Pre-race favourite Gotta Love It 7 took out Race 1 of the NSW 18ft Skiff Championship by 1m58s on Sydney Harbour today, but the win was far from as easy as the margin suggests.
The Gotta Love It 7 team of Seve Jarvin, Scott Babbage and Peter Harris took full advantage of a mark rounding error by Thurlow Fisher Lawyers (Michael Coxon) to grab victory only in the final stages of the race. Second placed today was Pure Blonde (Tom Clout, Matt Wark and Rob Bell), with Appliancesonline.com.au (Micah Lane, Paul Montague and Tom Anderson) a further 22s back in third place. John Winning’s Yandoo was fourth, followed by Rabbitohs-Kenwood (Brett Van Munster) and Asko Appliances (Marcus Ashley-Jones) in sixth place.
Results are provisional at this time as Pure Blonde has lodged a protest against Gotta Love It 7 for a breach of the port and starboard rule.
The race was sailed in a typical light Easterly breeze which varied in strength and direction throughout the course.
Pure Blonde won the start at the boat end of the line but Thurlow Fisher Lawyers was soon challenging for the lead as the fleet headed for the first windward mark in Rose Bay.
Thurlow Fisher Lawyers crew work was excellent as they picked the shifts to lead Appliancesonline.com.au by 10s as spinnakers were set for the run to the wing mark off Clarke Island.
Yandoo was another 10s behind Appliancesonline, with Mojo Wine (James Dorron), Rabbitohs-Kenwood (Brett Van Munster) and Coopers-Rag and Famish Hotel (Jack Macartney) heading the rest of the fleet.
It was all Thurlow Fisher Lawyers on the spinnaker legs back to the bottom mark off Kurraba Point where her lead had extended well beyond one minute.
There was some confusion in the crew on which way to round the mark and it took two attempts for them to make sure. A lack of wind affected the chasers as several skiffs began to bunch up behind Thurlow Fisher. Mojo Wine finally moved into second position to start the next windward leg, ahead of Appliancesonline, Yandoo, Pure Blonde, Kenwood-Rabbitohs, Asko Appliances, Coopers-Rag and Famish Hotel and Gotta Love It 7.
In the variable conditions, there was a wide spread of the fleet across the harbour as the fleet made its way back into Rose Bay. Conditions took a toll on several teams while others benefitted from taking the correct course.
It made little difference to Thurlow Fisher Lawyers as she continued to set the pace from Pure Blonde, Appliancesonline, Gotta Love It 7, Coopers-Rag and Famish Hotel, Smeg (Nick Press) and Asko Appliances.
The leading group opted for a variety of courses downwind and Thurlow Fisher Lawyers approached the bottom mark in a seemingly winning position.
To the amazement of spectators, the Thurlow Fisher crew incorrectly went around the mark on a port tack. By the time the crew realized that, it was too late and Thurlow Fisher elected to retire. The Gotta Love It 7 crew took full advantage of the Thurlow Fisher error and sailed superbly over the concluding two legs of the course for an ultimately easy win.
There were many close finishes amongst the top 10 skiffs as the breeze freshened a little.
Race 5 of the AEG 3-Buoys Challenge will be sailed next Sunday with the Spectator Ferry leaving Double Bay Public Wharf at 2.15pm.