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Adelaide: 2009/10 South Australian State Championship

15 February 2010 Wayne Knill

French Stick's skipper, Andrew Waterman

"French Stick's skipper, Andrew Waterman"

Photo by:
Wayne Knill

A minimum of four races are required to constitute a race series and despite Mother Nature throwing her worst at us, that's what we got. The Etchells state heats were spread over two separate weekends, with four races scheduled in November, and the remaining three races held at the end of January.

Fine in theory, but the first scheduled Saturday of racing in November saw a howling gale rip through. There was no chance of even using the crane to drop the boats in the water, let alone think about hoisting a sail. Sunday saw a moderation in the weather and one race was completed before the wind picked up and the fleet scampered back to shore. Ian Dixon sailing Choices (AUS 1321) won Heat 1 continuing his fine form from last year's Nationals. Caillin Howard's Stretch (AUS 1129) and Paul Henshall's Mystery Taxi (AUS 1311) coped best with the trying conditions to finish second and third respectively.

So with only one heat completed instead of four, the schedule was rearranged for the January weekend to catch up on some of the races lost. Saturday saw three races held back to back in perfect conditions, and twelve Etchells hit the racecourse for some fantastic close racing.

After a short postponement the sea breeze filled in and the windward-leeward course was set. The first race of the day, heat 2, started without incident, and at the top mark first time around Choices, Stretch and Shane Deussen's Coronation Rag (AUS 936) were virtually bow to stern setting the tone that would continue for most of the day. The rest of the fleet were close behind, with Craig Mudge's Warkanu (AUS 774) trailing the field. Craig has had little time at the helm this season, his crew was recruited at the last minute and had no experience sailing Etchells at all, so they were on a steep learning curve. A short course kept the field close together and meant any error would be costly. At the finish it was Choices, Stretch, Coronation Rag and Mystery Taxi taking out the top places.

Heat 3 started soon afterwards and all eyes were on David Biven who steered a flying GOMAS (AUS 609) to be third boat around the top mark. Up until this point GOMAS, one of the oldest boats in the fleet, had not exactly been setting the world on fire, but they showed that there's very little difference between all the boats in straight-line speed and point, and once again, picking the shifts is the way to make the gains. This time, after two laps Coronation Rag got the best of the duel and took the win, and GOMAS had somehow dropped back to last place!.

Heat 4 saw the usual suspects battling it out for the lead, however disaster had struck Stretch when they lost their spinnaker halyard up the mast, and were forced to hoist the kite using the jib halyard. This cost precious seconds each time they rounded the top mark and meant they had to drop the spinnaker a little earlier than usual at the leeward end. Then to add insult to injury, Stretch was pipped on the finish line by half a boat length - more about this later.

Overnight a front passed through so by Sunday the wind was a steady 28 knots and gusting over 30. The pin was pulled on the last two races scheduled for the day and the series was wrapped up using the four completed heats only. This meant that no discard was available and all races had to count.

Overall Ian Dixon steered Choices to a runaway victory with three first places and a second for a total of five points. The big surprise was Paul Henshall's Mystery Taxi stealing second place on 13 points by sailing four consistent races. Despite a first, second and third place in three of the races the lack of a discard meant Coronation Rag's lowly eighth place finish in Heat 1 left them one point behind in third position with a total of 14.

Hard luck story of the regatta belongs to our RSAYS Commodore Caillin. Stretch also had a 14 point total, but finished in fourth place overall after a count back. Ironically, if they had been only one boat length further ahead in Heat 4 and got a fifth instead of sixth place they would have finished on 13 points and beaten the Taxi on a count back for second place overall ! Just goes to show how close the racing is in these boats and how one error can sometimes be so costly!

Adelaide Fleets Ruby and Coronation Rag

"Adelaide Fleets Ruby and Coronation Rag"

Photo by:
Wayne Knill


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