Just when you think the race has been run and places secured in a Pittwater regatta, winds shift direction keeping the fleet tight and fighting hard until the final leg. This was the case for the Melges East Coast Championships hosted by the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht over the weekend.
2012 Melges 24 East Coast Championships
Saturday the wind was a gusty 20 knots from the South, racing kicked off at 1 pm, for the first three races, crews loving the strong winds and wild rides. Après racing crews enjoyed drinks and diner overlooking the marina and relaxed to the smooth mix of reggae, blues and rock provided by live band 'United Notions' long into the night. Sunday, the sun was out, a more subdued breeze but very shifty conditions for the following three races. PRO Steve Merrington and his team drew on their years of Pittwater experience to get three races away on Sunday.
The Nixon team Accru AUS 769, stuck with their all family crew rule importing Cousin Grace Nixon from NZ for this regatta, by the conclusion of racing day one they were in fine form dominating the regatta with three guns and looking focused.
Chris Links Northshore Marine AUS 831 and his young crew David Chapman, Kieran Searle, Jay Griffin and Harley Walters tested out their new set of One Sails for the event. Day one was going well for the consistent team placing second in the first two races until a shackle snapped and they were forced to pull out of race three.
Local Damian Huon Huey II AUS 762 improved throughout the day as his crew found their groove, continually chasing the shifts. Sailing with his son James ,an RPA Opti sailor they worked through fourth, third and second place to finish day one in third place overall.
In a close fleet like the Melges 24 things can change quickly, you can go from 'a peacock to a feather duster' as described by Claire Heenan on Arriba Arriba AUS 215. This was the case for the Nixon crew on day two who recovered well for a second in race four, but struggled in the lighter tricky conditions taking eighth and sixth places consecutively.
When Northshore Marine rounded the wrong mark in race three after creating a comfortable lead they were forced to sail well to run down the leaders and finish in third place. This error of judgment made them more determined and good subsequent tactical decisions and crew work allowed them to complete the regatta strongly with firsts in the final two races.
South Australian boat Foxtrot AUS 133 skipped by Dave Alexander (Alexander Sails) and crew; Dan O’Connell, Donna Evans, Peter Dunk and recent National Fireball Champion Darren Heywood were just warming up on day one after their long and wet trip from Adelaide. They started to make their presence felt when they maximised on Northshore Marine’s error in race four finishing in first place, followed by a second in race five. Going into the final race they were two points behind Huey II. Luck didn’t go Huey II’s way when they picked up the start mark in the final race handing third place overall to Foxtrot. The ironic twist was Dave Alexander did the same thing in the South Australian M24 State Titles earlier in the year, so he could relate their frustration.
Collecting their SOAK and Harken supplied trophies and title of 2012 East Coast Championship winners were the excited crew of Northshore Marine in first place, one point ahead of Accru second, Foxtrot third. Winning skipper Chris Links commented ' Kevin Nixon was outstanding the first day but our guys really worked the boat hard in the light air, balancing the boat well accelerating out of tacks and gybes. We also had good starts right on the line, looking for the first shift.'
Crews are looking forward to the rematch in a fortnight’s time at the NSW States on Lake Macquarie.