It was drama all round in day two of the Zhik Etchells NSW Championship with fog, race delay, black flags, crew overboard, and damage to boats and sails.
The fleet headed out mid-morning looking forward to fresher breezes and three races. Unfortunately a weather phenomenon decided to settle over Pittwater and all the way up to Sydney Harbour. A sea fog came in early in the day and threatened to stay for the duration. The fleet went out to look, sailed around in the dense mist and then made their way back inside Barrenjoey to wait out the strange weather.
For the sailors the north-east breeze was building, making for perfect sailing conditions, except, they couldn’t see more than about 200 metres around them.
Several hours later and the sea fog cleared. Finally the race committee set-up to send the sailors off on their first start of the day which, not unsurprisingly, was a general recall. The 55-boat fleet seemed to settle down a bit for the second as they headed off in an east-north-east breeze of about 12 knots, gusting 15. An altercation at the bottom mark the second time around resulted in J for Jig (Philip Coombs) holing Tusk (Gary Smith) in the lower port stern quarter saw Tusk being escorted safely back to the marina.
Tusk crew members shore up port hole after bottom mark collision in race two - Zhik Etchells NSW Championship 2011 - Tracey Johnstone ©
The second race saw the breeze still steady at 40 degrees, but kicking in to gust up to about 16 knots. With the threat of a Black Flag on the first start, the start line approach was more cautious and a clear start achieved. At the top mark in the frantic activity of coming round the mark and getting ready for a kite hoist, Mark Thornburrow went over the side leaving Gray Gibson to grab the helm and oversee a quick MOB recovery.
With all of this going on today, Graeme Taylor and his Magpie team of Steve Jarvin and Ben Morrison-Jack remained focused as they swooped aggressively on the fleet to grab overall point score honours. A sixth place in race five and a resounding first in race six took gave them seven points after a drop.
'The last race, it was a black flag start, people were back from the line and we had a really nice transit and we were able to push the start and that enabled us to go all the way to the corner with good boat speed, tack, left handed favoured,' Taylor said.
Etchells World Champion in 2006, USA’s Jud Smith racing with Sydney fleet’s Mark Johnson and Nik Burfoot, found his form again after a roller coaster day yesterday. A second and a sixth cemented him into second place overall on 16 points after one drop.
'We got off the line better today in the little more breeze. We are trying different things, looking at what’s working. We were happy with our upwind speed today, but not as happy with our downwind speed, but we were using a different kite.
'This is more like a training event. We are trying to find out what we like and what tuning set-up is working and what we want to improve on.
'In the second race I probably should have been a little more aggressive and started closer to the pin. I just wanted to come off the front row. There were a couple of boats underneath us, good fast boats, and after a little while we kind of got into a pinch-fest with them which always slow.
'I am not concerned about the points. I am just looking at how we can improve,' Smith said.
In third overall is John Bertrand with his team of Nathan Outteridge and Will McCarthy, another top skipper to have a roller coaster day yesterday. Bertrand found form today in the heavier breeze. He delivered a fourth and eighth to place third overall with 23 points after one drop.
Considered a serious contender for podium honours, Matthew Chew, found the going tough in the first race placing 27th. In the second race he fought back to a 10th place, but the first race result hurt his overall chances.
find the Etchells in the sea fog on day two - Zhik Etchells NSW Championship 2011 - Tracey Johnstone ©
Jury Chair, Ken Moxham, said that in the 40 plus years he has lived at Pittwater he had never seen anything like the sea fog. With calls of ‘where are you ‘ among the sailors and the race committee, the prudent decision was taken to delay racing until the fog lifted. Luckily it was only a few hours wait before the boats were lead back out offshore to start day two of the championship.
Jervis Tilly and his Bushfire team were almost late out of the bay as they waited for a missing crew member who had taken the opportunity to catch a ride into shore for a coffee order.
On the start line and with 12 to 13 knots east-north-east and a building swell, the fleet pushed the line for a general recall and then finally got away on the second start at 1430 hours.
It was Cameron Miles’ race from the start. After a poor showing in day one with a 16th, 11th and 36th, it was about time he pulled out his old magic. The 1999 Etchells World Champion led the fleet comfortably around the course. Jud Smith as hot on his tail, but could not shake Miles’ determination to win a race on his home waters in his return to the Etchells class.
Mark Bulka (Perfect Balance) should be happy with his third in this race. Racing with a new crew and new sails, Bulka said at the start of the day that he was unsure how his team would go in the heavier breeze. He can now tick that worry of his list.
Taylor finished a surprising sixth in this race. 'Johnny B (Bertrand) beat us up and then Polly (Peter McNeil) had a go at us, so we got beaten up a bit at the top. We were being given a sailing lesson by some of the old fellows,' Taylor said.
In race two Taylor returned to form and was the firm leader from start to finish. While Doug McGain (Ciao) tried his hardest to shake the Magpie team, they just kept increasing their lead in the fresh 16 knot breeze.
The left hand side continued to pay with only a few optimists heading out right looking for a miracle.
At the top mark for the first time, with the tight group behind Taylor pushing to get an inside advantage, Racer X, was around the mark and without a skipper. 'We tacked right beside the top mark and I looked back and I saw Mark’s feet up near the boom and heading backwards over the side. The boys on board were going ‘pole up, pole up’ and I said ‘ I think we have a problem’. I grabbed the helm and Simon grabbed the main and we gybed around, avoided a few boats. Mark was hanging onto the mark so we picked him up, went around the offset mark and were off again,' Gray Gibson said.
Top ten results overall after five races –
Zhik Etchells NSW Championship 2011 ():
1 Graeme Taylor/Ben Morison - Jack/Steve Jarvin (AUS) 7.00
2 Jud Smith/Mark Johnson/Nikolas Burfoot (AUS) 16.00
3 John Bertrand/Nathan Outteridge/William McCarthy (AUS) 23.00
4 Matthew Chew/Darren Jones/Paul Wyatt/Tim Lowe (AUS) 33.00
5 Mark Bulka/Ben Solly/Peter Milne (AUS) 34.00
6 Douglas McGain/Adrian Reed/Gary Adshead (AUS) 36.00
7 Peter McNeill/David Gleadhill/Simon Reffold (AUS) 36.00
8 Ante Razmilovic/Chris Larson/Stuart Flinn (HKG) 37.00
9 Alastair Gair/Anna Ganley/David Ridley/Derek Scott (NZL) 40.00
10 Mark Tonner-Joyce/Glen Gibson/John Cuthbert Collingwood (AUS) 42.00
The Etchells NSW Championship 2011 is sponsored by Zhik, North Sails, Pacesetter Yachts, Protector Yachts and Wetton Signage Group.
The results can be found on the event website http://www.rpayc.com.au/etchells-states