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ACO Musto Skiff World Championship at Blairgowrie Yacht Squadron - Day 5

by Andy Rice 13 Jan 03:03 PST 9-14 January 2018

The race was on to get the ACO Musto Skiff World Championship back on schedule with the prospect of four races today.

The international fleet headed out on to the water expecting a windy day, and at times it was. But the breeze was very shifty and pulsing with every dark cloud that came over the top of the fleet. In race one it was medium airs, full-stretch sailing up the first leg but as the leaders reached the first windward mark the breeze kicked up a few knots and it was a wild and hairy ride back to the bottom gate. Then the breeze dropped really soft and patchy for the second windward leg.

This was more or less the pattern for the whole afternoon. The wind varied between 6 and 12 knots and was shifting wildly from side to side. Yet somehow the best sailors still managed to make sense of it better than the rest. Yellow jersey leader Jon Newman won the first race, then two Brits won the next two - Jamie Hilton and Alex Knight.

Hilton has shown flashes of real brilliance, especially because he doesn't get the opportunity for much training. Playing all the factors - boat speed, wind shifts, gusts, ever-changing tide - has made this regatta immensely challenging but the front runners have displayed an uncanny knack for working out what's important at any given moment. Hilton outplayed the opposition in the final 500 metres to the finish of the race that he won. "We were all being swept up tide and I saw a gust out to one side so I went for it and sailed hard into the corner so I could come back into the finish with pace. It got me past four boats and I just managed to pass Jon Newman by a boatlength or so at the finish."

A fourth race got underway, one more than originally scheduled to try and make up the lost races from day one. It was really soft breeze by the top mark but a big black cloud was looming over the land. Still it was light on the run, and then the race officer blew the abandonment signal just as a squall of 25 knots struck the fleet. The rain was stinging so hard it felt like hail, and that song about Melbourne, Four Seasons in One Day, barely did justice to what the Musto Skiff fleet experienced today. Everyone arrived out of the gloom, safely back to Blairgowrie Yacht Squadron for some burgers, beer and live music. And the sun came out again.

Sunday is the concluding day of the championships and the forecast - for what it's worth - looks windy. Whatever Port Phillip Bay throws at the Musto Skiffs, Jon Newman is going to be hard to beat. He sits eight points in front of second-placed Will Phillips, while third place looks set to be a showdown between three Brits separated by just 4 points - Alex Knight, Jamie Hilton and George Hand.

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