Gloomy forecast equals great racing

Gloomy forecast equals great racing

When you are quite possibly the happiest Etchells Fleet going around, you kind of epitomise the whole ‘any day sailing is better than being in the office’ thing. The Brisbane Etchells Fleet is that. The Bureau of Meteorology was clear that there would be lights winds, showers and for the last day, even the chance of a storm.

Well the light winds was true enough, even the showers thing, but overall, it was great racing for the Brisbane Fleet Championship staged out of the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron over the weekend from April 30 to May 2, 2016.

The person set the unenviable task of managing all this was the club’s PRO, Guy Morton. “They were challenging winds, but I guess it gave some of the sailors an opportunity to try some different things and equally it tested the top boats. There were some surprising results at the weather mark often and then things would change again by the next time they came around.”

“It is made easier when you have a great team on board to do all the jobs. We had eight to nine volunteers depending on the day, and they really worked hard and well together. I especially remember the Sunday. We had four souls in the mark laying boats and they were drenched to the skin. Specific mention has to go to Jed and Arthur in this respect. The Etchells are such a nice bunch of sailors and we really do enjoy doing it all for them”, said Morton in closing.

On the Saturday, an East Nor’east (mainly) of 5-10 knots allowed for two races to be completed. They had only got away at 1330hrs, so there would be no more play on that day, yet all were happy for the wind to have appeared after the wait, and that the overcast and odd shower skies also produced no massive shifts to contend with.

The Sunday was light and variable, which is not great when you have three races to complete. Some had to be coaxed away from their coffees ashore and then towed out to the start, but once out there it was all smiles. A little more sitting around and waiting was required and there was rain in the distance, which together with low cloud made it all a little disorientating.

For the main it was 6-9 knots and the hardest it ever made was just 10-11. They had two really good races, then the breeze flicked around more in the East and got a bit of South to it and settled more in the Sou’east for the final race of the day. Five completed meant there was a series and they could have a drop, too.

The newest member of the Brisbane Fleet is Mark Johnson, albeit he is no stranger to Etchells. He is an old Brissie boy who is very proud to be back and also provide sensational hospitality aboard his lovely motor yacht, Northerly. His boat, Roulette, won four of the races and would ultimately end up in second place.

At the end of the regatta he was seen talking in earnest with Noel Paterson, whose Waterloo Too tried hard to close the gap between he and regatta leader, Tango. But for a failed gybe on the finish line, they may have succeeded…

For the final day, Monday, just two races were needed to complete a full allotment. A tow out again to the start was not a good sign, but no showers was! Almost as if it was a sign, the skies cleared and 6-10 knots from Sou’soueast to Sou’souwest had them all inspired. Marty Sinclair, who sails Blinky was so moved he said, “Brisbane turns it on again!”

At any rate, they were done by a bit after 1500hrs and this meant presentation could be taken care of before dinner. Blinky is an original John Savage built vessel that had the sail number KA63 before conversion to the modern, international designation, which she has as AUS 249.
Sinclair said after racing, “It is fantastic to get the full allotment (2-3-2) of races in. this was a terrific regatta, as is evidenced by the conviviality around the club. Mark Johnson and Chris Hampron had a ball. It was a very competitive fleet, even if it was small. We thought we were pushing the leaders all the way. They came here to learn the course for the 2018 World Championship and now the local fleet has to step up to the mark.”

“They were very trying conditions out on the course with wind flicking around and the white out with the rain. The PRO and race volunteers at RQ set outstanding courses, so well done to them. I loved being in third place at the top mark for the first time in that last race. Blinky is 40 years old, but I will never leave the club and the Class. Our latest results could well see me with a target on my back, but it is all harmless when you’re having so much fun.”

As mentioned, Roulette, collected the most bullets, but a pair of fifth places would mean Chris Hampton, Ian Walker and Sam Haines on Tango would win by two points with a straight set of firsts and seconds. Noel Paterson’s Waterloo Too would be a further five points astern and be in third place at regatta’s end.

Tango may have been the only Interstate entry for this segment of the Brisbane Etchells Winter Championship, but that win was more than enough reward for the trip up from Melbourne. From back in his office, Hampton said, “Barney and Sam did a great job and we’re coming together nicely as a team.”

“It was close racing and our three wins and three seconds was just enough, in the end. Roulette won the first race of the last day and that meant we had just a one point buffer going into the last race. So we had to beat them over the line to get the Gold. This meant we had a lose cover on Roulette, without getting tangled up in a tacking duel.”

“The most pleasing aspect is that we were racing on the 2018 Worlds course, with light winds and tides to master. We had a new mast and rigging, so there was a bit of learning and tuning involved. All in all it was a fun event with great hospitality and to get a full set of races in under trying conditions was a real achievement.”

“Our focus is now leaning more to the regattas, get away, be organised and enjoy the different venues. After our next event, Mooloolaba, Tango (AUS 874) goes off to Cowes and the World Championship, thence onto San Francisco. AUS 1391 had gone to the UK after the 2015 Worlds in Hong Kong, but she was one of the boats lost in the fire at Cowes.”

“All of that means we won’t be back for the other parts of the Brisbane Winter Series, so we are gathering all the knowledge we can whilst here. Many thanks to the great Brisbane Fleet and RQ race management for such good times. The local crews kept us all very honest and it really was super close.”

“We’ll have a brand new boat from Phil Smidmore for the next Australian season. We are number three on the list. So it’s all eyes on Royal Prince Alfred’s and the NSW then 2017 Australian Championships.”

Now Regatta Two of the Brisbane Winter Championship is over the weekend of July 16 and 17 and the final round is on August 27 and 28. They are only $200 each and that really is cracking value. You can store the boat at RQ for a nominal fee whilst you go off and earn more fun tickets.
Please don’t forget that the now terribly famous David and Sue Healey BBQ Flag will be flying from the Etchells Hardstand mast on July 16 and also August 27. It is something you will remember for ages and coupled with the generosity of the Fleet, who provide it completely complimentary, you’ll wonder why you did not come up sooner.

So yes, the forecast is great and moving on to awesome. You’ll need the Notice of Race for the Brisbane Winter Championship and you can find it, along with all things an Etchellian could ever need at www.etchells.org.au.

Definitely time to do yourself a favour and go sailing at Brisbane.

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