THE CONDITIONS could hardly have been more testing for the 23rd European Open Beach Championship which has just has taken place along our East Coast and was renamed this year in honours of its late-founder.
Now known as the Paul Roggeman EOBC, Paul worked tirelessly to make the match what it is today before he passed away just after last year’s match.
It was his foresight in 1993 to arrange an open beach fishing match on the coast that developed into the spectacle that is now, the largest of its kind in Europe and which boasts more participants and prize money than any others of comparable ilk.
The contest usually takes place between the pilot jetty at Spurn Point and Bridlington’s northern end of the North Marine Promenade but due to a forecast for a 9ft swell to be pushed onto the beaches by winds reaching 30mph, the River Humber was opened to competitors up to the Humber Bridge this year.
This being the case, on the Saturday I checked a few of the more popular fishing locations in the area. At St Andrews Quay I spoke to Paul and his father Geoff from Grimsby. They had already caught a 37cm flounder. Geoff was fishing for flounders with small hooks and Paul for cod with big hooks. But guess who caught the flounder...
At King George Dock I spoke to Sjaak and his friend, who had travelled from Holland. They owned a fishing tackle shop in the Dutch town of Sluis and were dwarfed by the huge Hull Rotterdam ferry just downstream from them. They were decked out in black attire with white fishing slogans in Dutch splashed all over. I wished them good luck and moved on.
The numbers of angler who had chosen the river did not bode well for the sea conditions and sure enough when I got to Withernsea the rollers were coming in with a vengeance. Only a few of the hardiest of anglers were trying to cast against the wind, swell and the sea spray.
It was the same story at the cliffs north of Tunstall where a few more hardy souls had cast into the boiling cauldron of white water propelling a wetting foggy spray straight into their faces. I watched the waves catching the sun whilst having a hot drink and picnic from a warm car.
At the Saturday weigh-in I was amazed to see so many fish bearing in mind the atrocious conditions. These were predominantly cod, with a sprinkling of flatties and whiting. Some fine bass had to be returned because of the EU no bass rule.
Matthew Garbutt, an angler from Skelton, Whitby did the best with a cod of 3.240kg caught near Spurn. I pictured him watching the scales, pensively as his fish was weighed.
On Sunday the sea was slightly improved but was still difficult. Matthew added a flounder to his cod on Saturday and was hailed the overall winner with 3.6kg and therefore the 2016 European Champion.
Second was Nick Welburn, of Hull, with 3.2kg and third was Alan Cammish, of Filey, with 3kg.
Will Hall and Daisy Jenkinson lead the match team from East Riding of Yorkshire Council. Their organisation ensured a smoothly run event and their next challenges are the Yorkshire Open Darts competition at Sand le Mere on March 18-20 and cycling’s Tour de Yorkshire setting off from Beverley on April 29.
I spoke to Paul Roggeman’s widow, Tez, and Paul’s sister, Helen, who had travelled from Belgium to attend the match. They were very happy with the way the competition had gone.
It is estimated that since its inception the event has attracted more than £10m into the local economy.
We must take inspiration from Paul’s lead and look at other untapped resources that Yorkshire has to offer.