The Australian 15ft Skiff Championship series enters its final stage with handicap and scratch honours still up for grabs going into the last two races of the competition.
Race seven and eight were sailed in a freshest breeze of the series a steady 20 plus knots NE on the longer open course south side of Wangi . The current champ, Firestorm tightened her grip on the scratch title with a third and first place after an uncustomary swim in the early race while under pressure from Range. Range went on to a well sailed win in race seven as Firestorm recover to run down Troy Botting Shipwright on the finish line who just managed second place in an almost dead race on the line.
Range has sailed a very consistent series with two bullets and a string of seconds to be three points behind Firestorm going into the final races. As these two class heavy weights line up for the last day of the series hoping for another strong sea breeze, the lighter crewed series third place skiff Troy Botting Shipwright with an earlier race win is keeping the front runner honest. Troy Botting Shipwright has a small four point advantage over another race winner Controlled Insanity also a strong performer in the fresher breeze and the very quick, SFC Computers sailed by VS stalwart Tim Dodds making a late series run, with his race tactic course of go left uphill and never go soft downhill...!
The handicap series very close with four points separating four skiffs, Raptor leading, sailed by very experience Taree river sailor Rob Baker and young crew, one point ahead of Battleship then SFC, Controlled Insanity and Plan B sailed by past champ, Michael Northam. There has been six different handicap race winners in breeze ranging from eight knot easterlies to the 25 knot NE'ers. with Stowe Australia and Under Pressure 2 sailed by Hawkesbury River stalwart, Brian Gleeson still in mix with a chance of a podium place.
Race six: Is Tim really Rocky Balboa? In this race SFC just kept coming back and punching at the big guys. How about laying down?
The same NE breeze sailed in race five prevailed so the next start was soon after the previous race finished. Everyone still had the adrenalin coursing through their veins, no-one more so than TBS who jumped clear at the start, unfortunately ahead of the gun!
Again the red boats looked to have opened up a lead up the first work, with Firestorm just ahead of Controlled Insanity when Tim, Jason and Hugh in SFC popped up from the left to round a close second. Down the run Tim stuck to his mantra - no more soft finishes. When the heavyweights gybe they’ll go 50m more to ensure coming in hard! A great theory, when they keep it on the course…
Around the leeward marks, Firestorm held a small lead from SFC, Controlled Insanity and Range. SFC again blasted off to the left, looking to fall behind. The other three tacked often up the work looking to make gains. At the top mark Firestorm again lead but only by a boat length from SFC, who once again used the left to advantage. The run was again similar, with Firestorm pressed to make the marks. By now SFC was somewhere down near Dora Creek so making the most of the run were Controlled Insanity and Range. Range hit their straps up the next work and looked likely to hit the lead; Firestorm just holding on to round the top mark and hold the lead to the finish.
The left didn’t play too good for SFC up the final work, with Controlled Insanity leading the run to the finish. But once again SFC bounced back, their surge at the line enough to claim third by one second from Controlled Insanity. (Did you notice this was the reverse of the previous race?)
TBS recovered from their start to get fifth from Plan B in sixth. Finishing seventh was Peter, Steve and Ian in Battleship, beating Bob, Hayden and Ben in Raptor by one second. (Again did you notice this was the reverse of the previous race?) I keep saying the results are close…
The handicap results were equally close. The one-second scratch margin between Battleship and Raptor was significant. Battleship won on handicap by one second from Raptor! A ‘huge’ three seconds further back was Firestorm, stealing precious handicap points from the real contenders.
Race five: Finally a sea breeze. Not a typical building NE’er, but at least out of the E and with enough grunt to get crews swinging up and down wind. A good, even start saw the fleet line astern around the top mark, with the red boats Firestorm and Controlled Insanity leading the way. Troy Botting Shipwright and SFC Computers were close behind. Range made a good start but bogged down on the first work to round in eighth, but don’t right Steve, Mick and Mark off just yet. After a nice downwind run the fleet was once again compressed at the leeward marks. A lot of ducking and weaving and yelling ensued.
Range picked the correct leeward mark, passed a few boats and set off to chase down Firestorm. They didn’t quite succeed, the latter getting the victory from the blue boat. Then it got really close. TBS managed to make their way through to third by a relatively comfortable margin of 10 seconds. Next was Controlled Insanity, with John’s ‘shot’ at the line enough to get them home by millimetres from SFC Computers, who in turn held off Plan B by a similar margin, who also held off Under Pressure 2 by just a little more. But that is not the end of it. In the race for ninth Raptor managed to hold off Battleship by just seconds. Note who beat who here – the next race had some interesting results!
With a good finish just a little behind the winners Gordon, Ryan and Tom on Stowe Australia scored an easy handicap victory. Well done. Next was SFC, just 3 seconds ahead of Under Pressure 2 in third. A little further back Firestorm managed to get fourth by just 1 second from Raptor, who themselves had a margin of four seconds to sixth placed Battleship. Again not far behind in seventh was Controlled Insanity, who beat Plan B by two seconds.
Range Chases SFC downhil In 2012'13 Aust Champs - VS 15' Skiff 2012/13 68th Australian Championship, South Lake Macquarie - Joesph Ferguson Click Here to view large photo
I mention all of these because it really demonstrated how close the fleet are. 30 seconds faster (one good gust downwind) and Plan B would have been fourth rather than eighth. All of the results could be significant overall.
VS 15ft Skiff website
by Colin Gillespie
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8:21 AM Sat 12 Jan 2013GMT
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