NEWS

QLD State Championship

Big day at the office

5 October 2014 Author: John Curnow
Everybody came out to see the Etchells

 Everybody came out to see the Etchells
© John Curnow

Day Two of the LJ Hooker 2014 Etchells Queensland State Championships meant three races were to be conducted. Sensational weather insured it was going to happen regardless. Returning to the pond at Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron you could tell it had been huge, but the smiles showed that it had all been worthwhile.

Now predictions in yacht racing can be dangerous, but hats off to Race Officer, Guy Morton. Yesterday, he accurately surmised that there would be a General Recall or two and he would have to display the dreaded Black Flag. It took all day, and it was the third attempt, but for the final race, Guy must have felt like Nostradamus. "The clean starts early had me thinking some of the hard competition would not come to pass, but a General Recall under firstly P and then U, when around two thirds all jumped over, so given it had been a long session thus far I went straight to the Black Flag. It certainly had all but one vessel opting for a more conservative approach to starting. Indeed I did think at the time that craft would be going home early, but thankfully they just scraped enough line to run down before the gun."

"We saw 340 degrees through to about 020, with more breeze than expected, so it made for a great day and the competitors put on terrific sailing, which we all really enjoyed watching. A big tide was running for the first race, but it was dead tide for the second race and then the action arrived for the third race. Looking forward to the last two tomorrow. We have a good team here and they have a lot of experience, so it was a big day, but with these sorts of conditions it all ended well", said Morton.

Having shot to the end of the day, we now need to go back to the beginning, which was at 1100hrs when the preparatory signal was sounded for the first race of the day. It was set to an axis of 000degrees and out over a 1nautical mile range for two laps of windward/leeward return. The breeze was a comfortable 8 knots and the seaway under gleaming sun could only be described as negligible.

The bulk of the fleet were down at the pin end of the line, but it was Yep who could claim first up rights. Ken Waller, Josh Torpy, Tim O'Connor and Meg Ryan have been starting well and this first one was no different. Ken said, "Certainly had fun in the light stuff but we are under weight by 60kg, so in the stiffer breeze we go sideways too much and cannot drive through the chop as well. We are starting well and loving the competitive fleet that has come to this championship. You cannot afford to make a mistake out the and the course is terrific, so it is enjoyable, even when it gets a bit lumpy."

The two craft who had to go back and pass through the line again for being a tad early were yesterday's speed merchants, Bootross and the boat formerly known as J for Jig and renamed, The Greater Fool. Further up the track and quite early in the piece, the crews all chose to head off to the right. This was to utilise the outgoing tide running up the coast at this point. Those coming back did so with a poor angle, so it was not long before they flopped back over and headed right once more. The Boat would lead the fleet in to the top mark, with Fifteen+, Yep, Roulette, Gen XY and Odyssey forming the top grouping.

Once around, everyone favoured heading in West to see if they could stay out of the tide's influence. A few gybed back in, like Land Rat, Forceful and Tuco, but went very slowly as the leaders streaked away. The bulk of the fleet would hold the starboard gybe about 80% of the way down to what looked like being a reach to come back at the bottom gate, such was the effect of the tide. Notably, Fifteen+ held on the longest, but this did cost them some spots. On the positive side of the ledger, YEP, Odyssey and Gen XY all benefited from gybing at the correct time.

The Western mark of the bottom gate was preferred, even by those closer to the East. Fifteen+ would drop around three places, whilst Odyssey actually went around in second spot after the Boat, then Gen XY, Yep and Roulette. Only Land Rat and Tuco and would end up selecting the Eastern mark.

So working back up to the top was a case of head left and stay there, which worked well for, The Boat, who extended their lead. Following around was Gen XY with Odyssey closely by and Roulette, and thence on to Fifteen+. A touch after them were YEP and Rapscallion. The bear away set as favoured, but nearly all gybed within a short while and pointed pretty much at the finish. The first to do so included craft like Tusk and Roulette and they came down in better pressure to make up on the lead group, which still had The Boat at the front. That did not last, however, as Gen XY got a wiggle on and showed pace under spinnaker. Notable mentions for this run were YEP and Odyssey who stuck in there and stayed very visible. Gen XY went on to claim the win from The Boat and Odyssey snapped up third.

John Warlow from Land Rat said afterwards, "Beautiful day and we found a bit of boat speed for that second race, which made us smile, but could not replicate it for the third. A fantastic regatta and great sailing out there off King Island, where we don't get out to enough, actually. Much different conditions to Waterloo Bay where we are more often than not, so the tide aspects increase the tactical equation. Loving the yachting and this has been a terrific series so far."

The prep signal for Race Four went off at 1220hrs and a minute later the AP was hoisted for a wind shift. Ultimately the 000 degrees axis was maintained with a range of 1nm and it did strengthen to a real 10 knots with maybe some 12's coming down the track as effectively the tide bottomed out.

Land Rat, Fifteen+, Bootross and Roulette lead the fleet off, but Bootross returned to perform her penalties. Now if it was all left for the first race, that book was now thrown out and all right was to be the new black! Most of the way up the track it looked like it was going to be Fifteen+ that owned the box of chocolates. It was a healthy lead that took into the top mark for the first time, with Roulette (Mark Johnson, Andrew Smith and Nick Burfoot) in next, followed by The Boat, Gen XY, Land Rat and Odyssey.

The bear away set was again favoured, but an early fashion for the gybe ensured no one was too far West. The early gybers did well. This comprised of Land Rat, Forceful and Rolls Rocks, but Fifteen+ still had a strong lead and kept adding to it, whereas Roulette may no longer be looking so well. They'd have to get to the bottom gate smartly to find out. Roulette would be OK in the end, followed by The Boat, Gen XY, Odyssey and Land Rat.

