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Swan River: Syd Corser Regatta 2009

14 December 2009 Paul Reiffer

Blues skies herald Michael Manford's clinical win in race four

"Blues skies herald Michael Manford's clinical win in race four"

Photo by:
Paul Reiffer

The regatta is named to honor the work of Syd Corser AM OBE in establishing the Etchells Fleet on the Swan River in Western Australia in 1986. The class needed six boats to qualify as a Fleet so Syd 'encouraged' his fellow sailors to purchase an Etchells until they had a fleet. Syd was then elected the inaugural Swan River Fleet Captain.

The Fleet set themselves the target of hosting the 1991 World Championships on Cockburn Sound, but they needed 24 boats. Syd, ably assisted by John Baron-Hay and Laurie Connell, again encouraged local yachties to take up the Etchells class. Some say the only way he would leave them alone was if they bought a boat.

They had a West Australian boat continuously in the moulds for two years. By the time the Worlds were held WA had 24 boats. From 1991 to 1994 Syd he was the Chairman of the International Etchells Marketing Committee, appointed by the International Etchells class Governors. His job was to promote the class worldwide.

Syd never missed a state title in his class in 43 years of sailing. He was a former President of the 14ft dinghies, Solings and Dragons. He competed in five Etchells World Championships and sailed his Etchells, Darkie, for ten years until his retirement from sailing in 2000. He was involved with the introduction of the Optimist class to Australia in 1988, co-founded the Grand Prix Yachting Series, co-founded the JESS sailing scheme that sends young sailors from Western Australia overseas to compete and is also involved in raising monies for the Warren Jones Youth Regatta which helps bring Australian sailors up to international standard.

Describing Etchells in Syd's words, "it is a noble boat that is well designed, light to sail and well governed, it's civilized racing even though you still have to work your backsides off. The measure of the class is the fact that the Bertrands and the Connors still compete".

This year's Syd Corser Regatta was lacking some of its regular skippers from previous years with the retirement of class stalwart John Baron-Hay and with Peter Chappell and Alastair McMichael between boats. However, Jamie Buxton was out to show his form with his new Etchells (AUS1359) Fragrant Harbour. Robert Olde had purchased John Baron-Hay's old boat renaming it The K9, while Frank Van Ruth was sailing Peter Chappell's old boat (AUS1289) renamed Norpropellis.

There were two races on Saturday 7 November. Race one of the day saw a wind direction between 240 and 250 degrees at about 10 knots. The fleet eventually settled into three main groups, but there was little in time between the first and last boat and all boats in the fleet had rivals close by with whom to duel. Gary Smith in Tusk (alias the former New Zealand boat Golly Gosh) sailed a blinder and was followed home by Rob Bird (Rhapsody in Blue), Dirk Van Der Struyf (Liquidity), Brad Sheridan (Yes) and Doug Kerr (Screaming Plum). Among the Silver Division boats, Kim Jeffery (Wot ever) led home Jonathan Joyce (Nereus).

In race two the wind stayed the same, but building to about 15 knots and increasing threatening cloud masses. Grantham Kitto in The Rat blitzed the field and increased his lead as the race progressed. Grantham was then followed by Highlander (Webster), Bandwagon (Skip Lissiman), Tusk (Gary Smith) and Wot Ever (Kim Jefferys, AUS730). The latter showed that old boats can be competitive. Among the Silver division, Wot Ever (Kim Jefferys), with his excellent result in the fleet, led home Nereus (Jonathan Joyce).

Another two races on Sunday 8 November, this time in shifty soft breezes. In race one of the day the wind was generally 270 to 280 degrees, but swinging at the top mark. The race saw the fleet much more spread out than on the first day as the varying conditions tested the crews. Skip Lissiman (Bandwagon) prevailed followed by Michael Manford (The Croc), Rob Bird (Rhapsody in Blue), Grantham Kitto (The Rat) and Dirk van der Struyf (Liquidity). In the Silver Division, Roger Flynn (Lyndis), who has returned to racing after a break of a few years, led home Jonathan Joyce (Nereus).

In the second race of the day and race four of the series, the wind was more consistent and strengthened to eight to15 knots. The fleet were evenly spread across the course as they searched for stronger breeze and favourable shifts off the banks of the river. Michael Manford in (The Croc) became the fourth winner in four races, followed by Rob Bird (Rhapsody in Blue), Grantham Kitto (The Rat), Bill Steele (Dragon Lady) and Gary Smith (Tusk). In the Silver Division, Bruce Maloney (Cavalier) led home Roger Flynn (Lyndis).

Four races down and two to go, race five of the series on Saturday 21 November saw winds of between 270 and 280 degrees gusting between 15 and 20 knots. With so little between the fleet leaders in the battle for regatta honours you could feel the aggression and risk taking go up a notch and the volume, frequency and pitch of the voices at mark roundings increased. Rob Bird set out to stamp his authority on the fleet and led at every mark, with Grantham Kitto and Skip Lissiman on his heels. Again, another heat, another winner.

The final race of the Syd Corser Regatta and the wind shifted to between 280 and 290 degrees, but eased a little to 12 to 18 knots. You could hear the onboard computers working out the machinations of possible finish positions in the last race. 'Grantham Kitto can win the regatta if he beats Rhapsody in Blue by more than two places'. Michael Manford would need to beat Rob by five places and Grantham and Skip by at least three places'. For Skip Lissiman to win he would have needed to beat Rob Bird by six places and Grantham Kitto by four places. It came down to a battle between the Royal Freshwater Bay skippers in Rob Bird and Michael Manford, and the Royal Perth skippers in Grantham Kitto and Skip Lissiman.

However, Brad Sheridan in Yes had other ideas, blitzing the start and establishing a handy lead. Old Stainless himself (Bill Steele) was out to put places between his club mate Grantham and the Bird. First time around the top mark it was Brad Sheridan, followed by Grantham Kitto, Bill Steele, Kim Jefferys, Peter Godley and Rob Bird.

On the spinnaker leg, Bird went right while most of the fleet went left. At the second time around the top mark it was Sheridan followed by Bird, Jefferys, Gary Smith, Kitto and Dirk van der Struyf. At the finish at the top mark for the third time saw Brad Sheridan (Yes) lead home Rob Bird (Rhapsody in Blue) closely followed by Grantham Kitto (The Rat), Gary Smith (Tusk), Skip Lissiman (Bandwagon) and Il Presidente Bill Steele (Dragon Lady).

The Croc (Michael Manford) and Bandwagon (Skip Lissiman)

"The Croc (Michael Manford) and Bandwagon (Skip Lissiman) "

Photo by:
Paul Reiffer


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