Reports on the The 21st Lexus Flying Fifteen World Championship in Napier, New Zealand by Jonny Fullerton
The 21st Lexus Flying Fifteen World Championship has attracted 57 competitors from New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Great Britain and Hong Kong for six days of racing in Hawkes Bay on the East coast of the North Island of New Zealand.
The first day of the championship started with very light airs and humid overcast skies, so the fleet were held ashore for a couple of hours in the hope that conditions would improve. By early afternoon a light Easterly breeze built to allow the PRO to bang off two races back to back.
Race 1 started with a general recall with a heavy presence at the committee boat end. The restart under U flag caught out a couple of competitors but it was the kiwis that emerged at the top mark in a huddle. Local sailors Hayden Percy & Scott Pedersen from Napier SC, sailing their older (Silver) boat, took an early lead and hugged the right hand side of the course downwind whilst Craig Coulam & Adrienne Rekke from Royal Akarana YC in Auckland and Rob Ward & Bruce Yovich from Onerahi YC chose the left lane. At the gate, the locals from Napier held their lead but on the next upwind were being pursued hard by David Yu & Chris Nelson from Royal Freshwater Bay YC in Perth and the British pair Greg Wells & Richard Rigg, representing Hayling Island SC & Royal Windermere YC. As the wind continued to swing, the reach to the wing mark was lengthened and became broader, leaving a tighter reach to the downwind gate. Percy & Pedersen held their nerve to lead at the final gate rounding but the pressure was on for the final beat.
There was a loud cheer as the locals took the first gun of the championship from Matthew Owen & Andrew Reed from Canberra YC, who had themselves worked their way through the fleet to finish second. Yu & Nelson (AUS) overtook the Brits, Wells & Rigg for third and Nick & Janet Jerwood from South of Perth YC finished a solid 5th.
As the grey clouds gathered and skies darkened, race two commenced in similar conditions. This time David Yu & Chris Nelson got a great start, tucked in close to the committee boat and sailed in clear air up the middle right, whilst Steve Goacher & Tim Harper (Royal Windermere YC/Southport SC worked the left.
The Australians led down the run as the fleet split gybes with quite a big separation. At the gate the breeze started to fade and become quite unstable but the Perth crew managed to keep a loose cover on their opponents. The second lap, a triangle, became quite a slog as the breeze struggled late in the afternoon. Aaron Goodmanson & Alister Rowlands (NZL) from Charteris Bay YC moved up to second ahead of Jeremy Davy & Martin Huett (GBR) from Draycote Water SC. The last beat was an agonising crawl to the finish line but Yu & Nelson man- aged to hold on to take the gun and the overall lead in the regatta. Nick & Janet Jerwood (AUS) worked their way through the fleet to finish 2nd and the kiwis Goodmanson & Rowlands 3rd. Owen & Reed (AUS) sailed a great final beat to finish 4th and Davy & Huett (GBR) 5th.
“Both races were hard work, especially the first one where we had to work our way out of a bit of trouble on the start line but we managed to make the right decisions and have a good day. We learnt a lot of lessons from the NZ Nationals where we were extremely inconsistent and made a few bad decisions. The last work in the last race when we were leading, we had a few anxious moments because the breeze started going back left and we were on the right hand side of the leading group, but we were fairly confident it would come back because it had been doing that all day, so it was a big relief when that right hand shift finally came.” explained David Yu
Another semi-overcast afternoon in Napier for the second day of the Lexus Flying Fifteen World Championship. Just one race held in light Easterly breezes between 5 - 8 knots. After one general recall the PRO Gerry Martin, started race 3 of the championship under the U flag with all 57 competitors spread across the length of the start line. The first upwind leg was well spread but sailors who got off the line cleanly and into clear air, were keen to get to the middle right of the course, to take advantage of the breeze flicking right in Hawkes Bay.
At the top mark, David Mckee & Mal Hartland (GBR) from Dovestone SC, led closely followed by class stalwart Steve Goacher & Tim Harper from Royal Windermere/Southport SC. Local sailors David Zorn & Graeme Robinson from Napier SC, sailed an excellent first work to round in 3rd. Also in the mix were two boats from Western Australia, Philippa Packer, crewed by former world champion, Dean McAullay from Royal Freshwater Bay YC and championship leader David Yu & Chris Nelson, also from (RFBYC).
