What a thrilling week full of great stories for the seventy one Flying 11 crews away in Tasmania for the 2010 Flying Eleven National Championships hosted by Tamar Yacht Club on the Tamar River at Beauty Point, Tasmania. It came down to a sensational conclusion in the last race of the regatta to determine the new Flying 11 champions and podium finishers, in true bitter-sweet fashion for many crews and supporters.
The fleet of seventy one crews, including eight from the home team battled it out in a full set of conditions throughout the week ranging from varying light winds to blustering 25kt westerlies coupled with a strong river current and 3m tide adding to the confused mix.
Right from the start, this regatta was a tough one for many young competitors with a black flag start in race 1 effectively wiping off the infringing ten crews' options to drop their otherwise worst score in the series. Many of these crews were regarded amongst the top contenders for the 2010 title, and coincidentally offspring of many of the officials.
Perhaps a result of such varying conditions, only one crew from Belmont 16ftSSC managed to win more than one race, Lethal Blonde's crew Chris Fay and Emma Knighton scoring wins in race 2 and 3, all others won by different crews from three other clubs.
There were too many re-starts to count, RO Hugh 'Bagdad Bob' Leicester using a total of 216 shotgun cartridges to get eight races off, making the gunfire from the water seem more like a Bagdad wedding ceremony than a sailing regatta.
Lethal Blonde were series leaders from race 2 until the final day where the real nail-biting began. Nearest rivals Protagonist Declan Reilly and Ira Dubrey from Manly16ftSSC were eight points behind them and had only beaten Lethal Blonde on two occasions prior in this regatta.
Hammer Time crew Sam Ellis and Kurt Hansen from Belmont16ftSC were a further five points behind Protagonist, Hydromattic Matt Stenta and Bradley Leicester of Manly 16ftSSC six points and the next challengers Fired Up crew Nat Greentree and Harry Price also Manly16ftSSC an extra nine points south of Protagonist.
After the abacus was utilised, all Lethal Blonde needed was to finish within eight boats of Protagonist to retain the lead and claim the crown for 2010. Hammer Time likewise needed to be in front of Hydromattic at the finish and keeping a watchful eye on Fired Up in order to keep the status quo entering race 7. The crews of Hammer Time and Fired Up had already used their black flags from race 1 as their drop in the series, elevating the tension just a deal more, making calculations and forecasting something Nostradamus would be proud to pull off.
As you could imagine, not everything goes as planned, although Protagonist got off to a clean start at the pin end, with Lethal Blonde struggling within the pack further up the line towards the committee boat, looking horribly asthmatic. Regrettably Hyromattic had caught a cold too. Hammer Time and Fired Up each had clean air and so the games began in the light variable nor-east breeze, fluctuating at times an awkward 60deg when pressure arrived from the east.
Upon arrival at the first mark, Protagonist rounded behind Missleading Kanya Raj and Sarah Jones and Boris Felix Grech and Adam Bloomfield both from Hunters Hill SC in third place, Hammer Time around in fourth place with Fired Up still close by in seventh place. Our current series leaders had stayed buried in the pack and were still travelling uphill by the time the race leaders dropped down to the bottom turn.
At the leeward mark, Missleading continued to lead the field with Boris hot on her heals and Protagonist maintaining third place. Fired Up and Hammer Time were next around together with Hammer Time chasing a pressure line off to the right while Fired Up tacked back left to follow the present leaders up the second work.
It was a big call for Hammer Time to venture out alone, in fact looking very lonely now way out to the right but hooking into some good pressure they had spotted at the turn north. The fleet leaders were now hitting the left where some pressure was also building, Protagonist continuing all the way to the lay while Fired Up reworked the left back and forth, trailing Missleading and Boris up to the top mark.
1366 Protagonist take line honours in R7 and 2010 National F11 Champs - The 2010 Flying 11 National Championships - David Price Click Here to view large photo
Protagonist's venture way out left eventually paid off and they arrived at the top mark ahead of Boris who had overtaken Missleading at the bottom of the course with some halyard dramas. Fired Up assumed the role of fourth place with Hammer Time looking awfully sick downstairs where the wind had passed by quickly with little follow through to bring them back from the right edge of the course.
From this point on, Protagonist was never headed and crossed the line to become the new Flying 11 Champions for 2010.
Lethal Blonde never recovered and relinquished the coveted prize with dignity to the cheers of all the spectator craft awaiting their finish. The battle for third however was very much alive and Fired Up crossed the line in race 7 in third place, with Hammer Time still a considerable way off finishing and more boats separating them than they wanted to be able to retain their third place in the series. One thing Hammer Time did have in their favour at this point in time was that Hydromattic was now well out of the picture for race seven, leaving the only concern of how many boats were separating them from Fired Up.
Hammer Time was locked in a battle with two other boats and needed to beat them to the line for an outright grasp of third place. When they were pipped by only two second on the line by Frozen With Fear Harvey Bates and Ben Bannon Cronulla SC, their score tallied level with that of Fired Up. Subsequent anxious calculations revealed on countback that Hammer Time had been able to fend off their foe and so confirm their podium placement of third for the series.
The First All-Girl Trophy went to Cheeky Sam Nugent and Maddie Clancy of Manly16ftSSC, the Junior Skipper Trophy to Cronulla SC crew Frozen With Fear Harvey Bates and Ben Bannon, the Handicap Trophy was won by Miss Behavin Emma Wilson and Thomas Wilson of Middle Harbour 16ftSSC, and the Teams Trophy to the best three crews points tally of Manly 16ftSSC.
There are some very interesting and funny stories to enjoy from the race reports of the regatta posted on the Flying 11 website www.flying11.yachting.org.au
including links to over 1600 photographs.