Open European Championship Won by American Keith Whittemore / Robert Bakoczy and Team Become 2017 J/24 European Champions

Hungarian victory crowned the J/24 European Championship which was held in Balatonfüred between September 24 and October 1. The title was decided during the very last race of the 10-race competition. The continental trophy was won by young Robert Bakoczy and his dynamic team after four days of consistent sailing. The Open Champion title was won by American Keith Whittemore. 250 competitors on 48 boats from eight countries sailed the waters around Balatonfüred during the European Championship on board of the world’s most popular one-design keelboat. Light wind continued to be the theme during the last race day, but despite the challengingly shifty conditions, the Race Committee, headed by Bence Fluck, managed to run two races on the final day. Race 9 was sailed in 7-8 knot northeasterly winds, during which three German teams gathered BFD penalties due to jumping out early. LUV was the first boat to reach the first upwind gate, shadowed by the young girls-only team on GER5266, while Django turned third. By the end of the second leg, leading positions shifted as the left side of the course proved faster, but LUV and GER5266 managed to hold onto their leads while Greek Evniki completed the leg third. The second upwind leg was accomplished by again LUV first while two teams came in from the right: Jukebox in second place and Furio in third. Tom Stiry and his team won Race 9 before Jukebox and upcoming FGF Sailing Team. Race 10 was a nerve-wracking course, testing the endurance of the teams with its dropping, shifty winds. Evniki was the first to round the first upwind mark followed by Dutch team JOOL and Jmania. This order was kept at the downwind mark, except Evniki swapped positions with JOOL. Dropping winds clustered up the teams at the mark, and there were fierce struggles for inside positions coupled by loud protest calls. Team JOOL struggled up first to the second upwind mark, followed by Evniki and Vitesse. The Dutch ended up winning the race on board JOOL, beating Evniki and Vitesse. The Race Committee was determined to do an 11th race which had to be started by 4 pm. The wind was picking up to 7-8 knots and shifting east, but the first start attempt had to be interrupted by an AP due to a sudden wind shift. The 11th race started clear on the second start attempt, though shifting conditions forced an abandonment. Therefore, the European Championship closed after 10 races. FGF Sailing Team helmed by Robert Bakoczy became European Champions. "The J/24 European Championship was a great adventure for us, as this is not our Class. We sail in a different Class. It was great that there was no pressure on us, and this brought us victory. We are extremely delighted. I don’t know, I am just overwhelmed right now. It hasn’t yet sunk in that this has happened to us and we won," said Bakoczy after his win. Silver went to Farkas Litkey with his mixed Hungarian/Italian team on board Pelle Nera, while the bronze was earned by Balazs Tomai and his team on Jenesis. The Open Trophy was taken home by American Keith Whittemore and his team on Furio. "It was amazing to race on this beautiful Lake where, to our surprise and biggest delight, powerboats are banned. You cannot believe how lucky you are with this. We had 10 great races, great organization and fair start lines," said Whittemore after the races. Jukebox helmed by Miklos Rauschenberger, who was leading the regatta during two days, finished fourth. They received a standing ovation at the prize-giving ceremony, as they earned three wins during the regatta and offered very consistent sailing all throughout the week. German Süllberg with Stefan Karsunke finished fifth, followed by Evniki helmed by Athimos Nikolaidis at sixth. Three more Hungarian teams made it to the top 10 which is a great achievement considering the strength of the fleet. Dutch team JOOL (Dirk Olyslagers) finished seventh, followed by Jbond (Robert Sarina) in eighth, iJroncat (Gabor Sallai) ninth and Jinge (Imre Scholtz) closing the top 10. Following the J/24 Class’ legacy, there were also special prizes distributed. The "Old Boat Trophy" was earned by Just a Big Dinghy helmed by Annamári Sabján. The boat had been used by a Swiss fisherman who shortened the mast by 6 cm. The mast had to be restored to its original length before the European Championship in order to comply with Class Rules. The girls-only team went to lengths to make their boat race compliant. The "Ladies Trophy" special prize was won by Emily Kern and her team on Rotogirl. "The Top Youth Boat Trophy" was won by the GER3634 team, Fast F, helmed by Johanne Maske. The "Top Senior Boat" title went to Italian Attilio De Battista on ITA498 named Pilgrim. Erik Hercsel, the President of the Hungarian J/24 Class, concluded the event as follows, "I am grateful that I had a chance to sail the same course with such great sailors during this regatta. Seeing the Hungarian fleet, the teams, the helms achieving such great results makes me even more happy. Long months of organization and many late nights preceded this event. Big thank you to my entire team who made this event such a success, to the many supporters, volunteers, J/24 Class members, to Balatonfüred Yacht Club, and of course to our sponsors whose support was inevitable in the realization of this great event."
Further event information: http://j24europeans2017.hu/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/hunj24class/

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