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470 European Championships - A Brief History

The first 470 European Championship was organised in July 1966 in Boulogne-sur-Mer (France). Sixty-three boats from three nations (Belgium, France and Switzerland) took part in this Championship.

The first European champions were Gabriel de Kergariou/Alain Cordonnier (France). Since 1966, the European 470 Championships have been held each year, except in 1970 which was the year of the first World Championship. Open to all at the beginning, the European Championship became restricted in 1968 to sixty boats with allocation of quotas per nations.

However, due to the rapid expansion of the 470 in Europe, the 470 Internationale asked organisers from 1972 onwards to organise an «open» week in parallel. A record of 170 participants was thus reached in 1973 in St-Cast (France) on the occasion of the 470’s tenth anniversary. This week remained open up to 1979, except for 1978, and was abandoned thereafter. In exchange, the maximum number of boats in the European Championship was increased to eighty in the early 1980s.

Up until 1985, the European Championship and the tile of European Champion were reserved for crews from European nations and from the nations of the Mediterranean basin that were affiliated to the 470 Internationale (principally Israel but also at the time Egypt and the North African countries). Crews from other nations could be authorised to compete by invitation outside the quota and without access to the title. This explains how in1978 the New Zealanders Murray Jones/Andy Knowles won the event in front of the Russians Mikhail Kudrjavtsev/Edgar Terekhin who won the title.

From 1986, the European Championship was split into two, with a Championship reserved for men/mixed crews, still limited to eighty boats, and a Championship reserved for women, without quota and open to nations other than those competing for the title. The first Women’s European Championship was thus won by Jennifer J. Isler/Amy Wardwell (USA) and the first Women European Championship title was won by the French Florence Le Brun/Sophie Berge.

In 1988, on the occasion of the 470’s 25th anniversary in Saint Pierre Quiberon (France), the men/mixed European Championship was not limited in number but used the International Spring Cup format with a qualifying phase and a final phase in fleets. The 1973 participation record was beaten, with a total of 184 boats.

From 1999, the men/mixed European Championship became open to all nations, with the limitation on the number of boats increased to one hundred and twenty. The final ranking of the European Championships was obtained by subtracting all crews that were not competing for the title. Between 1999 and 2012, it so happened that seven of the fourteen men’s European Championships were won by the team that also won the overall Open Championship. This was even more common in the women’s fleet: a European boat won both the European and Open Championships in twelve out of the fourteen editions.

In 2003, for the 470’s thirtieth anniversary in Brest (France), the limitation in number of boats for the men & mixed European Championship was not applied and it has not been re-established since then. Finally in November 2012, the 470 Internationale decided to no longer authorise mixed crews in European Championships, thus aligning the regatta with the World Championships.

France has been by far the most titled nation in the European Championships, with thirty-four medals, of which fifteen gold, nine silver and ten bronze, ahead of Ukraine with eight medals, of which seven have been gold. Germany, including former East and West Republics, has totalled thirty-two medals of which six have been in gold. Next comes Spain with fifteen medals, of which six in gold, Italy with nineteen medals of which five have been gold and Great Britain with thirteen medals, also five in gold. The Ukrainian Ruslana Taran won the Women’s European Champion title six times, with five consecutive titles from 1995 to 1999 with Olena Pakholchik and one in 1993 with Svetlana Oleksenko. The Spaniard Theresa Zabell won three titles, in 1991 and 1992 with Patricia Guerra and in 1994 with Begonia Via Dufresne.

The Croatians Sime Fantela/Igor Marenic won three titles 2009, 2010 and 2011. Finally, the Frenchman Marc Bouët also won three titles in 1968, 1969 and 1974 with three different crews and won a silver medal in 1967. As for the Australian Malcolm Page, he won the open event three times, with Nathan Wilmot in 2002 and 2008 and with Mathew Belcher in 2011