Etchells Pre-Worlds- Black day and lead changes

A black day at Zhilk Etchells Pre-worlds
Zhik International Etchells Australian Championship 2012 - It was a black day for the 61 yacht fleet competing in day three.

Shifty winds, general recalls, black flags, protests, lead changes; the Zhik International Etchells had it all.

The high achievers of the day on the overall point score were not necessarily the race winners, but those that kept their results consistently in the top 10 or so, not distracted by the start line dramas.

David Clark ’Fifteen’ overall leader going into the final day - Zhik International Etchells Australian Championship 2012
Damian Devine

There is little between the top four boats. At the top of the list and after five races with one drop is Fifteen (David Clark) with 27 points.

'Today was all about the pressure and the shifts. We came away from yesterday feeling like we needed to change a couple of things on the boat in terms of how we were running things and just lean on people’s strengths. So today we found that having Alan (Smith) look around a bit more and getting busy in that department was really helpful,' Clark said.

Jud Smith ’Roulette’ is in second overall, 3 points behind Smith - Zhik International Etchells Australian Championship 2012
Damian Devine

Slipping quietly into second place is 2006 Etchells World Championship Jud Smith, skippering Roulette, with 30 points.

Into third and after dropping a disastrous first race BFD result is another Etchells World Champion and USA sailor, Vince Brun, skippering Menace, with 31 points. And in fourth place is Two Speed, skippered by Julian Plante, with 35 points.

Several of the highly rated younger skippers who looked strong going into today’s racing have fallen back heavily as they struggled to cope with the numerous wind shifts and start line tension.

Second overall place holder USA’s Brun described the conditions off Pittwater as tough, even for him. 'It is really easy to have a bad race. The conditions are very difficult. Today we were fortunate to be in the right place several times.

'We are sailing the boat for the first time and with the crew work, we are getting more used to it. We have definitely improved the performance speed-wise. I think it’s a combination; us feeling more comfortable sailing with each other – this is the first time we have ever sailed together. The result today was really good.'

Reviewing the day’s highlights, or for several competitors, low lights, there were six race starts for the two races, 15 BFDs and numerous course changes as the breeze shifted left and right throughout the afternoon.

The day started with a soft breeze; three to four knots at 155 degrees. Almost an hour later PRO Stephen Merrington made the call and the AP came down for a start in 5 knots on a 1.5 mile course.

There was nothing timid about the start line with the fleet pushing hard, tightly bunched near the middle. With too many boats for an individual recall, it was the first general recall of the day. As the PRO asked the fleet to be 'sensible' a massive wind shift forced the race committee to delay racing further so the start line could be re-laid.

The sailors kept wishing for a bit more wind as the breeze gradually built to six knots and swung to 085 degrees. The start line was then moved about half a mile south and the whole process begun again. Finally, with the course set at 100 degrees, the fleet lined up. Still very wired they pushed and shoved for another general recall.

Back into sequence and the Black Flag up, it was then four boats out of the race – Miramar (Mark Doyle), Iron Lotus (Tom King), Valsheda (Alastair Gair) and Dawn Raid (Mark Tonner Joyce).

The pin end starters had the best work to the top mark as the breeze swung slightly left. Both Are We There Yet? (Mark Richards) and Swedish Blue (Ante Razmilovic) were on fire as Richards led Razmilovic around the first mark. Triad (John Bertrand) found themselves stumbling after rounding the first mark struggling to get boat speed to round the clearing mark and head downwind.

Menace (Vince Brun) was fourth and Race X (Mark Thornburrow) sixth around the mark. By the bottom mark both groups converged, gybes were thrown in, Richards held his lead, but Thornburrow had picked up a few places. On the work back to the top mark the breeze stayed fairly steady just swinging slightly to the left. Most of the fleet headed left. By the top mark again, Thornburrow had closed out Richards while Razmilovic had also snuck in taking up second place, both boats well less than a boat length apart. Next was Brun with Richards falling back into fourth.

As the fleet ran down to the finish there was another shift. Thornburrow stayed right and led Brun and Razmilovic by two boats lengths across the line and into first place. Into second came Brun with his local knowledge advantage of Michael Coxon calling the shots. Third was a disappointed Richards.

'We started below the committee boat and then worked the left hand side on the first beat and then picked the right hand side on the second beat,' a quietly spoken Thornburrow said.

Determined to get two races in to allow for a drop, the race committee settled on a 110 degree course as a westerly thunderstorm threatened. The fleet gathered at the committee boat end, hovering anxiously. The gun went, the call went out of 'whole lot over' starting from about the last 30 seconds and the general recall flag was up again.

The second start was under Black Flag, but this didn’t seem to deter a lot of the fleet as they pushed and shoved their way forward only to have the AP go up just before the start. Warned that there would be no mucking around for the third start, the race committee set up again and then the heart breaking call went out to 12 boats – Echo Beach (Jamie Woods), Mens Shirts Short Skirts (Peter Stubbings), Wobbegong (Douglas Flynn), Resurgent (Chris Rabbidge), B Squared (Gary Boyd), Magpie (Graeme Taylor), Perfect Balance (Mark Bulka), Bushfire (Jervis Tilly), Barry (Damien King) and for the second time that day - Miramar (Mark Doyle), Iron Lotus (Tom King) and Dawn Raid (Mark Tonner Joyce).

