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Musto Skiff Victorian State Championship at Port Melbourne Yacht Club

by Paul Newman 7 Dec 2018 08:17 PST 24-25 November 2018 2018

The Victorian 2018 Musto Skiff State Titles were scheduled for March, but due to bad weather were rescheduled to the 24th and 25th of November. Murphy, however, struck again and as the fleet headed down to PMYC the forecast was again unfavourable with 20-25 knot winds and big seas.

The fleet arrived at PMYC to find the forecast was as predicted with strong wind and a large swell breaking on the beach. After some deliberation and waiting for the wind and swell to subside after some small fronts pushed through, we got under way in the late afternoon.

Race one got started with a shifty 15-20 knot breeze from the south with big 1-2 metre waves. From the first gun it was a few of the PMYC 'locals' Tim Hill, Brett Morris and Matthias (Matty) Houvenagel who showed most of the fleet how it was done – they took the lead early and showed some great skill and speed in the big swell. As the race progressed, however, it became evident that no one could compete with the upwind speed of Richie Robertson, who took the lead at the top mark.

Richie was closely followed by Tim, Matty and Brett. Tim and Matty reeled in Richie downwind with Tim rounding at the gate first closely followed by Matty and Richie. Tim and Matty did their best to hold off Richie up the beat but to no avail. Richie worked his way through the fleet to again take the lead at the top mark with Tim and Matty close behind. Unfortunately, at the top mark Tim ran into some issues with his kite halyard that prevented his kite from going all the way up. This left Richie and Matty to fight it out for the win, but Richie's lead was too great for Matty to reel him in. Richie got the win with Matty second and Tim - who managed to hold Paul off even with his kite half down – came in third.

Race two was much the same conditions with only a knot or two less wind than the previous race. It was Richie Matty and Tim again up the front at the top mark. At the kite set Richie and Matty got away cleanly but Tim's kite halyard issues podded up again and he ended his day with a half kite up capsize in a very inconsiderate position for all behind him. The slightly lighter winds allowed Matty to again attack Richie downwind and make up the ground that Richie gained up wind.

This made for a great battle and the race went right down to the line. In the end Matty took the win from Richie who finished second just in front of the "two boat team, WAB Racing" of Wayne and Casey Bates who claimed third and fourth positions. This was a fantastic result for the team but might need some 'tough conversations' to decide who the number one driver is after Wayne covered his son up the last beat just to make sure of the podium finish.

Race three was a bit of a sprint after the race committee changed the course to a one lap race. Conditions and results were very similar to the last with Richie dominating the upwind legs with speed and shifts, and Matty the downwind legs with VMG and pressure resulting in another photo finish between Ritchie, Matty and Wayne who nearly stole the win on the last leg. In the end, it was Richie first Matty second and Wayne third.

Saturday was a challenging day for all on the water given the conditions and I think it was a wonderful effort by all just to survive the day. While enjoying a well-deserved beer or two afterwards there were many tired and sore bodies, except for Richie who had an unusual spring in his step.

We had more luck with the weather gods on Sunday and it presented a much better forecast with 10-15 knots and some sunshine.

Race four got under way on our second attempt after some eager guys down the pin triggered a general recall. The fleet took off upwind in a shifty 12-14 knot southerly. Brett Morris again showed some impressive speed at the top, but it was Richie who led the way at the top. He did, however, have a big bunch of boats hot on his tail and by the bottom it was very tight with five or six boats hitting the bottom gate at the same time.

During the race upwind, there were many lead changes but again at the top it was Richie and Matty with Wayne hot on their heels. Matty pushed hard down the run and took the lead from Richie just before the last gate mark but may have forgotten to come to briefing that morning and unfortunately he got the course wrong and dropped his kite at the gate instead of gybing and reaching to the finish handing the win to the fast finishing Wayne followed by Richie and Brett close behind. Mattys mistake resulted in a fifth place, allowing Richie a handy points buffer going into the last two races.

Race five started in similar conditions with the fleet again very close and there were multiple lead changes and plenty of jostling for position. Yet again it was the dominate Richie who lead to the top mark with Paul and Brett close behind. The boys pushed up and caught up to Richie by the bottom before splitting to different gate marks. Paul thought he had hit some good shifts and was surely going to cross Richie.

It was to be to no avail and Richie proved himself to be superior upwind rounding first with Paul and Brett close behind. On the downwind Paul managed to get a favourable shift and pressure line inside Richie and Brett to take the win with Richie second and Brett third. The victory, however, was Richie's who's second place gave him the series win and the state titles with one race to go.

Race six got under way in winds of 14-16 knots with Richie possibly already composing his regatta acceptance speech and had a shocking start at the pin, having to tack and cross behind the fleet before he was able to find some clear air and get going. The close fleet again fought for position with a bunch of sailors trying to stake their claim on the race.

Lo and behold it was Richie with some clear air and a good shift on the other side of the course that came storming in to cross the fleet and round first closely followed by Tim and Matty. Tim and Matty got to the bottom gate first - splitting with Richie up the last beat of the regatta. Unfortunately for them the cards fell Richie's way and with his impressive upwind speed, he took the lead and held on to the finish.

Overall, it was a great weekend with a very deserving winner who dropped a second place to win his first Victorian Musto Skiff State Titles - congratulations Richie Robertson. Matthias was comfortably second with Paul rounding out the podium. We thank the Port Melbourne Yacht Club for hosting the regatta and organising the races in some trying conditions on the Saturday. Thanks also to Tim Hill for his efforts organising the regatta.

Results:

1. P Robertson
2. M Houvenagal
3. P Newman
4. W Bates
5. B Morris
6. T Hill
7. C Bates
8. R Ironmonger
9. H Harding
10. C Peile
11. A Nonymous
12. D Etherton

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