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Happiness at the Australian Women's Keelboat Regatta 2013

by John Curnow on 10 Jun 2013
Apache showing some of their serious speed Alex McKinnon © http://www.alexmckinnonphotography.com
On the final day of the 23rd Australian Women’s Keelboat Regatta (AWKR), Joie de vivre was omnipresent throughout the entire fleet. By way of examples, the crew of the Flying Tiger 10, Tigris, came out and raced in tiger beanies, which had the added benefit of helping to keep out the cool breeze.

Elsewhere, Kaberet were celebrating Kathryn Thornton’s with bunting decorating the stern rail. Like Tigris’ colourful and oh-so-stylish beanies, it too lasted for the entire race. Top Gun thought the best way for them to mark the completion of another AWKR was to have a gun to gun win, which they did with truly serious intent and smiles to match. Erin Foster, Kate Aulich, Nikki Matthews, Rachael Suda, Rebecca Bohling and Steph Strong have sailed themselves into top place on the scoreboard and thoroughly deserve to collect the silverware for all three categories. Erin said of the series, 'Yes, we do like coming back and am really happy to have the wins. Thank you so much to the Royal Melbourne Yacht Squadron (RMYS, all their volunteers, our fellow competitors and especially all the owners. Hopefully, even more all-female crews can join in next year’s 24th AWKR.'

Out on the track for the 1000hrs start, the Race Committee set Course #five, which had the fleet amass about one nm South of the club’s Westerly mark, C. They would set off towards and round C, which was on a bearing of 320?. From there boats would head South to R2, which is just East of the main shipping channel and in line with Green Point, down in between Brighton and Sandringham. A long work back up to RMYS A off the breakwater at St Kilda followed, before a short beam reach back out to C, thence down to R2 again, before returning to a laid finish line, just a tad North of C.

A Northerly of 13knots gusting to 21 would hold steady for the three hours that the fleet went racing and given its direction it meant that mostly flat seas were to be had at the top of the course, whereas at R2 a genuine 1m seaway was running. This would put a bit of damp stuff on the deck to keep it interesting for the for’ard hands, especially on the Adams 10s that do not have fences.

As the start sequence ran down, it was evident that the boat end was going to be more than favoured. Top Gun was there and they timed it to perfection, being about 1m off as the smoke billowed out of the end of the gun barrel. Red Dog, who was right under the transom of the Committee Vessel, did cause Mrs Overnewton to bear away so as to avoid them when they forced their way in.

Apache was down at the pin end and had Tigris and Wild Child with her, whereas in the middle there was Jungle Juice, Serious Yahoo and Phantom, who were the only ones to start with the first reef in. This was hastily shaken out on the run. Children of Phoenix were in this collection too and had more ups than downs for the day to collect a second in Performance Handicap System (PHS) for this final race.

Top Gun had a wonderful first work, but showed that they are still human by over-laying the windward mark by some margin in the end. Unlike yesterday, however, Jungle Juice and Mrs Overnewton who were behind did not follow suit. This allowed Mrs O to go in to the mark in second place as a result of an impressive display and they have just got better with each race. Tigris, Jungle Juice, Apache, Kaberet (another doing better and better each race) and Serious Yahoo completed the lead pack. Overlaying did infect quite a few others after them, such as Wild Child. Red Dog would be the back marker.

Some crews did not have some basics organised like the pole up, the spinnaker on deck on the previous tack when it was the high side, clipped up and fed to the beak, so it would be at least 100m down the leg before the hoist would be commenced and completed. Even bearing away at the mark would often not occur right on time. On a positive note, the Noelex 25, Footloose was up in front of two of the S80s and you had to think they would do well. By the time the race results were in they had, with a win in PHS and then third places for both IRC and Australian Measurement System (AMS). Nice work from Kari Righton, Kerry Watt, Robyn Curry and Lennie Beattie. On the run down, Tigris and her large asymmetric spinnaker had a big round up whilst attempting their gybe to come back in. They recovered well and then smoked in to R2 and went around in second place. They also held on to it much longer than the opposition too and that included Top Gun who handed back a fair amount of the distance they had worked so hard to acquire. Apache was out there too, which may not have been the best use of the Adams 10 and square kites. Children of Phoenix had chose not to run with a kite, which was hurting them for boat speed quite markedly. Another positive for the day was to see Serious Yahoo right up with Jungle Juice as they ran down under their masthead kites.

Top Gun would go around in first, then Tigris and Apache who were now much closer. Jungle Juice had overtaken Mrs Overnewton. Boats far out to the right like Wild Child and Serious Yahoo were hurting as they struggled to come back in, but this was nothing in comparison to the two S80s, Outlaw and Take One, who had gone right in to the beach along Elwood and Brighton, which is not the way to reach the centre of Port Phillip. Outlaw showed the overall happiness of the event by commenting as they went past that they had taken the scenic route. Take One did not have such enthusiasm, as they had gone so far past R2 that they had to work back up to it to go around and head off to St Kilda. Kaberet had all sorts of trouble with an errant kite and went sailing past the mark. A bit sad for a novice crew doing well and really enjoying their work. Phantom elected not to put their reef back in. The clouds greyed up a lot at this time and the seaway built from half to one metre in pretty quick succession as the average wind strength hung in the middle to high teens. As a result of the two S80s, Red Dog would not be the back marker, but would be again by the time everyone had got back North. At the A mark, Tigris came in on Port and tacked in under Jungle Juice who were on the lay line. There were no complaints, but it certainly looked like an infringement. At any rate they set about chasing Top Gun who had cleared off to C briskly. Apache was next around and struggling with too much sail up and a rig that was too soft. Children of Phoenix had used the long work to set up their impending result for the race and went around in sixth place. Phantom had a round up on the mark and then she and Wild Child were way high heading off to C, so Serious Yahoo luffed up to then get around the transom of Phantom and head off in the correct, Westerly direction. On the run down to R2 again it was Apache who had a huge round up and did not really recover from it. Top Gun had gone around with virtually half a leg up their sleeve. Tigris was behind them and Mrs Overnewton next, as they all crossed the finish line with great hoopla and merriment. As mentioned, Top Gun collected IRC, AMS and PHS in a wonderfully emphatic display. Well done and the crew are definitely very happy. Nouannie would be second in IRC, with Apache taking third. Knowing the latter, they will be seeing the problems of inconsistency very clearly about now. The other podium places in AMS are identical, but it is very much worth mentioning Jungle Juice who missed out on the IRC podium by one point and one and a half in the case of AMS. The Sydney crew really took to their Adams 10, so you would hope they would return. Mood Indigo gets up for second place in PHS with Nouannie just half a point behind them for third. Footloose may well be chatting to Apache to see what to do about inconsistency, for they too could well have been not only on the PHS podium, but also atop it.

PRO for the event was Paul Pascoe, who commented, 'It’s a really good team here at RMYS - great to come and work with them each year. The volunteers, equipment and boats are all right on the money. This year we also had three days of racing and that certainly does make for a happy regatta, so Hughie, the God of Wind, has been kind. Everyone finished each of the races and apart from the General Recall, no one was over the start line during the three days. There will be some tired sailors tonight, especially after presentations. Apart from a couple of small infringements there have been no major incidents and that too is really pleasing.' Jan Fielding from Tigris probably has the best summation of the event. Commenting on how the owner met them back at the pen and asked if they were on to do it all again next year, she told Ian, 'It’s like childbirth. You ask too close to the last and you know what the answer will be. You need to let some time pass, please. We then get to next year, sign on and ponder why we’re out here again.' See awkr.com.au for more information.

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