Australasian Winter Championship

Magic day for top class fleet

6 June 2014 Author: Tracey Johnstone
No Star's Michael Coxon driving the boat while Richie Allanson and Iain Murray called the tactics

 No Star's Michael Coxon driving the boat while Richie Allanson and Iain Murray called the tacticsPhotographer: Teri Dodds

The 34-boat fleet in the 18th Etchells Australasian Winter Championship put in two action-packed races on Day 1 of the three-day event being held off Mooloolaba.

The top contenders were in really good form. The racing conditions were perfect with 12 to 15 knots south-east which remained steady for the day.

Brisbane's Matthew Chew and his crew of Ashley Deeks, Brian Donovan and Paul Wyatt raced their boat, Gen XY, to perfection taking out first in Race 1 and a second in Race 2 to lead overall.

In second place overall is the Sydney team of Michael Coxon, Iain Murray and Richard Allanson.

This result will give solid encouragement to the Gen XY team as they fight to be the first team to win the Winters title for a second time in its 18 year history.

Chew and his crew went into today wearing the winners yellow shirts. Luckily for them wearing the shirts before they had time to earn them didn't jinx them.

The team's strategy for today was to get good, clean starts. "With the top mark under the headland we also tried to play the shifts. We led in the first race and in the second race, we came from maybe fifth to second. At one stage we did get ahead, but then they got us back," Chew said. In that second race, apparently Magpie was just above Gen XY on the start line, so they were lucky not have also been called OCS.

Race 1

With the pin end favoured the fleet got off to a clean start in about 15 knots on a 1.8 mile course. Graeme Taylor's Magpie had a beautiful start with good speed and clear air. Noel Drennan's Baby Doll was close by. Local skipper Trevor Martin's Happy Hooker was on Baby Doll's stern.

By the top mark first time Gen XY was in charge with Magpie and Tom King's Iron Lotus next, then Mark Johnson's Roulette sneaking in under David Clarks' Fifteen. The top group were tight around the mark with the second half of the fleet keeping close tabs on each other.

The breeze stayed steady as the champagne sailing conditions continued to enliven the racing.

At the top mark the second time Gen XY owned the race with about four boat lengths back to Coxon and King.

The final result and top three places were first to Chew, second to Magpie and third to Roulette.

Race 2

The steady breeze continued with only a few knots of movement up and down as the fleet headed off on the longer Course 1.

With only a few seconds left to the start gun, the warning went out for sail number 940, Magpie. Unfortunately, it was too late for Magpie as they were called OCS along with Mark Bradford's Bootross and Happy Hooker. Another two boats made the conservative decision to turn back and the clear the line again.

"It was just stupid. We just caught up with a couple of boats and ended up over the line," Taylor reported.

On the first beat it was a moment of glory for Brisbane's Noel Paterson. "Our start wasn't all that flash. We got flicked off early. But we tacked off early and got out the right and found a clear lane to go through so we ended up in clear air very quickly. We were about a third of the way down the line.

"On the second run the boys on Ciao were very close to us and they were affecting our breeze so we gybed off into the middle, but we ran into some low pressure, probably the lowest pressure that we had had down that whole run and that was fairly costly. It wasn't much distance, but it was enough for a couple of guys to pounce on us," Paterson said.

"Club racer amongst the big boys," he jokingly added.

The Magpie did a superb job to recover from their OCS to finish 10th. "The first leg looked sad as it was always going to when you start from last by quite some distance. We just chipped away at it. Just kept focusing on taking a couple at a time. Just kept up the boat speed and kept chipping away at it.

"We believe we would have got the fastest time as we were closest to the leaders at the end than at the start. We reckon we won the fastest elapsed time," Taylor joked.

Taking out first place in Race 2 which gives them second overall is another previous Winters title winner, Michael Coxon and his No Star team. Apart from being here to win, again, Coxon is also using the regatta to showcase new sail technology. Along with Drennan and King, Coxon is testing this technology in racing, for the first time. "We have been working on it for about 18 months and this if the first regatta that we have started to test it in anger.

"We were very happy how we went. It was rough in the first race, but in the second race we won and Noel was very close.

"The team worked well today. Richie and I normally sail together and it was great having Iain on board. It made my life a lot easier. I just did what I was told. Iain and Richie did a fantastic job on course management," Coxon said.

In equal third overall is Douglas McGain's Ciao after that team quietly achieved a sixth and fifth in today, against David Clark and his Fifteen team's seventh and fourth.

Clark is racing with a new crew and a fourth member. The crew Sean O'Rourke, Mark Langford and Murray Jones - are out of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia's Youth Sailing Academy. This has been their first race day after spending two days in Sydney tuning up against Cameron Miles before travelling to Mooloolaba. An equal third on the first race day has Clark smiling broadly.

The Etchells Winters regatta continues tomorrow with racing scheduled to start at about 11am.