Friday was all about the congestion in and also amongst the fleet racing in the 2015 Etchells NSW State Championship. The arrival today of sunshine and a decent Nor’easter saw congestion almost give way to a little separation amongst them. What it also brought out was all manner of pleasure and tourism craft, and that absolutely made sure that the congestion was now very much on every part of the magnificent Sydney Harbour.
A big thank you must go to all the Transport NSW ferries, and also the Harbour Pilots guiding the huge cruise liners out to the Tasman Sea, for their generous allowance of space in this crammed patch of water. A special note of appreciation must go to the Pilot and Master of the Sun Princess, for despite her significant bulk, she slid by the fleet ever so gracefully and accommodatingly.
Now as predicted by the Principal Race Officer, the sun did burn off the morning cloud and a delightful Nor’easter took command of the Harbour, so racing did commence at 1400hrs off Point Piper and then proceeded in the direction of the Heads. Rob Ridley said at the conclusion of the day, “We were very lucky with the weather, especially as the morning looked very drab. So yes, we were blessed. Also very delighted to have all six races in the can tonight.”
“We set an axis of 025˚ and out on a range of 1.3nm in what was an average of 9knots. It was moved to 035˚ for the second work to the windward mark, which was adjacent Watsons Bay. This racecourse was pretty much kept for the whole day, albeit that we did move even further right to 040˚ for subsequent races. The breeze really only climbed to an average of 11 knots later on, but it was decent and solid.”
“Tomorrow should see great weather, with the temperature in the high 20’s, so we are hoping that the wind will be in by 1100hrs and we will get two good races in to wrap up the series. The Nor’easter should see us set up camp once more North East of Clark Island, with maybe an uphill finish for the last race of the day. Many thanks to the team of volunteers for their work in laying marks and checking off competitors as they then rounded them”, Ridley finished by saying.
The run to the start.
During the tow out to the racecourse it was evident that today there would be more traffic of all kinds to process. Under sail were various Saturday club racing keelboat fleets, old and new 18 Footers, Moths, Mirrors and Lasers, together with mono and multihulled cruisers, even a square-rigger. Under power was everything from fishing tinnies to ships, doing four knots and all the way to over 40 in the case of the jet boat rides. Quite the eclectic collection, you understand.
Perhaps it was this entire hubbub that spurred the sailors on, for only the one thing marred a terrific starting sequence, which had begun bang on time at 1400hrs... A General Recall. In turn, that meant the Black Flag came out, so as to keep things ‘nice’. When it all began, 46 and 28 ran out of room at the pin end of the line and had to go around under everyone to find a place from which to commence. It must have been a sight, for one of those club racers came along the entire length of the start line under asymmetrical spinnaker to take a close and detailed look at this most impressive of fleets.
Quickly it became a race of two tales, with those clambering for Bradleys Head off to the left and others favouring Shark Island and thence Nielsen Park headland off to the right. The early money would probably have gone to those starting from the pin and heading left. Fifteen+ and Magpie were at the top mark first, but along with Umami and Itchy, their place would not count due to the dreaded Black Flag and being above the line prior to said start. This meant Dot, Top 40 and The Hole Way took command of the lead.
As they set off downhill, Land Rat and Shindig joined The Hole Way on a more Southerly trajectory, but the real bunch were out to the North. Polarisation was the key term to use here, as not many opted for the centre of the track. The course change to 035˚ was announced on this run.
Lisa was the boat to get to the bottom first, then Top 40, with North Sydney Station and Dot following. Clearly most were favouring the right hand side of the course, with an even spread of the fleet choosing between the East and West gates.
At the windward mark again for the second time, it was Gen XY leading from North Sydney Station, Lisa and then Land Rat, with the latter bringing a gaggle out from the beach that included the likes of Dot, Iris III, Shindig, Avalon and Odyssey.
At the leeward mark for the last time it was Foolhardy from Gen XY, with Vincero notable here for sailing around bare headed. The bulk of the fleet would come out East for the final work to the finish. In the end, North Sydney Station got it from Gen XY, then Land Rat, Shindig, Iris III, The Hole Way, Foolhardy, Avalon, Lisa and Odyssey.
