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Australian Women's Keelboat Regatta day 1

by John Curnow on 9 Jun 2013
The whole fleet heading down to the leeward mark in Race One - 2013 Australian Women’s Keelboat Regatta Alex McKinnon © http://www.alexmckinnonphotography.com
Day one of the 23rd running of the Australian Women’s Keelboat Regatta (AWKR) was exactly that. Short – boats raced from 10am until 2pm. Sweet – glorious, sunny and mild, with loads of smiles form competitors and soft, five to nine knot breezes from the North to Nor’west running down over the top part of on Melbourne’s Port Phillip. Accordingly, all 17 boats and crews had their moment in the sun, literally, but it was a day that would belong to the Flying Tiger 10, Tigris. Alison Binks has returned to the helm after taking two years off to have her first child and it was a fairly emphatic display. Two Line Honours wins by around six and four minutes in both races sees the slick craft and crew holding a commendable two-point lead in the Australian Measurement System category. This great effort was further signposted by the two wins in Performance Handicap and the significant five-point buffer they carry there over one of the Adams 10s, Apache. Speaking with Binks out on the water and also back ashore, you could tell they were very happy. 'It certainly was the Flying Tiger’s kind of weather today. These are the best type of conditions for Tigris, really. We have done some training leading into this event and the crew have just been marvellous. We are all warmed up now, working well together and to keep going tomorrow and Monday will be good, so here’s hoping.' 'On a day like this you have to try and find the wind and head to it, and I am more than ably assisted on board by a couple of our team with picking shifts and patches. We have the added motivation of sailing for one of our crewmembers who is sick, so this one is really for Rowena Jackson.' Others to feature well on the day were serial AWKR participants aboard Top Gun. This gang share the wealth and so Stephanie Strong is on the helm this year, with Erin Foster moving up to the pointy end after her turn with the tiller last year. Erin has actually done 14 of these great events and was lucky enough to start really early. As per every year, they take at least one novice out to race with them and for 2013 they have two on board. One thing that is also with them are sweets and six bags made it out for day one, with five coming back ashore. Perhaps the harder workout tomorrow will see a few more bags demolished. Top Gun are leading IRC with a first and second place for their day’s work. Two points astern of them are Apache, whose tremendous effort in the second race of the day certainly now has them all fired up for the regatta. A wonderful second place, over the line, was a great reward for a well-sailed race, with just a small tactical error perhaps costing them a win.

The Scampi 30, Nouannie, sits in third place (IRC), equal on points with Apache and then Tara McCall from the CYCA has another Adams 10, Jungle Juice, two points further behind them. Their second race was clearly not as good as their first and a choice to go right out of the blocks was to be very costly. From there they struggled to make a dent on the others, whereas Top Gun pointed higher to overcome her slow patches from early on and set about catching Tigris and Apache. Perhaps for McCall and crew the 1.5knot current coming out of the Yarra River after all of yesterday’s rain threw them and with just five to eight knots of shifty breeze on offer, local knowledge was definitely a plus for the other crews. Given their boat handling skills on display in race one, this knock together crew of three regulars and three extras should do well in the forecasted stronger breezes. Charlotte Holiday is one of the three regulars and was aware that they would be of interest to those in the know. More than anyone, this crew are a watch this space kind of affair. Mood Indigo won the battle of the S80s and sits in fifth place in IRC and sixth in PHS. Helen Wilmer with her crew from South Australia did well to have the Bavaria 38 Match, Mrs Overnewton, well inside the top ten on the track and a sixth place tonight in IRC is their reward. Kabaret may be the biggest out there at 40 feet, but she has a lot of novice crew on board. They have worked well in the light breeze and were often in amongst the similarly rated craft, which includes the Adams 10s. As the breeze is expected to build and provided they can continue with some fine crew work, they may be able to see their fortunes climb past the 12th place in PHS they currently occupy.

Look out for Children of Phoenix, which is so named after the charity it supports for victims of sexual abuse. The Elliott 10.5 shows some serious pace and reaches very well. Monday is expected to offer a passage style course and this craft could really take flight. Mentions also to Phantom, which is an Elliott 9.6 and also Vagrant, which took to the water with just three crew due to late withdrawals. You would not have known there were any issues however, for the crew skippered by Avril Sellars quite possibly had the biggest smiles of the day. Naturally any regatta requires a lot of people and sponsors to make it happen. Nautilus Marine Insurance, Logie-Smith-Lanyon and Helly Hansen are the primary component of the latter. As to the former, the Royal Melbourne Yacht Squadron has countless volunteers driving boats, doing results and generally running things under the directions of the AWKR Committee headed by Jody Lukeman. Louise Kavanagh, Eleni Spassopoulos, Virgine Lhermet, John Cotterell, Janina Goethel, Lisa Patterson, Janet Dean, Rebecca Badenoch and Amanda Wakeham are the other members. Amanda is also working with the regatta RO, Paul Pascoe. Paul and his team had a lot to attend to today, with the constantly moving feast of conditions. The first race was an Olympic Course with an axis of 020? and 1.1nm from the leeward mark. Paul also chose to set the Committee Vessel and start line 0.3nm up and keep the gate for all craft to then come back through after completing the two 0.75nm reaching legs out to and from the gybe mark. This race was shortened and finished about halfway down the track after the boats had gone to the windward mark for the second time.

Race Two was then started from here on an axis of 330? now and over a distance of 1nm. A classic windward/leeward course was set with the bottom mark moved slightly up to around 0.8nm and again it was shortened and finished, but this time at the top mark when boats got there for the second time. Paul commented, 'It went lower than that too! One of the scout vessels right up past the windward mark saw 315? just before the start of second race. Really it was the strength, or lack there of, as it wandered around from less than four whilst we were under Answering Pennant, to perhaps eight knots at the end.' 'One S80 was almost close to zero knots in the current coming out of the Yarra and we were definitely watching their painstaking progress. The last vessel took 50 minutes to get to the windward mark and we have a two-hour time limit, so finishing everyone was becoming a bit of an issue, Thankfully, the breeze arrived and we got them all home on the shortened course. Two races and lots of smiles is a good thing, so we’ll carry that over to tomorrow with three races targeted for Sunday and the one longer one on Monday.' 'You know the gate was a good success and certainly got them thinking about things. We really shortened the original start line to make it quite tight and that made it quite exciting for all.' Sweet is a recurring theme for the day and the happiness being exuded around the club. Everyone is keen for that to continue on Sunday, but if they get three races in, it will be anything but a short day. If it goes past 15 knots, it will certainly be a hard day at the office, too.

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