The lead three broke clear to head down the run back to the gate as the breeze softened even more. Slowly the (3 time) former world champion, Steve Goacher soaked down in- side McKee & Hartland, to round a boat length in the lead at the gate. Kiwis Zorn & Robin- son floated round in 3rd as places changed behind them when the fleet converged under collapsing spinnakers.
The second work became a bit of a soldiers course, although picking the way through the shifts and keeping the boat moving in the light airs required a lot of concentration. The order was the same at the top mark second time around but on the triangle leg via the wing mark the two lead British boats extended in their own private battle, whilst Zorn & Robinson had to work really hard to hold their third place. Other places in the top ten became much more intense as the breeze dropped below 5 knots. New Zealanders, Murray Gilbert & Jonathan Burgess from Royal Akarana YC in Auckland and the Queenslanders, Ashley Smith & Adam Kingston representing Hong Kong, made good gains.
Rounding the bottom gate, the leaders had an agonising 1nm leg back to the finish line. Goacher & Harper extended for a bit more breathing space, crossing the line to win their first race of the 21st Flying Fifteen Worlds. Mckee & Hartland settled for 2nd but the biggest celebration waited for 3rd place as locals Zorn & Robinson punched the air taking an excellent 3rd.
“We got a good clean fast start and sailed a short distance to clear the guys to weather of us and flicked on to port and hit the right hand side and were sitting pretty nicely. It was really tense on the last lap especially with Murray and Johno, they are fast down- wind, they were right on our tail at the bottom mark last time. But we knew where we wanted to go and knew the line we wanted to take and just stuck with it.” David Zorn.
Smith & Kingston (HKG) had a much better day crossing in 4th and Rob Ward & Bruce Yovich (NZL) from Onerahi YC a very respectable 5th. Overall scores after 3 races leaves David Yu & Chris Nelson (AUS) and Matthew Owen & Andrew Reed tied on 13pts with the ever consistent West Australian former world champions, Nick & Janet Jerwood (SoPYC) in 3rd.
Steve Goacher explains his race;
“We had not such a bad start and a good clean first beat, we rounded the windward mark in second and managed to pass the leader downwind on the first run. I don’t mind the light conditions, they are enjoyable when you are in the front! I grew up sailing on Lake Windermere and we get a lot of light and fluky sailing conditions there.”
And on sailing in Napier for the first time; “I have been sailing 15’s since 1991 and won three world championships on the trot, 1995, 1997 & 1999 but I have never sailed in Napier. It has been very testing conditions, last week we had quite big seas and not a massive amount of wind.”
Another semi - overcast day with light winds on Hawke’s Bay. For a while it looked like an on schedule start for the fleet of 57 boats but after two general recalls the PRO was frustrated by the persistent shifts in direction from 60 - 100 degrees and had to signal a wait for the breeze to settle. Race 4 got started mid afternoon in 6 - 10 knots with a flicking breeze which just remained with enough pressure to sail a two lap course of one windward/leeward lap followed by a triangle and beat to the finish.
At the third attempt the fleet got away to a clean start under the U flag with quite a split in choice of upwind strategy. Whilst the middle right upwind had been the best bet all week, finally the breeze shifted far enough into the E/NE sector to tempt enough competitors into trying mid left as an alternative.
A new leader appeared at the top mark in the shape of Peter Milne and Trevor Williams from Black Rock YC/Gippsland Lakes in Victoria, Australia. Local kiwi crew, Hayden Percy and Scott Pedersen from Napier SC were back in the front pack but lurking close behind was yesterday’s winner and former world champion, Steve Goacher sailing with Tim Harper from the UK. Downwind to the gate the vast majority of the fleet searched for the pressure on the offshore side of the race track. Again Goacher and crew Harper used all his expertise to shrink the lead of the lead boat to a boat length by the bottom gate. Places from 3 - 6 continued to shuffle with Charles Apthorp and Alan Green (GBR/IRL) making good gains along with Brits Greg Wells and Richard Rigg.
