It always amazes me how few of the Brits do the Europa Cup series. The first event of the year in Hyeres had over 280 Radials taking part (plus 99 Standards and 137 4.7s), yet there were fewer than 6 UK sailors taking part. You think the Qualifiers are big, where the Radial fleet has to be split in half, well in Hyeres they had to have four Radial fleets!

This is especially surprising when you consider that Hyeres, which is in the South of France (walking distance – I kid you not – from Toulon airport, which still operates ridiculously cheap Ryan air flights) is such a good place to sail as it is where the first Grade one European regatta (Semaine Olympique Francaise de Voile or SOF) is held each year.

The Europa Cups actually make great warm ups to the World Cup events and although all the events (Europa Cups and World Cup events) are “stand alone” they also form part of the Ladder. There are top prizes with most of the big Europa Cups giving away a free sail for each fleet as well as a free sail for the overall and category series winner.

Some of the Europa Cups are actually probably closer for some people than the Qualifiers. When you travel to Holland (which is shortly before the Holland grade 1 regatta) and Belgium with a boat on the roof or by taking a double trailer, you can get a channel crossing for well under a £100.

When you actually get there the events are always good value with a typical event costing around 70 Euros (it is just a shame that the pound is currently so weak) which will usually include food most nights and a something to take home like a T shirt or cap. The eight race series (2 discards) over three or four days is about right, and a sensible cut off time for the last race means everyone can get started on their way home at a reasonable time.

The timing of events is around school holidays so you can easily do a couple of events together for example Norway and Denmark, or Spain and Portugal with just a few days between them, allowing comfortable travel time but not too much time hanging around. There are a wide range of venues with the open sea, to Lugano in Switzerland, providing lots of different challenges. There are some great venues such as Garda which would be well worth going to even if it were not part of the series.

Overall there are ten events starting in April and ending in December in Hvar (Croatia) on December 31st… this is usually a great party. Although in the early years (whilst there was still a conflict) it was somewhat disconcerting for people to fire guns to welcome in the new year but now thankfully it is just restricted to fireworks!

One of the key things to improve your sailing is to try and get some international experience before your main event of the year, after all there is only one World Championship a year. The Europa Cup series provide a great way to do this and are less competitive than the World Cup events.

One of the key benefits of racing the Laser is that it truly is an international class and by doing the Europa Cup series you have a chance to race against top sailors from other countries not just your own. It is not uncommon to see 20 countries represented at a Europa cup which is more countries than many classes see at the World Championships.