Iain Murray said afterwards, “To get a race win is always good. We’re enjoying the regatta, but there is some ‘rust’ here and there – we’re not doing some things as we should be. You never like to do things badly, but we are having fun out there. In that last race we banged in to some people and had to do our turns. They hurt you. A good start is critical and then being in it at the top mark to be in the race with the Etchells. Muck it up and you’re at the back! You know, I think they fight harder the further you get back… There are no easy spots out there!”
One crew making a quiet, but none the less distinct impact on the board is, Lisa. AUS 925 pops up in the recordings of the mark roundings exceptionally well. She is crewed by Martin Hill, Darren Jones, Jason Rowed and Amy Lee. Hill commented about their campaign, “Our aim in all of this was just to be able sail in such a fabulous and large fleet. You don’t get that type of starting experience in anything else. One goal was for me to more comfortable in positioning and manoeuvring the boat for starts and this has been really wonderful. I think I am hooked on Etchells now! I love it. It’s the best sailing and the Sydney fleet is the best Etchells competition in the world.”
“They are still forgiving, however, and very exciting too. We’re fortunate that Andrew Palfrey came and set the boat up for us. Our plan is to have him back and we’ll be at the next 2016 Australian Championship, which is in Melbourne. In the meantime, we’ll try and do as much racing as we can. Lisa is Tom King’s old boat that won the world championship in 2012. She’s got new sails and been tuned, so we are doing all we can, but there is still a lot to learn. We went to the next headsail too early today and found we had no real drive – yes, good learnings to be had”, said Hill.
“Definitely would have been nice to know about the suction cups still on the hull, after this morning’s dive to clean the hull, a little earlier on than when we got back to the quay, but there you go. We did think to ourselves that it did feel like the blades of the propeller were out or something… (note that an Etchells has no motor and this is a reference to the feeling like you’re dragging something along with you).”
“It’s our first big regatta and we only really got into it all with the Milson Silver Goblets last week. Everyone here is skilled and looking to do well too. We are over the moon to be in a position like this.” Lisa is currently in eighth place.
Hey, whilst we’re all here!
Yes. You all get a prize, and that is to now sail as you will, back to Point Piper. Well, after an adrenalin charged first race, a gentle stroll back to the Committee Boat seemed rather in order. It was a nice day after all, and for some crews, it was a good chance to sooth the energy levels and debrief appropriately, prior to the next start.
So then, it must be time to have another race. The Race Committee declared 040˚ was the axis to a range of about 1nm and Course #5 meant there were two laps to complete. At 1603hrs the sequence commenced, with a classic Sydney day of blue skies and wonderful mild breeze inviting everyone to partake. There were Individual Recalls for Roué, Zapper and Tango down the boat end. Lisa had rocking pace off the line at the boat end, despite what we now know was a distinct handicap for the day.
North Sydney Station went so far in to Bradleys Head as to look like they were going to step off. Tango thought it looked like a flash idea too. Many had been East early, but those crossing back to the centre after Bradleys looked to be doing OK, despite having had to contend with more of the wash from craft running in and out of the Harbour.
Going around another action packed windward mark for the first time, it was North Sydney Station leading, then Top 40, Animal House from WA, then Gen XY and Magpie coming in on Port tack, but quickly it was evident that they had no room and had to go well down the pecking order on the lay line in order to find a hole and thus, one could say this is not their regatta. Graeme Taylor did say about it all, “Well. You get ready for the next one, which will be the Victorian State Championship in March, depending on some logistics with Steve, but we do need to get some more racing in! See how we go…”
Down at the leeward gate, North Sydney Station was first, but closely followed by Fifteen+ over at the Northern gate. Top 40 went around the Southern gate and then Carabella IV over at the other one, showing that peeling off left and right was quite trendy. Gen XY was next, then Animal House, Sun Tzu and Adolescence.
Once more it was off to the top, but this work would be indelibly branded on everyone’s mind for the way, Sun Princess, so carefully departed the stage. With all the other craft moving about it was as memorable as it was challenging! Top 40 would get the honours once there, then Gen XY, Sun Tzu, North Sydney Station, Animal House, Foolhardy and Adolescence.