Upwind again and another split in tactics, this time the cunning Goacher / Harper combination rounding in the lead to lead the pack on the triangle. The chase pack was close, the Aussies, Milne and Williams holding off Apthorp and Green but early pace setters, Percy and Pedersen dropping off the pace. Today the breeze held in pressure but the British team of Goacher and Harper could not be slowed, covering their opponents all the way to chalk up a second bullet of the championship. Apthorp and Green squeezed in at the boat end of the line to snatch second in the final boat lengths to the finish line from Milne and Williams (AUS). FFI Commodore Peter Rooke sailing with Martin Arrowsmith (AUS) sailed an excellent final work leg to cross in fourth with the persistent local kiwi crew, Percy and Pedersen picking up fifth in their 20 year old (Silver) category Flying Fifteen.
However with four races sailed, the overall leaders are Matthew Owen and Andrew Reed from Canberra, Australia who are the only crew to have recorded single digit results by continuing to dig themselves out of difficult positions when buried in the pack. They lead the regatta by seven points from Goacher and Harper who are chasing their fourth world championship win.
Matthew Owen describes his tactics: “We actually ended up with three really good starts today if you include the two general recalls, so we were pretty good off the line. We got a great start, turned over and about 50 boats down at the pin end crossed us so we were pretty much back of the fleet 30 seconds in, so we had to chip away quite hard to get back into it. We got a couple of nice shifts at the top but we were on the back foot from the start. At the top mark we just did a few different things to the rest of the pack be-cause it is just such a competitive, similar speed fleet and if you do something different to the rest of the pack the gains can be quite massive, but our whole motto is just chip chip chip. All through this regatta we have not had a good first work so we have had to come from behind.”
What a difference a day makes, the sun came out for day four of the 21st Lexus Flying Fifteen World Championship in Napier. Race 5 was sailed in a light NE breeze shifting from 40 - 50 degrees, but with a short chop rather than the rolling swell of the last few days. As they say in these parts, the lambs were just about to leap out of the paddock, allowing the bigger crews to get out on the side decks and even do a bit of hiking!
57 Fifteens were spread across the start line in a far more conventional start but with new choices over upwind tactics. Whilst the majority of the fleet decided to work the left, a late shift favoured the boats that had really banged the right corner hard! Of these kiwis, Brian & Bridget Kent from Royal Akarana YC in Auckland, sailed a blinder to round the top mark in the lead from the Flying Flamingos, Lewis Davies & John Radnell from Daveys Bay YC in Australia. (These guys are easily recognisable with their pink, hats, kite and accessories!. Another kiwi boat in the Silver fleet, Wade & Lyle Tresadern from Bucklands Beach in Auckland, rounded in 3rd.
Most of the usual suspects were a bit deep in the pile with work to do but It only took the first run to see some of the downwind specialists starting to make their move. Steve Goacher rounded in the top 15 but scythed down the middle of the course to put pressure on the leaders at the gate. Nick & Janet Jerwood (AUS) were also working their way into the mix after a late change of gate choice at the gate got them on the right side of the race course for the beat. Back upwind the pressure stayed a bit more reliable but a new leader was emerging in David Williamson & Craig Morton (AUS) from Mordialloc SC in Victoria. The Aussie crew had the two previous world champions chasing them down both legs of the triangle. Behind them there was a lot of shuffling in the lead pack, places could be won or lost on the boat handling at the gybe mark. But the real test was the final working leg to the finish. This is where the real champions work their magic and there was little surprise when the smiling faces of Nick & Janet Jerwood from South of Perth YC, were seen tacking up to the line with a reasonable lead. They crossed to take their first gun of the championship and leap back into contention for the tile with two days to go.
“We had two very difficult legs, we got to the top mark in the low teens and managed to get the bottom of the run wrong and lost a lot of spots there, I am guessing we were about 20th there. Things stated to get a bit better from there, we made a late decision to change gates at the bottom and it was a really good decision, put us on the right side of the course and we were able to pick a few good shifts which put us back into the top 10 and we took a few more as we progressed up to the beat to 4th so that was the best leg of the regatta for us so far from 20th to 4th. Two days to go but we still have to sail the best race you can, the wind is way too localised, you can be 4 or 5 boat lengths away from somebody and be in totally different conditions so you just have to sail the best you can with what you have at that point in time. It is just going to be a case of how fast you can get round that race course. We actually used toe straps for the first time in the regatta today and it was great so I am looking forward to more of that in the final two days.” Nick Jerwood
Second to finish was Steve Goacher & Tim Harper (GBR) who is now able to drop his 19th place to take the overall lead in the regatta by 4 points. With the discard coming into play, the overall leaderboard sees a few changes with previous leaders Matthew Owen & Andrew Reed (AUS) from Canberra, slipping to 3rd overall, and Ashley Smith & Adam Kingston from Queensland (sailing under the Hong Kong flag), dropping their 35th to jump up to 4th in the overall classification.
