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Formula 18 Nationals - Australia big winds leave crews 'dazed'

'Sean Langman about to take an unplanned swim in Race 3'    Mark Rothfield    Click Here to view large photo

In a day of thrills and spills at the 2013 Australian Formula 18 National Championships, young guns Jason Waterhouse and Brett Goodall displayed remarkable maturity and consistency to take the lead after three races.

The pair posted a first and two seconds to gain a four-point advantage over the equally consistent Western Australian crew of Brett Burvill/Ryan Duffield (three thirds) and Queenslanders Mick Guinea/Viv Haydon.

Waterhouse and Goodall, aged 21 and 28 respectively, were satisfied with their effort as they gave away considerable kilos and experience to some of their opponents in a breeze that left competitors in an Australia daze.

‘They were tough conditions out there,’ Waterhouse said. ‘In the last race in particular we saw one of our main competitors go over in a classic way and we realised we just had to keep the pointy end up.’

Some of the better-known sailors in the star-studded fleet –Olympic, America’s Cup and world champions among them – had costly boat-handling lapses as a classic Australia Day nor-easter generated a short chop at Mannering Park on Lake Macquarie NSW.

Starts were fast and furious as the large fleet hit the line at speed -  Mark Rothfield   Click Here to view large photo


The championship started with the conspicuous absence of one of its biggest names, Steve Brewin, who was badly injured in a collision while training on Friday afternoon. The two-time A-Class world champion was rushed to nearby Gosford Hospital, suffering a broken pelvis, and remains under observation.

Steve Brewin and Jack Benson racing at the 2011 F18 National Championships -  John Curnow - copyright  


He was struck by the bow of a Nacra Infusion that was running at high speed under spinnaker, with a crew from Oman aboard. Brewin’s boat was sailing upwind, with his brother Chris at the helm ... Chris injured his foot and also withdrew from the series.

The first race began in 12 knots, gusting to 15, and Jason Waterhouse and Brett Goodall blasted away from a tightly contested start to lead the 36-boat fleet around the top mark. Sailing a new C2 designed and built by Brett’s father, Greg Goodall, they showed a clean set of transoms to Victorians Adam Beattie and Jamie Leitner on a Nacra.

A WA Windrush (Paul Raymond/James Clark) on the edge of control -  Mark Rothfield   Click Here to view large photo


Adjusting quickly to their chartered Windrush Edge, Italians Matteo Ferraglia and Lorenzo Blahchitii were third over the line, only to find they’d been adjudged OCS at the start. The Windrush sistership sailed by Burvill and Duffield flew downwind on the last leg to take the last podium spot.

It was a baptism of fire for the newly formed glamour crew of world Moth champion Josh McKnight and Olympic matchracing silver medallist Nina Curtis, who had a late start and an unscheduled dunking on the way to finishing 22nd in Race 1.

The whitecaps began building ominously for Race 2 and it was the Beattie/Leitner combination that led from start to finish. Waterhouse and Goodall were buried but eventually found a passing lane upwind and grabbed a hard-earned second place from Burvill/Duffield and the fast-finishing Italians.

With F18 racing having a 22-knot limit, the race committee measured 21 knots when Race 3 got underway but the seabreeze soon filled in to beyond that. The top boats were flying upwind at 14 knots and peaking at 25 knots on the spinnaker legs, but there were white knuckles on tillers and sheets as the boats bore away from the top mark.

Beattie nosedived while rounding in second place and was soon in good company, being joined by Adam Beashel, Sean Langman and Ferraglia, among others. Guinea and Haydon had the luxury of sailing conservatively as their rivals bit the dust, and they took the gun from Waterhouse/Goodall.

Sean Langman, who is preparing an Orma 60 trimaran for a tilt at the Sydney-Hobart race record, said there was mainly ‘ego damage’ when he was flung forward on trapeze during his capsize then watched as the boat drifted away.

'Our expectations weren’t that high – we just wanted to finish the races but we didn’t finish the last one … the boat left us,’ he said. ‘I’m learning, learning, learning – the competitive spirit is there, and having to adjust is the fascination for me. I love the challenge.’

The big improvers were McKnight and Curtis, who grabbed their second consecutive seventh placing in Race 3 to move into the top 10 overall.

‘It was fast and furious, but I’m having a lot of fun,’ Curtis said. ‘We’re a new team and I’m new to the class so we’re really happy.’

McKnight added that the day had a ticked a few boxes, including their first capsize. ‘We have a few things to fix and change, so it’s not all bad news,’ he said. ‘The conditions were probably at the limit for the class but the (new PSA built ) Capricorn felt super stiff and very strong, and downwind it’s a weapon.’

Josh McKnight and Nina Curtis jumped into the top 10 as fast improvers -  Mark Rothfield   Click Here to view large photo


For another Olympian, Laser sailor Krystal Weir, her day was over when she fell through the mainsail during a capsize. Soon afterwards, it was a relief to most competitors when racing was abandoned for the rest of the day.

Jason Waterhouse and Brett Goodall made boat handling look easy instead of breezy -  Mark Rothfield   Click Here to view large photo

Racing in the 2013 Australian Formula 18 National Championships, which is sponsored by John Cootes Furniture Warehouse, is scheduled to begin at around 10am on Sunday, although strong winds are again forecast.


by Mark Rothfield

  

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1:14 AM Sun 27 Jan 2013GMT


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