The last couple of weeks onboard the Gotta Love It 7 skiff have been fairly quiet in terms of training but by far the opposite on the race track.
We have had three races over the past two weeks and all three have been full of drama and some good results.
Two weekends ago, another good start and first windward leg saw us get to the top mark in first place in race three of the Australian Championships.
From here it was only a matter of covering our position and not making any silly mistakes.
We sailed one of the most solid races we have ever sailed and were able to cover our rivals onboard FIAT for the whole race. Out boat speed was good and we using the shifts to our advantage.
When you are in front it’s often harder to pick the shifts as you don’t have the boats in front of you to use as a guide. For this reason boats behind can often have a small advantage in this area but we protected well and never let anyone get a sniff of the lead.
After this race the team was very pleased and it felt like all our efforts over the season were beginning to fall into place. At this end of the fleet the smallest mistake can cost you hundreds of metres so we were very pleased that we could match it with the top teams consistently.
Last weekend was a great opportunity to show teams who have not been focusing too much on their fitness how important staying healthy is. It was the first time in the season we would sail two races on one weekend. The first race was the Australia Day Regatta, but more importantly it was heat four of the Australian Championships. This race is always a tough one because it is such a busy day on the harbour.
It was so busy that the most suitable spot to race us meant we had a 100ft navy ship moored about 200 metres to windward and dead smack in front of the start line. As intrusive as this sounds it actually worked very well to our advantage as we were the only skiff in the fleet to lay it off the start line and as a result gave ourselves a nice lead straight away.
It was a shifty easterly breeze though and before we knew it a few skiffs had caught us and we had a close race on our hands. We fought hard all race only to get over taken metres before the line. Luckily for us there was one last shift the boys on board Macquarie Real Estate missed and we rolled them to record a win by only three seconds.
With two races left in the regatta we worked out that if FIAT won the race we only needed to finish in the top five to win the regatta in heat 5 of the series. Everything was going to plan as we started well and we were second to the first mark with FIAT in first. All we needed to do was stay in this position and we would be the new national champions. We ended up passing FIAT on the next leg and stayed in front all the way up until the final gybe before the finish.
Then the drama began to unfold.
With the historical 18ft skiffs racing on the same race track as us it was very busy when we got to each mark. With two “historicals” approaching the mark just in front of us we set ourselves up inside them so we could gybe and have the windward advantage coming into the finish. Before we knew it the most windward historical skiff gybed and was aiming at us, while being blown along by a 20 knots puff. All we could do was throw a crash gybe but it was all too late. We collided with a bang and in an attempt to save the boat, we capsized in backwards.
We untangled the two boats as quickly as we could and starting righting the boat with the rest of the fleet flying down the run at us. We got the boat up and luckily the spinnaker had not tangled too much. We hoisted the chute again and managed to finish 5th by only a matter of seconds. It was one of the more dramatic finishes we have had ever but we achieved the result we needed. The team gets a couple of stress free weeks before the worlds start which will be a nice chance to relax and prepare ourselves for the big regatta.
Robert Bell – Sheethand Team Gotta Love It 7
Seve Jarvin – Helm
Robert Bell – Sheethand
Sam Newton – Bowman Team Supporters:
The Seven Network www.seven.com.au
– Gotta Love It!
– The Best is sailing hardware.
– Gear for fast wet athletes.
The Australian 18 Footers League in Double Bay.