A change of course was signalled at this gate. Guy Morton explains, "We did lengthen the second work of the second race to 1.1nm, as the wind had picked up and we wanted to ensure the race was not going to be over too quickly." Many chose to go back right, quite possibly for clear space, as the majority had gone in hard left again. The two leaders continued to shine at this point and took the fleet all the way to and around the top mark for the last time in this race. Gen XY was next, then Land Rat, The Boat and Odyssey. The fleet was still quite tight, but as the pressure and seaway built, so too did the separation, right throughout the remainder of the afternoon. Once more the early gybe was very much in vogue for the final run home. Fifteen+ was a clear winner from Roulette, with Gen XY behind them, then Land Rat, Odyssey and The Boat.

The injured Noel Paterson said, "Watching yachting today was great, but certainly would prefer to be out there. Imagine how wonderful it would be to have 90 boats out there and returning home to port each night. That's our aim for the 2018 Etchells World Championship and we are busily working away towards achieving that.

For Race Five it was a genuine 12 knots and a choppy, under half a metre seaway. The sequence was begun at 1341hrs for a course to 020degrees and out over a 1.1nm range. This time, course two was selected, which meant the crews would complete two windward/leeward laps and then return back upwind to a laid finish. As we saw earlier, it was now that the competitive streaks all came out. The first attempt was crowded up at the boat end of the line with some coming in on port, which could be interesting with the number of craft that would soon be peeling off down the line looking for space to run away. Very smartly, the General Recall was sounded.

At 1349hrs the next sequence was begun. Some more pressure to the left was evident and it could easily have had some 15knot squirts in it. Code Flag U was deployed, to indicate that individual craft could be excluded from that race. The crowd at the boat end was dense and they all came hurtling down the line looking for room. Alas, the wall of white sails that went over was enough to have them all coming back. That of course the Black Flag and an automatic trip back home was next on offer. At 1400hrs the next sequence was commenced and mercifully, all obeyed the command to stay behind the line, but when they all jammed up near the Committee Boat once more, there were thoughts that the next sound would be tears. It did not come to pass thankfully. Yandoo XX and YEP had come in on port at the pin end and did find a whole to dive into. In the case of Yandoo XX, it more than worked and they skipped off the line smartly and held that all the way to the end, what's more.

The leading group off the line went out to the left, whereas the second row flopped over and went right to find clear air. Yandoo XX was showing a clean transom to all, with Roulette and Fifteen+ making a race of it. The biggest difference between this race and the preceding one was that the wind had had longer to crank the seaway up to a nasty, but still small chop. Now if other races could be called left handed, then this one was soon to be known as right and they banged it quite hard. Certainly it looked like it was easier to get through the chop on the port tack.

Just before the top, Yandoo XX was leading, but just could not make the mark, so had to quickly tack over and grab some space to the lay line. This meant they took Roulette and Fifteen+ with them and they came back ever so quickly. Others to come in behind them were Tusk and Forceful. The majority went back to the West, with only a few on Port gybe, who would have to run very deep to make the mark. Yandoo XX would lead everyone around comfortably with Fifteen+ now in second over Roulette. Then it was Gen XY, Tusk and Tuco.

On the way back up it was evident that the breeze was 15knots by now. As per yesterday, all manner of pleasure craft continued to carve through the fleet - some with respect and others blissfully unaware of their surroundings. Yandoo XX was still comfortably in front, with Fifteen+ next and now Gen XY in third and Roulette now in fourth place. Forceful (James Walker, James Tapp and Phillip Manning) would occupy fifth place.

On the final run of the race and the day, it was once again all about being on the Western side of the course. For the final work back to the finish, some went right out to the East. One of them was Land Rat and it did not pay off. So going well left seemed to hold sway. Yandoo XX held on for the win over Gen XY. Fifteen+ would be next from Roulette and then Tusk (Brad Sheriden, Gary Smith and Brett Shoebridge). Jeanne-Claude Strong of Yandoo XX smiled and commented back at the quay, "Lovely way to finish the day and we won the crane race" (referring to being back home first as a result of winning the last race of the day).

Matt Chew from the overnight series leader, Gen XY, said whilst smiling, "Three races are fun! We were no better than fourth to any top mark, so we felt like we ere needing to come back in each race, which we achieved and were glad to see! Our last work of the day to the finish was probably our best and got from fifth to second. Leading is nice, but we'll still have to do well tomorrow, as it is a fine margin. We will all be very happy if it comes to pass. It is tough out there and Fifteen+ are sailing so well and starting just supremely. We're certainly enjoying having to work hard for every position on the track. Tomorrow we'd love to start well and head off on the correct tack and stay in phase."

One point astern of them is Fifteen+, then nine points further astern is Roulette, with four more to The Boat, who are one point clear of Bootross and Odyssey. There'll be even more sun, water, fun, excitement and legendary hospitality on offer for the final day of the LJ Hooker Etchells Queensland State Championships, when two races will be conducted. See etchellsbrisbane.com and etchells.org.au or follow it via #etchellsQLDstates, for all the key information.

Jeanne-Claude Strong, Peter McNeill and Marcus Burke on Yandoo XX

 Jeanne-Claude Strong, Peter McNeill and Marcus Burke on Yandoo XX
© John Curnow

David Clark, Sean O’Rourke, Emma O’Rourke and Will Northam bring Fifteen+ home to a win

 David Clark, Sean O’Rourke, Emma O’Rourke and Will Northam bring Fifteen+ home to a win
© John Curnow

David Healey, Trevor Martin and Kevin Molen on Rapscallion

 David Healey, Trevor Martin and Kevin Molen on Rapscallion
© John Curnow