Holding at 110 degrees and six to seven knots, the bulk of the fleet headed to the right. The breeze then started to swing right as Tango (Chris Hampton) and Thornburrow led the fleet around the top mark. Brun rounded in third just ahead of Gelert (James Howells). Graeme Taylor’s Magpie team raced the first work only to have confirmed that they were a BFD on the start line and had to withdraw.

At the mark Richards called buoy room on Lanex (Ian Anderson) as they tried to avoid falling down on Two Speed (Julian Plante). After bingles and blustering the skippers settled and headed toward the bottom mark. The breeze continued its swing right as the fleet sailed towards the bottom mark on a solider’s march to the mark.

Hampton kept Thornburrow as he rounded first at the bottom mark. Another course change was called as the breeze shifted to 075 degrees. Brun still held third place, but was clearly gaining on the leaders.

By the finish it was finally Brun’s time to celebrate as he took Menace and this team of Michael Coxon, Paul Westlake and Harry Smith to their first win of the regatta complimenting their second place in the earlier race.

'It was not just shifty, it was pressure too. Different areas had a little more pressure – sometimes from the right and sometimes from the left so not one side of the course was better. Cocko (Michael Coxon) made some really good calls. It wasn’t local knowledge today. It was back and forth so you really had to be on the ball,' Brun said.

For Clark, placed first overall at the end of day, today’s racing was not as good as he liked finishing ninth in the first race and seventh in the second. 'We didn’t take too many tricks today except for the last right hand shift in the last work of the last race. It was a favourable shift for us. Cameron (Miles) and ourselves were out to the right and we got around Jud (Smith) and stepped out from some of the others that were close to us. I was nice to have a shift our way,' Clark said.

The protests to be heard tonight are a Request for Redress from Magpie (Graeme Taylor) for the race five start, another one from Miramar (Mark Doyle) from race four and a boat on boat incident on the start line between Swedish Blue (Ante Razmilovic) and Resurgent (Chris Rabbidge).

The final day of racing is tomorrow with two races scheduled.

Top 20 overall after five races and one drop:
1 David Clark/Alan Smith/Andrew Smith, Fifteen, CYCA, AUS, 27 pts
2 Jud Smith/Mark Johnson/Nikolas Burfoot, Roulette, RSYS, AUS, 30 pts
3 Vince Brun/Harry Smith/Michael Coxon/Paul Westlake, Menace, SDYC, USA, 31 pts
4 Julian Plante/Hannah Nattrass/Michael Dunstan/Nick Garland, Two Speed, RPAYC, AUS, 35 pts
5 Douglas McGain/Adrian Reed/Gary Adshead, Ciao, CYCA, AUS, 39 pts
6 Mark Thornburrow/Gray Gibson/Martin Mok/Simon Cooke, Racer X, RHKYC, HKG, 41 pts
7 Ante Razmilovic/Chris Larson/Stuart Flinn, Swedish Blue, RHKYC, HKG, 43 pts
8 Mark Richards/Gary Smith/Matthew Mitchell, Are We There Yet?, RPAYC, AUS, 44 pts
9 John Savage/Ben Morrison-Jack/Richard Allanson, Southern Light, RBYC, AUS, 45 pts
10 Gordon Hinds/Adrian Dunphy/Stephen Ingate, Grand V, RPAYC, AUS, 48 pts
11 Christopher Hampton/Ian Johnson/Matthew Johns, Tango 1990, RBYC, AUS, 48 pts
12 Matthew Chew/Adrian Finglas/Darren Jones/Paul Wyatt, Gen XY, RQYS, AUS, 50 pts
13 Thomas Braidwood/Ben Lamb/Matthew Rhys-Jones/Ty Marshall, Bad Doll, LMYC, AUS, 53 pts
14 John Bertrand/David Giles/Thomas Slingsby, Triad, RBYC, AUS, 56 pts
15 Cameron Miles/David Sampson/Grant Crowle, The Hole Way, RPAYC, AUS, 61 pts
16 Peter Merrington/Andrew Coates/Geoffrey Bonouvrie, Odyssey, RPAYC, AUS, 63 pts
17 James Howells/David Bedford/John Fisher, Gelert, RCYC, GBR, 64 pts
18 Jake Gunther/Stuart Skeggs/Tony McPhail, The Boat, RBYC, AUS, 68 pts
19 James McHugh/Andy Beadsworth/Pete McCormick, Anamchara, S NG, SUI, 68 pts
20 Ross Lloyd/Matthew Turner/Peter Dowdney, The Doctor, SYC/RBYC, AUS, 84 pts

The International Etchells Australian Championship 2012 is sponsored by Zhik, North Sails, Pacesetter Yachts, Protector Yachts and Wetton Signage Group.

Regatta results are available on the event website.