VIC State Championship

Something of Everything

11 March 2019 Author: John Curnow
Magpie - winners of the 2019 Etchells Victorian State Championship - Graeme Taylor, James Mayo and Richie Allanson, with RGYC’s Captain, Roger Bennett

 Magpie - winners of the 2019 Etchells Victorian State Championship - Graeme Taylor, James Mayo and Richie Allanson, with RGYC’s Captain, Roger Bennett
© Alex McKinnon

Mild temperatures, sunny skies, and soft breezes marked the first day. Southerly busters were the hallmark of the next. So really, the only thing left on offer on Geelong’s Corio Bay for the final day’s racing in the 2019 Victorian State Championships for Etchells, 49ers and 29ers, would be a smorgasbord of everything. This was duly served.

A whiteout, caused by the almost opaque drizzle, greeted the sailors this morning. The Race Committees were more inspired, however, and got the fleets out on the water pretty much as prescribed for racing at 1000hrs. Only a short stay under the Answering Pennant was required before the two courses commenced their racing. The 9ers began at 1020hrs, and the Etchells from 1100. There would be three races for the Etchells and four for the 9ers - full day’s compliment.

The wind ranged around from 200 to 280 degrees, and was anything under five knots as it oscillated. Once it settled on the 250 degrees type area, all it did all day was go from 6 to 15 knots, as swiftly and as frequently as it so chose. An eyes out of the boat kind of day, for sure!

Now in amongst all of that diversity, no matter whether you were sailing an Etchells or skiff, and irrespective of your experience in the America’s Cup, Volvo Ocean Races, Olympic Classes, or any other form of sailing, there were two definitive and common elements. The sailors all commented on how tired they might be, but more importantly, just how much fun they had enjoyed on the relatively flat track just in front of the Royal Geelong Yacht Club.

Indeed, by the time everyone was back ashore a de-rigging, it was shorts, sunscreen, hats and sunnies, and the temperature shot back up into the mid-20s This was most welcome, for some of the rain squalls that rolled in from behind Geelong were as icy as they were shifty, with 30 degree flicks more than common. All I can say is a big thank you Glenn Norton for loaning some of your gear to me, which was a saviour, for like many, I had believed the earlier weather forecasts!

The Race Officer for the 9er course was Mark Taylor, who commented, “We were lucky. Day one offered perfect conditions, and we had four races out of four. Day two was a bit challenging. I saw 34 knots on the boat, and 41 was measured at one point, apparently. None the less we got two races in for the 49ers, and just the one for the 29ers. Today we got four races in for both, so that gave the 49ers 10 out of a possible 12, and the 29ers, 9 from 12, which meant they had two drops from their series total.”

“There was some impressive sailing out there. The RGYC Volunteers are very keen, and they have the 49er and Nacra World Championships coming here next year and are starting to skill up for that. They have not had a lot of experience with skiffs, but are rapidly coming to terms with the differences in speed, and visibility once capsized for instance, and the impact these sorts of things have on Race Management. So it has been a really good warm up for the Worlds. The club now know what resources and people they need to invest in, as there is likely to be three or four courses running concurrently on Corio Bay next year.”

Winning the Boys 29ers were Oscar O’Donoghue and Rupert Hamilton on HH, after they had been leading for most of the regatta. “It was a good regatta. We have not sailed here before, but they were nice conditions, especially the flat water”, said Oscar of the team that sails normally on Hobart’s River Derwent. “We came up here because our training partners, Zack and Ethan on Foamfast (who were second) are from here. It was good to put one over them and they are coming to Tassie next week for our State Championship”, said Rupert. Universally, they both commented that the thing they like about the 29er was “Sending it!”

The Girls 29er went to Beth Tedstone and Allie Mclennan. They commented, “It feels pretty good. When we came here we just kept an open mind as to our chances. We’ll try our best from here, and who knows what will happen (relative to many significant championships being held on Melbourne’s Port Phillip next year). We are really enjoying it, and it is fun, especially the speed. We keep coming back too because it is such a good group of people sailing in the class right now.”

Brothers Sam and Will Phillips won the Olympic 49er Class, and they will soon be off to race in Europe, trying to claim the coveted places on the Australian Sailing Team for 2020 at Enoshima. Sam spoke in the boat park about it all, “We made it pretty difficult for ourselves by not starting all that well, especially today. It was good to claw back and get the results after that. Sailing at Geelong has been great ahead of the Worlds.”

