General in command as casualties soar at Rockwater Coventry Reef Race

Centimetre Perfect – the competitive Division Two fleet hits the start line fully powered, with Steel de Breeze harassing Aquila from behind.
Bernie Kaaks
After a relatively light start to the season, Fremantle Sailing Club’s 48 nautical mile Rockwater Coventry Reef ocean race proved once again to be the Old Faithful of strong sea breezes. Crews and their boats were sorely tested by the conditions in Saturday’s race, which started in a benign south-easterly that clocked to south-south-west and built steadily throughout the day.

The larger yachts were able to round the Coventry Reef turning mark off Warnbro Sound before the breeze peaked at upwards of 30 knots, but the smaller yachts had a tough time as they pounded south. All were rewarded by a white-knuckled run home to Fremantle, with some skippers calling for the brown corduroy trousers as they prepared for the necessary gybes.

In Division One, Knee Deep skipper Phil Childs went overboard during a gybe west of Garden Island, but had the presence of mind to cling to a running backstay tail. The big Farr 49 had been topping 22 knots prior to the gybe, and even when slowed to a mere nine knots after the incident, the recovery of the man overboard was a difficult task. Phil was successfully retrieved and the yacht continued to race, finishing second over the line and second on both IRC and YAH.

Knee Deep in action in fresh conditions offshore.
Bernie Kaaks

Brisk Walk – Walk on the Wild Side stretched her legs to take Line Honours in Division One.
Bernie Kaaks

It was the orange flying machine General Lee, with its crew of hardened dinghy and sports boat sailors, which harnessed the conditions best, sizzling home to make it three from three on IRC in the annual event. The compact Bakewell-White 37, designed light and tough for offshore racing, beat a number of larger boats over the line to win by 20 minutes on IRC and finish third on YAH. Sled was third on IRC, with veteran Garth Curran’s Inglis 58 Walk on the Wild Side taking line honours.

In Division Two, Tony Carter’s well-performed Beneteau First 40 Just Cruisin’ made a triumphant offshore return, taking the IRC-line honours double. In a tough day for owners, Carter ended up in Fremantle Hospital receiving 42 stitches to the back of his hand, which was shredded between the mainsheet and wheel during a spinnaker gybe. Scott Glaskin’s fast-charging Foundation 36 The X-Factor was only 2 ½ minutes behind on IRC, with Archimedes (Anthony Kirke) producing another solid performance for third. On YAH, it was The X-Factor from Archimedes and Just Cruisin’.

Winged – a forlorn Tony Carter sits in the starboard corner of Just Cruisin’ cradling his injured hand as the boat limps home for the Division Two Line Honours/IRC double.
Bernie Kaaks

Division Two stalwart Bryan Bailie’s Titan 36 Adrenalin Rush had a scare when the motor failed just outside the FSC marina shortly after finishing. The disabled yacht drifted towards the rocky breakwater with the crew desperately trying to set an anchor. A crisis was avoided when Race Officer Trevor Milton radioed the nearby Fremantle Volunteer Sea Rescue, who deployed a rescue vessel within a minute.

It was a long, wet day at sea for the tenacious Division Three fleet, with the leaders finishing as the sun was setting and the tail enders finishing after dark. Peter Kennington’s veteran Whiting 32 Traffic Jam was the star of the day, finding the boisterous conditions to its liking to take fastest time and first on YAH. Traffic Jam’s perfect day was spoiled by Simon Torvaldsen’s hard-to-beat S&S 34 Blondie, which grabbed the IRC win by a mere four minutes, with Dennis Vincent’s Beneteau First 34.7 Wyuna third. Blondie and Wyuna took the YAH minor placings, with Sydney 2000 Paralympic gold medallist Graeme Martin showing his offshore skills to pilot his Gib Sea 404 Sand Crabs Disco to fourth.

The heroes of the day were undoubtedly the hardy Double-Handed sailors, who tackled the testing conditions with limited resources. As testament to the growing popularity of short-handed ocean racing, six yachts greeted the starter. A destroyed spinnaker could not stop Graeme Monkhouse’s J/122 Lithium from recording another victory, despite being pursued relentlessly by Todd Giraudo and Dubbo White on Kraken, which also unfurled a chute after rounding Coventry Reef in 32 knots. When Kraken’s spinnaker fell to the deck with a broken swivel pin after being furled for the gybe, Giraudo and White decided to accept the message and did not re-hoist. Adrian Wilson’s Beneteau First 30 Lamotrek was third on IRC, with the order being Kraken, Lithium, Lamotrek on YAH.

Misfortune struck Chris Hogan’s Beneteau First 40.7 Liesl, which lost its mast late in the race. Once again, Fremantle Volunteer Sea Rescue performed the recovery. The yacht has been pursuing a full double-handed program this season and will be missed by the fleet while awaiting a new spar.

Full results of the Rockwater Coventry Reef race can be found here

The final offshore race before Christmas is South of Perth Yacht Club’s OH&S Consulting Around the Sound race, details of which can be found on South of Perth Yacht Club website.
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