Sandringham Yacht Club in Melbourne dished up a wide variety of conditions for the 2013 Musto J24 Nationals this week. Starting with 25 knots for the invitation race on Sunday, competitors sailed through the complete wind range from zero to postponement conditions.
Handling the conditions the best and proving he is the most well deserving National Champion skipper is Ben Lamb in Kaotic with a winning margin of 8.5pts over fellow NSW skippers, Sean Kirkjian in Sailpac and Steve Girdis in Convicts Revenge. Adam Evans in SDM, the top Victorian skipper in the regatta was 4th and Doug Watson sailing El Fideldo (means ‘two legged Scottish donkey’ !) from SA placed 5th.
Defending champion Dave Suda sailing his new Pacemaker from Victoria crashed in the placings for the regatta with a wild Chinese gybe on the windy Wednesday injuring his sister Rachel and retired for the day to get medical help at the hospital. Even Dave knows the game is up when you have to carry a DNC and your two drops are also a DNF and a DNC. Happily, Rach is ok and sailed again on the Thursday, with the whole crew wearing crash hats to honour her injury and recovery. The local hospital took in 2 wounds from the racing with Tim Briggs also attending. What they and the general populace think we do out there must be interesting as the girl crews generally end up battered and bruised as well, so much so that we had a bruising comp at the presentation dinner – you had to be there !
You had to be there to try and understand Victorian Vice Pres and the presentation MC Doug MacGregor, as like all Scots they have a thick accent and a great sense of humour (well questionable anyway). With President Sarah Thompson away producing her first baby for most of the regatta, her Vic Association committee went into action without her onsite to produce a great regatta that has been a huge success for organisers and competitors alike. Sarah did front on the night and did the thanks to all concerned and presented the trophies to our worthy winners.
Although Ben has been here in Melbourne taking out trophies before (2012 Vic States), this is his first Nationals crown and he and his crew with long time boat owner and class stalwart Arthur Crothers have been planning their campaign since coming second last year. With 5 wins, a 2nd and two 3rds they were always going to be hard to beat. But impressive as it is, the competition meant they had to earn it the hard way.
The first day’s racing in moderate but shifty conditions meant we had a number of newer and less expecting competitors take single digit positions in the first race, pushing some of the guns down the ladder a bit. Sean Kirkjian took out two wins and a 5th for the day with his largely sailing school crew – nice one Sean !
Tuesday morning and the wind was pretty light and a less likely winner (yours truly) was battling Sean for the lead and (I think winning) when the wind and the race committee finally gave up and sent us all in to the club for lunch. With the wind returning, two races were sailed in the afternoon with 20+knots giving great sailing in a building southerly wind and sea. Ben and the Kaotic crew, went out and smashed the fleet with two solid wins in the heavy breeze. A predicted change arrived about 30 min after we got back to the marina and sent an impressive roll cloud and 40+knots over the top as we all packed up – great timing from the race committee ! Many happy minds quietly thanking them for not being out in that. PRO Graeme Watt from Sandy and his team of volunteers once again showing the fleet the sort of high quality race management that has become his trademark and our good fortune to have him in J regattas around the country.
Wednesday and the wind is still blowing hard, (see the chart). The race committee showed their unruffled competence and kept us on the beach till we got a window for 3 races in moderating breezes and great sailing conditions in big seas, making great surfing downhill. Once again Ben sailed impressively to take two wins and a 3rd, with Sean taking the other race out. Steve Girdis quietly sneaking in to take the minor daily placings, that seems to be his trademark too, as he is often next to you on the racetrack but always seems to be on the podium at the end of it – Mr Consistent !
Also out on the water was Chris Furey and camera, taking some great shots, Chris is a long time J sailor (and will be again) and supporter of the class. Check out the great shot of the Hyper Girls above. There will be a pic gallery added shortly.
Further down the finishing list, amongst a myriad of boat on boat battles, another success story is quietly going about her work. Jess Davis, skipper Gatsby, of one of the Sandy J24 youth boats provided by Vice Versa skipper John Neville is sailing her first Nationals in J24s and 80kg under max crew weight with her crew of mostly girls is improving steadily to come off the back end of the fleet to end the competition with a run of 12s and 13s, that’s an improvement of half the fleet. Awesome Jess !
So well has she sailed that she has taken out the PHS title (including three PHS 1st placings) ahead of an Pete Moulang in Sanguine and new class entrant, but very experienced Sam Haines from UK Sails in Melbourne who learnt the boat on the way out to the first start on his first sail in Make My Jay.
Day four and the last day, provided stunning sailing in 10 – 12 knots, sunny skies and flat water, a relief to many crews finding the heavy going of the last few days starting to hurt bodies. Another win to Ben and then to cap off the regatta for Dave, a display of power sailing to come through the fleet and take out the last race.
There is a zillion stories and ‘if onlys’ throughout the fleet, too numerous to mention. However this year we have had a number of new skippers and owners that have filled out the fleet numbers to create an impressive and larger than previous Nationals fleet. Coming the farthest by a big margin was Brian Dowling and crew from Cairns, having bought Kaos from Hobart and doing the regatta on the boat’s way north. (watch out for an FNQ Regatta coming up). The three placings from NSW already mentioned and Peter Stevens, Robin Townsend and Doug Watson all from Adelaide made up the national fleet. From Melbourne we had Sam Haines, Hamish and Jock Macadie, Peter Skillington and Mark Foster all doing their first nationals and all with little or no previous sailing experience in J24s. The class is alive and well! So good was the regatta that several interstate boats have been left in Melbourne for the Vic States in April, so if you want to be part of the next party – start planning it now !
Once again Richard Hewitt and the SYC team did a great job hosting the regatta both on and off the water, a big thank you to our Jury, all our volunteers and to the competitors.
See you next time !