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JJ Giltinan: Honda Marine pushed hard for second win

by Richard Gladwell, Sail-World.com/nz 3 Mar 2019 18:27 PST 4 March 2019
Honda Marine and Appliances Online bow to bow heading for the finish - Race 2 - JJ Giltinan Championship 2019, March 3, 2019 © Michael Chittenden

Defending champion Honda Marine, scored a second, albeit narrow win in Race 2 of the JJ Giltinan Championship, sailed in a fresh sea-breeze on Sydney Harbour on Sunday.

The race was marked with controversy after race leader Winning Group (John Winning Jr) collided with a cruising boat, while holding a nearly unbeatable lead, and was forced to withdraw.

That left the way open for a tense battle between Honda Marine and AppliancesOnline (Brett Van Munster). Most of the fleet elected to carry big rigs after a lot of chopping and changing in the boat park - and while it was the correct choice for the first two laps, the rig was well outside its crossover for the third and final lap.

After rounding the first mark in second place behind Winning Group, Honda Marine was unable to drop their gennaker at the leeward mark for the first time.

"We had a big knot in the kite halyard", mainsheet hand Matt Stevens told Sail-World. "It was a bit frustrating as we had run through the take-ups, but it must have got wrapped around something. So we had to sail about 100 metres up the windward leg with the kite most of the way up the mast."

"We got passed by three boats (dropping back to fifth)"

"We just kept calm. We've got a touch of boatspeed on most of the fleet, but we were able to get into a couple of nice shifts going up the middle, and then we were back into Winning Group again. Near the top mark, we were just crossing their sterns, but they went away again at the top mark after they went right again."

"We were catching them downwind, and that's when their kite went."

Stevens says the Sydney Harbour course has been giving right-hand shifts for the first three days of the regatta. "It's not a true sea-breeze either - it has quite a lot of gradient in it which is influenced by the sea-breeze."

He says the breeze "started at 12-13kts and at the end was close to 20kts. In that last upwind of the race, we were definitely out of range for the big rig."

Downwind became a real test for the Kiwis as Appliances Online, with a crew weight advantage of about 25kgs came powering through, and also played the shifts to perfection.

Honda Marine kept to leeward of Appliances Online, and in the end, the difference between the boats came down to an extra gybe by Van Munster and his crew to make the finish line.

"If the wind had increased earlier, we would have struggled to hold out Appliances Online and the Winning Group, who are also heavier than us."

One of the strengths of Honda Marine'sJJ Giltinan win last year was that their second rig had a very low range - down to as little as 12 kts. Before race 2, crews were switching back and forth on rig selection with most opting for their big rigs.

"We made a very late call this morning. We were the last ones to change to the big rig. If two or three boats had committed to their #2 rig, we would have gone too. It was definitely light enough on the first lap for us to be on #1 rig."

So far in the series, Honda Marine has clearly been the boat to beat - running out to big leads in the Invitation Race - where they withdrew after two laps. And again in Race 1 where they had a big win, in a lighter breeze than Race 2. They tend to have a conservative start - get into the leading group at the windward mark and then work through to the front with a combination of good speed and boat placement on the tricky Sydney harbour course.

Race 2 saw them make an unusual move splitting tacks with the fleet after rounding the bottom mark for the first round - going right while the top Sydney boats all went left. However, the right-hand side paid allowing them to close into the then race leader Winning Group.

C-Tech (Alex Valling) was the next best performed of the New Zealand contingent, placing 10th. ASCC (Josh Porebski) had been handily placed in the top five for much of the race but capsized during a tack on the third beat. Maersk Line (Peron Pearse) was 22nd in the 25 boat international fleet.

The protest committee has a busy day, Monday, which is supposed to be a rest day, and the outcome will affect the leaderboard.

Winning Group has protested Honda Marine over a mark rounding incident in Race 1. Winning Group is also endeavouring to claim redress for their collision with a cruising boat in Race 2. The second New Zealand boat ASCC (Josh Porebski) is also in the protest room trying to get reinstatement into Race 1 after being called over as a premature starter, along with Asko (James Dorron).

Update: Following a series of Protest Hearings in Sydney on Monday, Winning Group were awarded average points for their altercation with a cruising boat while leading Races 2; ASCC and Asko were reinstated in Race 1 having been previously been judged to be premature starters; Winning Group's protest against Honda Marine for a Mark Rounding incident in Race 1 was dismissed.

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