12ft Skiffs Nationals - Gemmell Sails wins in testing conditions

Nats Day 4 035
Garry Hobson
In the rigging park prelude to the sixth and final race of the 2012 season National titles for the 12’ skiffs, Murray 'twinkle-toes' Press demonstrated not only does he display mastery on the dance floor, but that his proficiency and commitment in the pre-race rig-choice sledging is also second to none.

Forecast was for south west big sail breeze; at rig choice time it was still exceeding big-rig range, but the fleet decided that it would fail in-line with the forecast.

At the later stage, the Queenslanders with the skinny boats opted to make a rapid rig-change. The locals with the wider boats felt they were still in the right position, and kept the big-rigs in the boats.

The PRO called a high-wind forecast, and like a mouse in the elephant enclosure, this caused a stampede. Murray was first to go; called a change to second. The others rushed to follow, then when they were fully committed Murray confessed to the 'dummy', and he had stayed with his big sail.

Out on the course his grit was rewarded, a sick breeze seemingly guaranteeing him the day, and with it second place overall.

The Fleet got away in a 10 knot south westerly with a strong run-out tide and worked the shifts up to the top mark at Clarke Is.

Just short of the island the breeze built rapidly to 15 knots, sending the front-runners Gemmell Sails ('twinkle-toes' and Ben Gemmell) Garde, already having the series won convincingly (Brett Hobson and Alex Johnson) Lincoln Crowne & Company (Jonathan Temple and Richard Jones) and PB Towing (James 'Skinny' Flemming and Tristram Hamilton) down the harbour towards the bottom mark near Eastern Pile Light in Watsons Bay, all frenetically gybing to stay in the narrow columns of breeze.

The four bunched at the bottom mark, and the rest of the fleet spread out between Clarke Island and Eastern Channel.

The breeze went really fickle on the work back with Gemmell Sails pulling out. Hey Charger (Nicholas Barnard and Robbie 'Bruno' Polec) moved up on a westerly slant to take the lead as Gemmell Sails worked further west to consolidate in the breeze. Garde in the east, fell into a personal hole and parked, only metres from boats with pressure.

Gemmell Sails and Hey-Charger got stranded in the channel off Bradleys Head as the breeze deserted them, allowing LCC and PB Towing to pass them in westerly pressure.

Gemmell Sails re-took the lead at the top mark and drove deep to the east in the pressure, followed by LCC and Garde, and this group followed the breeze down the harbour's eastern shore. The breeze then shifted back to the west, causing the eastern three boats to underlay the mark, bringing Hey-Charger charging down over them in the west; Gemmell Sails and LCC held them off and were overlapped rounding the bottom mark.

The breeze fell out again and allowed Gemmell Sails, with the big-rig, to extend again. Garde found another hole on this work and got dropped again.

The breeze held steady for the rest of the race allowing Gemmell Sails a comfortable victory, from Lincoln Crowne, then Hey Charger ahead of Garde.

With the regatta already won by Garde, today's result gave Gemmell Sails second overall by one point from Lincoln Crowne.

A number of skiffs found the day too painful and retired early.

Full results at www.skiff.org.au