Flying Fifteen National Championships - There are few sights in sailing that are quite as forlorn as seeing an idle boat crew near the start line, watching their fellow sailors charging away from the line after suffering the humiliation of a black flag disqualification. That was the sight that greeted us as we arrived at the Swan River course area this afternoon and the luckless crew was the leading Australian crew of Adele Jackson and Dean McAullay.
Perth’s famous south westerly sea breeze, affectionately known as the 'Fremantle Doctor', failed to materialise again today due to the influence of a cyclone in the north west of the State. Instead, this afternoon’s breeze came from the east and south east, varying in strength from three or four knots, to bullets of wind gusting well over 15 knots. South of Perth Yacht Club’s race officer Les Swinton, already under pressure after losing a race because of fickle winds yesterday, was determined to run three races today to get the regatta back on schedule and selected course 2 for all three races, requiring a windward and return leg, followed by a triangle and a beat to the finish.
The quality of the field in this championship is best demonstrated by the fact that after seven races, only triple world champion Steve Goacher has been capable of winning more than one race.
Consistency and risk management however, have been the key for the top scoring boats. They have generally avoided risky starts, have avoided straying too wide on the windward legs and have stayed out of trouble. They’ve also been able to generate excellent boat speed on and off the wind, but have maintained their composure when back in the bunch in the early stages of a race, to emerge among the leaders at the business end. Steve Goacher in particular, has showed an extraordinary capacity to wear down boats in front of him.
The fall from grace of Adele Jackson and Dean McAullay has been a huge disappointment for them, coming at a time when they were brimming with confidence, holding third place overall, and best of the Australian boats. Jackson was clearly shattered by her black flag experience and scored 10ths in each of the two races to follow.
'We had no excuses,' Adele Jackson said afterwards. 'It was really shifty out there, particularly near the top mark. We thought we were doing OK and then found ourselves back in the pack again.'
David Tucker and Matt Summers had a good win in today’s first race, taking a risk on the first leg by going out wide, but it paid off handsomely and they gleefully claimed their first win of the series.
In the second race of the afternoon, run in similar conditions, Alan Bax threaded his way through the traffic and worked hard near the centre of the course to get to the top mark with a small but significant lead, which he extended as the race progressed. He had a spectacular first reach, riding one of the gusts that crossed the course to really take the race apart.
Jenny Richardson, sailing one of the older boats in the fleet, went to the extreme edge of the course in the first leg, picking up a nice little lift in the process. She tacked on a wind shift and laid the top mark without having to tack again, to find herself in the lead for the first time. It all unravelled in the downwind leg though, as the pack engulfed her little blue boat and put an end to its moment of glory.
The race was won by Queenslanders Ashley Smith and Adam Kingston, so after seven races, only the master, Steve Goacher, has been able to notch more than one win.
Tomorrow’s final race of the championship is scheduled to be run in the morning, with more easterly breezes forecast The leaderboard after race seven, incorporating one drop:
1. 3988 17 Steve Goacher/Matt Owen
2. 3987 20 Alan Bax/Simon Childs
3. 3775 30 Mike Hart/Richard Rigg
4. 3781 35 David Tucker/Matt Summers
5. 3933 36 Adele Jackson/Dean McAullay
6. 3670 37 Graeme Lillingstone/Ed Repsevicius
7. 3881 43 Adam Hawkins/Ben Jones
8. 3743 43 Greg Tonnison/Steve Roberts
9. 3859 55 David Yu/Chris Nelson
10. 3972 59 Ashley Smith/Adam Kingston Flying Fifteen National Championships website