The 15th Musto Etchells Australasian Winter Championship started this morning in glorious sunshine and under bright blue skies. By the end of day one Australian 2000 Olympic Gold medallist Tom King and his crew of David Edwards, Owen McMahon and Ivan Wheen were leading a tight series.
Here is how the day unfolded.
This morning the Etchells fleet sailed out to their ocean racecourse from their moorings down the Mooloolah River into a steady breeze of 8-10 knots from the south.
A touch of drama to start the day for Doug Kerr (Chilli Plum) from Perth. On the flight across Australia the crew's luggage, including their wet weather gear, went missing. Literally at the last minute this morning a courier arrived with their gear and Doug and crew Gregg Kerr and Luke Patterson made a fast spinnaker run down the river and out into the Coral Sea in time to make the first start.
PRO Phill Collyer set the course to the south south west at 205, with the first leg at 1.8 nautical miles.
Race 1 of the series got underway sensationally when Dave Clark (Fifteen) broke the start and was forced to go back deep in the field.
At the top mark for the first time, David Rose (This will make her Scream) led the fleet, followed by Damian King (Barry) with Western Australian skipper Dirk Van Der Struyf (Chilly Bin) third. Tom King (Iron Lotus), Jeanne-Claude Strong (Yandoo XX), Vaughan Prentice (Funky Cold Medina), Mark Richards (Are We There Yet), Peter McNeil, the 2004 Etchells World Champion (Absolute Pearler), Michael Stoven-Bradford (Touch Pause Engage) and Robert Holm (Good vibes) completed the top ten.
The wind was dropping to around six knots as the fleet headed to the second mark.
At the second mark Dave Rose still led the fleet with Damian King and Tom King, who had moved up one place, in hot pursuit. Van Der Struyf followed, then Prentice, Strong dropped back one place, then came McNeil and Richards. Mark Toner-Joyce (Dawn Raid) moved into the leading group as Stovin-Bradford completed the top ten roundings.
Back in 20th position the world number 2 Ante Razmilovic (Mo Jo), the Hong Kong based British skipper, was not enjoying the day after being pushed wide on the mark and dropping places.
The breeze was steady as the fleet rounded the top mark for the second time, still led by David Rose, Damian King and Tom King.
The top ten composition changed slightly, the big mover being Mark Johnson (Roulette) who was up six places from the last mark and was now in seventh. Fourth round was Van Der Struyf, then McNeil, Richards, Johnson, Strong, Prentice and Tonner-Joyce.
David Clark had not recovered from his OCS and was well back near the tail of the fleet.
David Rose led all the way to take the gun in race 1 six boat lengths ahead of his nearest rival.
Tom King was second, Damian King third, Mark Richards fourth followed by Peter McNeil, Mark Johnson, Jeanne-Claude Strong, Mark Tonner-Joyce and Vaughan Prentice.
Ante Razmilovic finished 14th. Dave Clark was no where in sight of the leading group. With one drop allowed in the series both Razmilovic and Clark will be hoping race 1 is their worst result for the series.
On water, waiting for race 2 to start, Dave Rose, who won the first Etchells Winter regatta back in 1997 was all smiles. ‘We started near the committee boat, got a clear lane and clean air and found the shift that took us to the lead. We held onto win.’
As the fleet waited for the start of race 2 the breeze had dropped to four-five knots and was flicking between 140 -200. The fleet went into a holding pattern.
The Committee moved the course further out to sea in an attempt to find better breeze.
For Race 2 of the day the course was set at 170, with 1.6 nautical mile leg lengths. A breeze of five to six knots was blowing.
The race finally got underway after three General Recalls and one Black Flag.
Mark Richards was fast midline and gained a break on the fleet. Mark Johnson started on the Committee boat end and crossed much of the fleet with Tom Woods close behind.
While the breeze had peaked at seven knots during some of the earlier race restart attempts, it had dropped to barely five knots as the fleet headed to the top mark, two kilometres off Main Beach in the fading afternoon sunshine.
With a big shift in wind direction the Etchells on the left did best. Damian King led by six lengths at the top mark from
Jervis Tilley (Bushfire), Ian Johnson (Bananas in Pyjamas), Graeme Alexander (Smile and Wave), Volvo Ocean Race and America's Cup sailor Peter Merrington (Odyssey), local Mooloolaba skipper David Turton (Harold Holt), Tom King, Robert Holm, Mark Dagge and Mark Tonner-Joyce.
Mark Johnson and Mark Richards who had initially headed right, were buried deep in the field. As Damian King headed down the course he extended his lead to about ten lengths.
There was now more pressure out on the right and the fleet began to compress.
At the bottom mark the boats out on the right came down with more pressure but Damian King clung onto his lead.
Gary Boyd on B Squared, who had been in the mid twenties at the previous mark, moved through the fleet rapidly chasing King. With him was race 1 winner David Rose, who was also chasing the lead from a similar position to Boyd. Ante Razmilovic had also gained places moving up from 13th. Tom King followed then Vaughan Prentice, Mark Langford (Critical Balance), Graeme Alexander and Ian Johnson.
After rounding the mark, King was very low while the boats behind him were much higher.
At one stage it looked like Team Barry were headed back to Mooloolaba as King headed out to a pressure line with a host of boats climbing inside them..
Advantaged by the huge shift, Mark Tonner-Joyce (Dawn Raid) took race 2 of the series from Gary Boyd (B Squared), Mark Langford (Critical Balance), Tom King (Iron Lotus), Damian King (Barry), David Rose (This will make her scream), Ian Johnson (Bananas in Pyjamas), Ante Razmilovic (Mo Jo), Graeme Alexander (Smile and Wave), Robert Holm (Good Vibes), Vaughan Prentice (Funky Cold Medina) and Mark Dagge (Una Mas).
After two races on day 1 of the 15th Musto Etchells Australasian Winter Championship, Tom King is leading the series overall with 2, 4. Damian King 2, 5 is second with David Rose 1, 6 third.
*Results are provisional.
Dockside Tom King commented ‘While we might be leading on paper, Damien King and the Barry Boys sailed extremely well but completely without luck in the very fluky conditions. They are definitely the crew to beat.’
Damien King (no relation) smiled ruefully dockside. ‘That second race was very fluky, we were well in the lead but that big shift pushed us back in the fleet. We are looking forward to heavier conditions tomorrow.‘
Tomorrow racing will start at 11am.
Full results available at http://www.mooetchells.yachting.org.au/
The Musto Etchells Australasian Winter Championship 2011 is sponsored by Musto Australasia, Events Queensland, Sunshine Coast Council, Newport Apartments, The Wharf Tavern, Sun Air Bus Services, Sail-World.com, PropertyToday.net.au, The Wharf Mooloolaba, Klingers Menswear Mooloolaba, Ullman Sails, Sunsport Marine.