“We are really pumped for the next year or so of our campaign, gunning in towards Tokyo. Heading off to Palma (Mallorca) in two weeks, to give it a real crack and hoping it all goes well. It is a big event for us. The level is a bit higher over there, and we have just got to make sure that in all the lead up events like this one, that we keep the intensity nice and high, so that when we get there we are ready to go.”

The Etchells course was under the auspices of the mighty Wilson brothers, Kevin and Ross, who have just been named Chief International Race Officers by World Sailing. It is certainly deserved after all the work that they have done over the years, and further recognises their efforts. “It is an honour”, said Kevin. “It is likely that an overseas IRO will come to be a land based PRO for the 9ers, and perhaps Ross, myself, and Mark will run a course each out there, with maybe someone else taking a fourth course if the entries keep piling in. The thing will be to ensure that there are sufficient skills to be spread a cross such an array of requirements, as you are only as good as the team you have around you. It is going to be big, action packed, and it has to be done correctly.”

We were standing quayside in shorts, but earlier on out on the water I was sure my hands were about to fall off they were that cold. “It has been a bit up and down the last couple of days. Yesterday we had a blowout, the day before was all sunshine, and then this morning there was a persistent mist around. If you fronted up today and looked at what we have right now, you would think how beautiful it is.” Certainly it was a flat track with a steady and consistent 10 knots from the West, and a totally blue sky.

“By the time we got racing today, we had it varying between 7 to 15 knots, and it was gusty. If you got in the right lane you were looking a million dollars. If you missed it, you were back in the pack.”

The brothers are just so conversant with the class, that they can get a 65-minute race in, as long as there is a consistent 5 knots or more blowing. Combine that with a true appreciation of the conditions, and more often than not they get a full compliment of races in for the series. Kevin said, “Knowing the speed of the boats, and how they travel through the water, and whether they want a 60, 70 or 80 minute race, we can set up a track accordingly. Equally, if it is going awry, we can change it around smartly.” Indeed this is why the Etchells had two races finishing downhill, and then complete the third with a work back to windward, as this was closer to the club to get them all home, and ready to place the boats back on their trailers.

The crew aboard Magpie have been tremendous performers for some time now, but in some of the recent events, the scoreboard did not carry that name as much as it had previously. Today, that changed, when once again they were on top. Amongst the many accolades the crew holds are Line Honours and race record holders in the Hobart, and former World Champions.

The particular line up being utilised at Geelong, Graeme Taylor, James Mayo and Richie Allanson are former Australian Champions, with Richie as part of the reigning Australian Championship crew that comprised Iain Murray and Colin Beashel, as well. They are all very close friends, and some of the magic began to reappear at Gosford recently during the NSW title.

Taylor commented afterwards, “I have always loved sailing with James and Richie. We just seem to click. We enjoy each other’s company on and off the water, so when we go out and race it all just falls into place. We mostly agree with what we are doing, and remain objective about what we are doing well and badly, and try to improve. I am privileged to be part of this, as Richie does such a great job with the boat, and James who handles the logistics of it all so well. I am very lucky, and it is just a delight to sail with these two guys.”

“The next thing for us is Mooloolaba, then off to the Worlds in Texas.” The 2020 Australian Championship is at Brighton, and you get the feeling they may just like to claim that particular title back, but for now, the crew of Magpie were very happy to be the Victorian Champions once more.

Kirwan Robb and his crew on board, Triad, won the Corinthian trophy with an incredibly consistent effort, always finishing between fourth and eighth place. They ended up fourth overall. Jill Connell’s Odyssey with Gordon Maguire and Wade Morgan were the Grand Masters. Chris Hampton’s, Tango, with Sam Haines and Charlie Cumbley were the winners of the Masters division, and Jeanne-Claude Strong won first female helm on her boat, 1435, with Tom Slingsby, Marcus Burke and Kate Devereux as crew.

As always a regatta cannot be held without a host club, in this case the Royal Geelong Yacht Club in the case, or its hard working Volunteers. Many thanks to them, as well as all the participants, the parents, friends, partners and so forth, who all gave something, so that their special people could have a piece of everything that was on offer...

1435 skippered by Jean-Claude Strong with Tom Slingsby, Marcus Burke and Kate Devereux, and also South Australia’s Fumanchu - Mark Roberts Chad Elsegood, and Matthew Johnston

 1435 skippered by Jean-Claude Strong with Tom Slingsby, Marcus Burke and Kate Devereux, and also South Australia’s Fumanchu - Mark Roberts Chad Elsegood, and Matthew Johnston
© Alex McKinnon