So if everyone came over to Shark Island to let the liner out, then they all thought it was time to see the Bradleys Head side of the track once more for the trip down to the finish, which saw Top 40 get there ahead of all others. Gen XY was next, then Sun Tzu, North Sydney Station, Carabella IV, Animal House and Foolhardy were part of it at the top, too.
When racing was done for the day, Top 40 would be in third place overall. Ian McKillop said, “A race win is pretty good. A broken turnbuckle this morning left us with a DNF, which is not great, but things happen in sailing. Happy to be in the mix (eight points astern of the leader), given it all and hopefully we’ll see breeze tomorrow.” Peter Merrington said of the failed item, “It is just general wear and tear, and it always happens at the wrong time! We’re sailing in good spirits, however, so it is still fun.”
Overall, the secret of the regatta appeared to be that some were having less of a bad day than others. The Hole Way finished the day just the two points of the leader, Gen XY. Skipper, Cameron Miles said, “It’s getting to the business end. We’ll try and do our own thing and have a good race tomorrow. It has been a tricky regatta with all the craft and challenging breezes, but then equally, this means you claw it back, like it was for us in that second race. It was shifty and challenging - even the Mirrors called Starboard on us, but you have to give way, so you comply. It is great fun and we’re laughing (most of the time). We are really looking forward to Sunday’s racing.”
Where did they all go?
Perhaps everyone had dinner appointments or tickets to a concert, for as the final race of the day firstly got underway and then continued, the crowds vanished from the Harbour like the fans during the final stages of a loosing football game.
The 1735hrs sequence lead us into a two-lap affair out 1.2nm on an axis of 040˚. Lisa changed headsail here and were the only one to do so. There was an Individual Recall for just the one craft, Sun Tzu. Iris III had a red hot go at it, with The Don part of that effort as well. Crews Control brought some vessels out to the East, but the Bradleys Head side was distinctly favoured by most.
The Hole Way was in front at the top and then it was Foolhardy, Touch Pause Engage, Ciao, Magpie, Crews Control and Iris III. Dot performed a penalty turn, which summed up a very compact rounding and it was incredibly that there had not been more infringements. Speak too soon... North Sydney Station had to perform one as well and that put them back in second last place! It just goes to show how close it is and how tough a day at the office can be.
A few opted for the gybe set and The Hole Way had a good run down centre of track. It would be Land Rat with the best run of the day, however, that would take us in to the bottom mark. Foolhardy and The Hole Way were next, then Top 40, Ciao, Gen XY and Magpie. An even split between the gates was again a distinct feature of the programme.
Trekka, Roué and Alchemist were the pioneers out on the Bradleys Head side half way back up the track as everyone was going right in to Nielsen Park headland. Land Rat was one of the ones over there and they took the fleet in to the top mark. The Hole Way and Foolhardy were next, then Top 40, Magpie, Carabella IV, Gen XY, Crews Control and Lisa.
Categorically, everyone went down the Northern side and those that were right over there almost had an elevator ride along the shore. Land Rat, The Hole Way, Ciao and Foolhardy had skipped away and they finished in that order too. Magpie came down in a gorgeous afternoon breeze, then there was Carabella IV, Gen XY, Top 40, Crews Control and Lisa.
John Warlow from Land Rat said after their win, “The Hole Way did not let us have it easily, which is why the line crossing celebrations were so distinct. It’s been a while since the last one (win) in Adelaide and the new boat is just fantastic. Maybe we’re getting greedy for them now? Such wonderful competition and they never give up!”
As we have seen, Gen XY hold the regatta lead by two points. when back on the quay, Skipper Matt Chew, still with a good sense of humour, said, “No lock-ins, that’s for sure. ‘Last day-itus’ is reasonably common for us, so we want to have a duel for the big prize. We did kiss the boat early, but she has taken a little punishment in the last race, when the deck kissed my knuckles pretty hard. We’ll see about tomorrow, eh?!”
As a final note, sincere thanks goes to Rob Weir for the use of his terrific launch, Rascal. This has enabled the media team to get all the images you see here and view the excitement that is Etchells racing.
The Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron in Kirribilli is hosting the 2015 Etchells NSW State Championship. Sunday is the last dayand they will all be in their boats before the 1100hrs start, weather permitting.
John Curnow: Photos - Kylie Wilson