The Etchells World Championship 2012, being held offshore of Sydney Heads, is on the fifth day of racing. Martini sailing was an expression shared around the fleet today as 74 boats headed out to the Manly Circle for the second to last day of the championship.
The sun shone, the swell and current were negligible, but the breeze returned to delivering massive shifts both left and right.
There were two races and three different teams on the podium in each race. But it is Australian teams in the first three places overall, for the moment.
The Iron Lotus team of Tom King, Owen McMahon, Ivan Wheen and David Edwards regained their overall lead with 33 points after eight races and one drop. It was a difficult day for the team as they delivered their worst regatta result to date with a 16th in the first race, then finished fourth in a tight group in the second race.
Into second overall came the relieved team on Magpie. Graeme Taylor, Grant Simmer and Steve Jarvin sailed well today to secure an 11th and a third giving them 46 points. Taylor attributed some of the success of the day to the team’s coach, Rob Brown. Tonight they will spend with Brown as he debriefs them. Taylor said after racing today that is the first time he has worked with a coach. 'We bought him (Brown) in because we were struggling on the start lines and he has helped us a lot with that.'
Tomorrow expect them to come out fighting. They need a hole-in-one to knock off King’s hold on first overall.
The Triad team of John Bertrand, David Giles and Tom Slingsby became the new third place holder after an interesting day of one first and then one 31st. These results gave them a total of 48 points.
Fourth place must be mentioned here as the international team on Roulette – Jud Smith, Mark Johnson and Nik Burfoot –just couldn’t find their previous winning magic as they sailed into a 17th and then a 33rd to finish overall with 49 points.
John Bertrand aptly described the racing today as being one where you could easily get a bullet in one race and a feather duster in another. And he should know.
Before the start of the first race, the Triad team were heads down and missed seeing the New Zealand Bobby’s Girl boat skippered by John Melville. The boats collided and Bobby’s Girl came off badly with a bent mast and a sad end to their World Championship campaign. Luckily Phil Smidmore was on the course and with a radio call of 'I have a spare mast back at the hardstand' jumped in to assist Melville’s team to get back safely into the harbour.
Ever the professional, Bertrand and his team quickly refocused as they headed to the line for the first start. The course was set for 040 in eight knots and the first beat was 1.8 miles.
The pattern of first starts ending in a general recall continued as the fleet then lined up for the second start under a Black Flag. But it was another general recall as the port pin boats, which included some of the boats at the top of the overall point score, pushed themselves and their competition on the line. Then the start was reset to 035 and finally at 1325 hours the fleet was out of the gate and their way up the beat.
Bertrand grabbed the lead early as they sped up the work in the flat seas and under brilliant sunshine. At the top mark he led by just half a boat length from Fifteen (David Clark), followed by Boat X (Noel Drennan) and Animal House (Dirk Van Der Struyf).
Back in the fleet King was struggling with the shifts. 'We had a good start and we were in the middle of the course in the leading group of boats and with John Bertrand coming back from the left side of the course. We then decided to go back left partly because Jud was over there and partly because we thought there was more wind over there. Then the wind shifted right all the way up to the top mark and that’s where Bertrand and Dave Clark got that big jump,' King said.
On the run Clark stayed on Bertrand’s transom until Bertrand gybed to port. At the bottom mark Bertrand had extended his lead over Clark and Van Der Struyf. This pattern continued so that by the finish Bertrand was more than two minutes ahead of Clark across the line. Finishing in third was Hong Kong’s Swedish Blue (Ante Razmilovic) who had slipped inside of Van Der Struyf on the last work.
'We nailed it in that race. But I don’t think that anyone out there today could lay claim to knowing exactly what was happening… even in race one,' Bertrand said.
It was a quick turn-around from the race committee for the set-up of race two. The breeze was up 10 knots and the course set for 035. The decision was made to lengthen the first beat to 2.2 miles and again run Course 2.
It was another false start as the fleet returned under a general recall and then were advised the next start would be with the Black Flag. There was only one BFD call – Bushfire (Jervis Tilly).
The port pin end was favoured as Smith, Velsheda (Alastair Gair), The Whole Way (Cameron Miles) and more crossed cleanly and headed left on the work.
At the top mark Taylor led, just, to Perfect Balance (Mark Bulka), Gelert (James Howells) and Ticket of Leave (Brett Ellis). The pressure was consistent down the course and the fleet split at the bottom mark gates.
Back in the early 30s Smith and Bertrand couldn’t seem to pick and play the shifts. 'Not a good result. The first race wasn’t that bad. Then we went into the second race in the (point score) lead. We then switched jibs which was probably a mistake. We thought the left was going to be better. We then went the wrong way twice,' Smith said.
There were massive shifts on the course. 'The right was pretty strong the whole race. We did well on the right on the first beat and then invested heavily in the left on the second beat. We got a very poor return for our investment,' Taylor said.
The separation in the fleet was obvious by the last work as Howells took the lead from Bulka, Taylor, Ellis and King.
On the run, it was heart-stopping tension watching the lead boats battle for top places. Howells stayed right with King on his transom. Taylor was out on the left.
But Bulka kept his cool and crossed cleanly leaving Howells, Taylor and King to finish with a millimetres between them across the line.
King had been hoping for another wave; just one more and he might have got ahead of Taylor and Howells. It was just that close.
Howells was introspective about his loss in the second race. 'There seemed to be more pressure on the left hand side on the first run. We did well out of it, but due to where the boats were we had to gybe a bit later. We kept going and going and the other guys behind, 1387, gybed first and pretty well out of it. GT gybed as well and we got back on top of him before the finish.
'It has been a super hard week. It has been nice to get one decent result in it. What we are all struggling with is the chop. Downwind we are okay, but upwind we can not get the boat to go well,' Howells said.
The final and ninth race of the World Championship will be held tomorrow with the warning signal scheduled for 1200 hours. Overall results after 8 races and 1 drop:
Race 7: Triad (J Bertrand, AUS) 1, Fifteen (D Clark, AUS) 2, Swedish Blue (A Razmilovic, HKG) 3, Perfect Balance (M Bulka, AUS) 4, Extra Bad Doll (T Braidwood, AUS) 5, Yandoo XX (JC Strong, AUS) 6.
Race 8: Perfect Balance ( M Bulka, AUS) 1, (J Howells, GBR ) 2, Magpie (G Taylor, AUS)3, Iron Lotus (T King, AUS) 4, Ticket of Leave (B Ellis, AUS) 5, Swedish Blue (A Razmilovic, HKG) 6.
Prog pts: Iron Lotus 33 Magpie 46 Triad 48 Roulette 49 Fifteen 56 The Whole Way 68 Etchells World Championship website