The Etchells World Championship 2012, being held offshore of Sydney Heads, is on the fourth day of racing. At the end of today the overall leader name may have changed, but the racing is far from complete.
The top of the 74-boat scoreboard is very tight after six races and one drop.
Roulette (Jud Smith, Mark Johnson and Nik Burfoot) is in the lead with 13 points. The Roulette team is a coalition of talented sailors. On the helm is 2006 Etchells World Champion and American sailor, 54-year-old Jud Smith. On the sheets and braces is Australian Mark Johnson and on the foredeck, New Zealander Nik Burfoot. And the team’s coach is former Australian Olympic and America’s Cup coach, Mike Fletcher.
Moving back into second place is Australian team Iron Lotus (Tom King, Ivan Wheen, David Edwards and Owen McMahon) on 15 points. Then in third place is another Australian team, Triad (John Bertrand, David Giles and Tom Slingsby) on 26 points. An Australian team also fills fourth place; Magpie (Graeme Taylor, Grant Simmer and Steve Jarvin).
With the next two boats sitting just another two points behind and two more days of racing and three more races, the podium that can filled by one of these teams.
Two races were conducted today, both of them on the Manly Circle. The nor-east had arrived, the current was minimal, the sea swell had lessened considerably and the breeze eased to about eight knots.
On the first race start the fleet were ready for battle; no holding back as they charged for the start line and into a general recall. PRO Ross Wilson was clearly still of the opinion that one chance of a start was enough so the call went out for the Black Flag to be raised.
Luckily the second start was called all clear as the fleet headed off on a 025 degrees, two nautical mile beat to the top mark.
Current Australian Champion, Fifteen (David Clark, Andrew Smith and Alan Smith), torched the fleet in the first race leading from the start, seemingly in control of every leg.
At the top mark Clark was being chased by Menace (Vince Brun), Iris III (Peter McNeil) and Triad (John Bertrand). Down the run the breeze was swinging between 50 and 35 degrees. It finally settled and course change to the top mark was made for 35 degrees. Clark’s crew called the shifts and took distance out of the fleet by the bottom mark. Iron Lotus (Tom King) was next around, then Bertrand, McNeill, Brun and Roulette (Jud Smith).
But then Clark’s lead was in danger. 'We had a failure on our jib halyard as we were coming into the bottom mark for the first time. We went to hoist the jib and the halyard blew off so we had to run with one halyard for half the race which meant when we got to the top mark next time round we did a bare-headed change.
'What was a pretty comfortable lead then became quite tight,' Clark said.
The breeze kicked over 10 knots and the boats headed back down the course to the finish. Clark battled to hold first, catching a wave and holding off King and then Bertrand by just half a boat length. Brun was next then Smith and a disappointed McNeill.
The second race was set-up quickly for 030 degrees, 2.2 nautical mile first beat for Course 1 with the boats finishing upwind.
It was another case of general recall for the first start, the Black Flag for the second start and an all clear at the gun.
Are We There Yet? (Mark Richards) started closest to the leeward pin and then tacked to port and weaved his way safetly, luckily, across the fleet to head to the right.
King was seen bearing away and heading back across the line to complete a 720 turn. 'We got lee-bowed by Ante (Swedish Blue) then tried to duck his transom. We surged forward on a wave and stuck our nose into the back of his boat, through his transom. There was a little bit of bark off. It didn’t slow him down; it probably sped him up,' King said.
The leaders worked across to the left hand side of the line looking to pick the lifts. Smith was quickly in the lead. His boat speed was good on the left hand side of the course. Clark followed closely then the young team of Gen XY (Matthew Chew), Southern Light (John Savage) and The Croc (Michael Manford). Smith gybed quickly after the turn then Magpie (Graeme Taylor) and Clark and The Hole Way (Cameron Miles) followed.
Smith’s voiced uncertainty about how his team would fare in an easterly breeze was not necessary. They coped well and more 'We were surprised by the breeze. None of the forecasts had it being that strong that early. They had it moving left, which it did, but not that strong.'
As the race progressed the and the crews tired, the fleet separated in the 12 to 14 knots. The last beat to the finish the top boats headed out left, hit the corner and then tacked to work the left shifts to lay the finish line with little effort.
Smith’s Roulette team got the gun, then Chew’s GEN XY finished in second.
After a 35th in the first race of the day, this second was a welcome relief for the Gen XY team and for their tactician, Darren Jones. 'We went left in both races. The left was good on the second race and bad in the first race.
'There was a bit of head scratching after the first race, but quietly he (the tactician) went for the same strategy on the second race and it worked. Then we went left on every other windward and it worked.'
Clark finally moved up in third on the finish. 'It was really tricky on the first run. We knew we wanted the left looking up, but there were a lot of boats reaching so made a bit of a call to gybe out which was the wrong thing to do so the Gen XY team got around us. Then at the bottom they won the right hand mark and that was the winning mark. We had quite a bit of pace so we were relieved to come back and recover to come third,' Clark said.
Racing continues tomorrow with two races scheduled for Manly Circle. Top six overall after six races and one drop:
Race 5. Fifteen (D Clark, AUS) 1, Iron Lotus (T King, AUS) 2,Triad (J Bertrand, AUS) 3, Menace (V Brun, USA) 4, Roulette (J Smith, AUS) 5, Iris III (P McNeill, AUS) 6.
Race 6: Roulette (J Smith, AUS) 1, Gen XY (M Chew, AUS) 2, Fifteen (D Clark, AUS) 3, Critical Balance (M Langford, AUS) 4, Southern Light (J Savage, AUS) 5, The Croc (M Manford) 6.
Prog pts: Iron lotus 29 Roulette 32 Magpie 44 Triad 47 Iris III 63 The Hole Way 69. Etchells World Championship website