Sunshine regatta. Or is should it be renamed Ground Hog weekend? Unfortunately it seems to have become a regular occurrence that a great sailing day at Sunshine on Saturday is followed by a blow out / rain out / thunderstorm out on the Sunday. And it happened again this year as a fresh southerly blew through in the morning and did not relent. Sunday's race was abandoned. I think that makes about 3 out of the past 4 that have been a one race event. But Saturday's race was a cracker...
With the temperature in the high 30's inland it was almost a certainty that the predicted NE'er would blow and it was well settled and whitecapping as the fleet lined up for the start. Unfortunately we were down a few from the numbers we saw at the recent nationals - the Hawkesbury boats were missing due to other commitments or crew shortages. Will's preparations for his England journey also meant Devocean was a DNS too.
On a good start line everyone was eager to jump clear and enjoy the conditions. Some were more eager than others, and it turned out more eager than the starter's clock. The x flag came up and Meeks had to return to have another go. Was this costly?
Also giving the fleet a head start was Stowe. Tim & Luke were rigged and ready but Ryan was stuck in a massive traffic jam on the M1. They started about a minute and a half late. Was this costly?
It was close up the first work with boats trading places, eventually for Firestorm to lead around the top mark, closely followed by trot Botting Shipwright, SFC & Runaway. Col tried to keep the speed up on TBS and reach through the set but, as this was a windward set, the kite jammed under the jib & they gave away a few places getting this sorted. Was this costly?
Around the leeward mark for the first time Firestorm held a slender lead over the fast running SFC with Mick, Lennon & Gabe showing their crew work is still in sync. But Firestorm likes a NE'er at Sunshine & John, Dale & Courtney managed to open up a buffer and hold the lead to the finish. Unfortunately, SFC is still struggling to find upwind speed with their new rig and drifted back a few places as the race progressed. Col, Janine & Adam finishing not too far behind Firestorm in second, but would that kite set have made the difference?
Steve, Jeremy & Troy went 'back to the future' and rigged with an old mainsail after struggling with their new one. It seemed to make a difference and, once Steve got into the groove, they were making time on the leaders for Runaway to eventually score an easy 3rd across the line.
Then it got very interesting. And I wish I had thought to video the finish on my phone. It was great. SFC, Meeks, Wobbygong & SFC all coming at the line together, at what was essentially a shy run. The skiffs aren't really set up for these runs & it takes a lot of skill and co-ordination to keep going fast. And all 4 boats did just that. In the end, with kite rolling (but not flagging) SFC pipped Meeks by about a pole length. (that start Mick?). Meeks, with kite rolling & not flagging, crossed the line about 1/2 a boat length of Wobbygong, with Tom, Peter & Macka also showing great boat handling (and again not a kite flag in sight). Stowe was just another few seconds further back after getting 'rolled' by this train. Great sailing by all. The crowd loved it!!!
On the back of that result Wobbygong won fairly easily on corrected time. As shown with their performances at the Nationals Matt has been tuning the Wobbygong faster than the handicapper can nobble them. But have they peaked too soon?
The next regattas in the series are at Hawkesbury on 4 & 5 March. Both the scratch & handicap series are still wide open so make sure you plan to be there and enjoy some of the Hawkesbury hospitality.
See you there.