Australian 16ft Skiff Nationals - The 16ft skippers chasing runaway national championship winner Fluid Building Services are starting to get an idea of what it must have been like bowling to Bradman.
by James Bury
As good as they are going, Fluid skipper Clint Bowen and his crew of Anthony King and Brent Dennis are always one step ahead.
Incredibly, Manly's Fluid has won the opening four heats of the national titles at Hervey Bay to take a stranglehold on the overall pointscore.
Manly stablemate Fire Stopping (Ben Bianco) and Belmont's AB Window Fashions are keeping Fluid honest in equal second place but concede the fat lady had pretty much sung.
'We're fighting an uphill battle but we've got to give it everything and see what happens,' Bianco said after steering Fire Stopping into second in Monday's four heat.
'Clint's definitely consistent. He doesn't make many mistakes and that's what makes him so hard to beat.
'He's on fire at the moment and we've got to try and sail fast and hope he doesn't get in front because once he gets near the front he's home and hosed.'
Fluid did let its guard down at the start of heat four, getting off slowly and having to make its way through the fleet in the tricky 14-20 knot breeze.
Belmont's Straight Azz Tiling (Joel Rose) took advantage to shoot to an early lead with clubmates McKajj Services (James Pilgrim) and Spatial Info (Kieran Humphries) in hot pursuit.
But by the fourth lap a familiar picture emerged.
Fluid was challenging for the lead with Fire Stopping, also slow off the mark, throwing down the gauntlet.
They went at it in the closing stages with Fluid prevailing by 17 seconds.
FS was second with Straight Azz third and Spatial Info fourth.
'Both of us got a bit buried at the start and were eighth or 10th by the first mark before we clawed our way back,' Bianco said.
'We got to second with a lap to go but still couldn't get in range to overtake him (Bowen).
'They've got their rigs and technique down pat at the moment and it's working for them.
'It's hard to compete against someone who wins four in a row.'
Fire Stopping has recorded a seventh, a fourth and two seconds.
Take Fluid out of the equation and it's winning form.
'We've been happy every day but it's just not good enough this year,' Bianco continued.
'You never know. We could get lucky over the next three heats but it's not looking good.'
Meanwhile, RW Retail (Jenny Hawgood) ended the winning run of Manly's Bell Potter Securities (Declan Reilly) in the fourth heat of the 13-footer class on Monday.
It's opened up the title race after Reilly won the first three heats.
'It was a very good result. We've now had a couple of thirds and a win so everything is going to plan,' Hawgood said.
'If we sail like we did today then we're in with a good shot.'
Hawgood and crew mate Jake Wasson are hoping for light breezes over the closing heats to really put the heat on Reilly.
'The less knots the better for us,' Hawgood said.
'If it eases off it helps our chances. If not we need to sail as well as we did today.
'I am confident we can challenge Bell Potter but I wouldn't be disappointed if we ended up second.
'Jake and I have have only been sailing together for three years.
'We finished seventh last year so to finish in the top two would be a huge achievement.' Australian 16ft Skiff Association website
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12:23 AM Tue 3 Jan 2012 GMT
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