks with their Capricorn. Kenbeek: “We stayed a little bit above seven or eight F18's at the beachside of the line. Most of them headed towards the sea, whereas we reached down the coast to the light house. We went through the first gate together with Reindert-Jan Vermeulen, Oscar Zeekant and Vincent Huntelman.” The four of them played the wind gusts very well and Zeekant/Van Uchelen were leading at the VC-buoy. Kenbeek: “Then we saw the carbon boats being parked, while we could still make some speed under spinnaker. We had the chance to think about the right side of that windless patch. We discussed which way to go and we chose for the coast. The weather forecast did not mention anything about an east wind that seemed to appear on the Wadden Sea.” Many teams tried to take advantage of that weak easterly, which did not pay off. Both systems were fighting and that is why the wind died completely. Kenbeek: “We worked our way through the little puffs. We hoisted and dropped the spinnaker many times and were finally the first to pick up the breeze along the shore. That is how we could extend our lead quickly. For a while, we were even the second boat in the race.”
The gap with Darren Bundock and Glenn Ashby (AUS), sailing a F18 Hobie Tiger, was only 400 meters. Kenbeek: “We know Darren's professional skills, so we stayed focussed. Since the race took that long, we had the current with us in the channel at the south of Texel. We made use of it by crossing in the middle.” The last lap towards the finish did not change anything and the victory was theirs. Kenbeek, who also took the line honours and overall win in 1992 as crew for John de Vries on a Tornado with spinnaker: “We were happy to be the first F18, but winning on handicap is great. Since we had to wait for a breeze for about 45 minutes, I expected any surprises of smaller boats. They did not have the same conditions as we had.” And he was right, because he almost lost his fame to Hans Primowees, skipper of a 26-year-old Prindle 15. The difference was only 38 seconds! As a result, the leading F18 World Champions Bundock and Ashby were beaten by an old catamaran. Ashby: “That is fantastic. That is what this race is about.”
The prize giving ceremony became a great celebration. All winners were honoured on stage. Champaign flew plentifully and TNG Swiss Watches were handed over by Chris Zegers, a popular Dutch tv star. The Zwitserleven Round Texel 2006 event ended with a fantastic sailor's party on the Texel Beach. Next year, world's biggest catrace will be held on Saturday June 23.
Top five (on handicap) Zwitserleven Round Texel Race 2006:
1. NED - F18 Capricorn – Kenbeek / Brouwer, 4:13:58 hours
2. NED – Prindle 15 – Primowees, 4:14:36 hours
3. AUS – F18 Hobie Tiger – Bundock / Ashby, 4:15:39 hours
4. NED – F18 Nacra Infusion – Huntelman / Van der Kamp, 4:18:46 hours
5. NED – F18 Nacra Infusion – Heemskerk / De Boer, 4:19:06 hours
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