With the recent heavy sailing schedule taking its toll on the crews of some boats, only three Melbourne based Sydney 38s made their way to the start line on the fourth and penultimate day of racing in the Ullman Sails Sydney 38 sprint series.
The forecast of strong 20 to 30 knots southerly winds meant the crews and boats were in for a tough workout over the three short windward/leeward races scheduled to last approximately 40 minutes each.
In the first race, it was Clockwork Orange sporting its new Ullman heavy jib that got off the line best with Audacious and Sierra both to windward on starboard tack. The waves were steep and variable and each boat made gains or slipped back depending on how well they negotiated the Port Phillip chop. All of the boats arrived at the windward mark together with Audacious sneaking around first and hoisting its S2 kite and holding a five boat length lead at the bottom mark thanks to some nice downwind surfing, regularly hitting 12 to 13 knots of boat speed.
On the last work, Audacious made a tactical error breaking away from Sierra who benefitted from staying to the right of the course and they rounded the last mark ahead of Audacious with Clockwork back in third place. Sierra gybed away to keep a starboard advantage into what would be a close finish with Audacious making ground. Each boat tried desperately to stay on the final wave to take it to victory, with Sierra holding on to take a win in the first race, with Audacious second and Clockwork third. The Race Committee called out the official winning margin as one metre.
Race 2 saw a dominant display from Sierra whose crew were handling the blustery conditions the best. Clockwork fell out of contention after a kite handling error, and Audacious was unable to make the same downwind inroads as in race 1 and had to settle for another second place.
The final race had the winds hitting 25 knots plus and a number of J24s sailing on the same course were suffering both rig and sail damage with several retirements. The Sandringham Race Committee decided to send the 38's off one more time and Audacious opted to change down to its No 4 jib and reef its main. There were no sound signals used in the starting sequences so it was important to stay close to the committee and watch the flags. After Audacious finished changing its sail configuration, it turned to see the one minute warning flag lowered and she was found 20 seconds short of the line.
The close racing continued with all three boats close at the top mark, with Clockwork taking the honours of rounding first. A wind shift meant that only a starboard hand kite run was required down to the leeward mark with the leg taking only five or six minutes to complete. Audacious and Sierra were very close with Sierra's cleaner mark rounding putting it into a winning position coming into the last mark. Some exhilarating wave surfing ensued with the wind hitting 28 knots true. Sierra gybed cleanly to cross the finish line ahead of Audacious and Clockwork to maintain their perfect record of three wins from three starts. Well done Andrew and Mell. This moves Sierra Chainsaw into the overall lead in the series, with Challenge second and Audacious third.
The final days racing will take place at Brighton on Saturday the 20th of March with the prize giving and crew BBQ to follow thanks to our sponsor Ullman Sails.