With two days to go the pressure is rising and so is the barometer. There is a promise of more warm weather and a bit more breeze which might just suit some of the bigger crews who enjoy a bit of planing activity for which the Flying Fifteen is famous for.
The penultimate race of the 21st Luxus Flying Fifteen World Championship in Napier has set up to be a mouth watering finale with the title hanging in the balance.
Another warm sunny day on Hawke’s Bay with a hint of a stronger breeze earlier on, which toyed with the PRO and ended up proving a real challenge. Twice race management were in start sequence when the radio call came in from the top mark that the breeze was swinging from 70 - 100 degrees and back again.
On the third attempt race 6 got underway around 1400hrs in another light and shifty 7-10 knot NE/E breeze with a bit of chop thrown in for good measure. The start was clean but with an almost constantly oscillating breeze it proved a real test to find the best way to tackle the first upwind leg.
Both the championship leaders Steve Goacher & Tim Harper (GBR) and Nick & Janet Jerwood started mid line and sniffed out the best track to round with a few boat lengths lead over a large pack including Charles Apthorp & Alan Green (GBR/IRE), fellow Brits Greg Wells & Richard Rigg and Hayden Percy & Scott Pedersen, the first of a bunch of kiwis. The run proved a bit pedestrian as the breeze softened and the chase pack had to fight for room at the gate, sometimes rounding up to five boats abreast. Once ahead the Goacher machine went into cover mode never letting the Jerwood’s off their radar scanner. Apthorp & Green also managed to hold their position but the fight for the remaining top 10 places remained tight all the way round the triangle.
As Goacher & Harper rounded the gate to head up to the finish, the sea breeze came in with a final flourish sucking the lead group in to make the final work leg interesting. Everything the Jerwoods did to get away from the clutches of the Goach, it was to no avail, the British team crossing for the third bullet of the championship with 1 race to go.
Apthorp & Green finished 3rd ahead of a big cluster of boats. The young kiwis, Percy & Pedersen were back in form in their 28 year old Silver fleet boat grabbing a useful 4th and Brits David Mckee & Mal Hartland a solid 5th.
So the world title hangs in the balance with one ore race to go. Steve Goacher & Tim Harper stand 5 points ahead of Nick & Janet Jerwood but neither crew can afford any mishaps carrying double digit discards. Canberra sailors Matthew Owen & Andrew Reed had a day to forget finishing 25th, their discard, but remain in 3rd overall, ahead of a log jam of crews on 39 & 40 points. It looks like a classic finale between the British and Australian pairs but neither can afford a slip up in the final race with only one discard.
Day Six - The Final Day
The last day of the 21st Lexus Flying Fifteen World Championship turned out to be a real cliff hanger. To finish on a high, Napier delivered on the weather with a warm sunny day and 9 - 11 knots of breeze. The final race was delayed for about an hour as the NE/E breeze kept shifting from side to side causing two general recalls. On the third attempt the PRO got racing started with a 1.1nm beat into a sloppy chop in Hawke’s Bay.
The two title contenders were at each other from the 5 minute gun with the Brits, Steve Goacher & Tim Harper playing cat and mouse with Nick & Janet Jerwood (AUS) never losing sight of each other. After a clean start under U flag, the fleet were split across the course with a slight bias to the middle left hand side upwind. The first rounding was really crowded with a whole raft of New Zealand boats leading the field. Locals Hayden Percy & Scott Pedersen led from Murray Gilbert & Jonathan Burgess from Royal Akarana YC in Auckland. Third round was a female skipper, Susan Thompson sailing with crew Cameron Taylor (AUS) from Daveys Bay in Victoria.
The following run turned dramatic, Goacher & Harper turned the spreader mark right on the stern of Nick & Janet Jerwood, both crews down in about 20th place. A collision from a luffing incident on the downwind leg ended up with a red flag on each of the lead boats along with a small hole in the Jerwood’s boat. The Jerwood’s rounded the gate in the top 10 but Goacher & Harper had dropped places to the mid 20’s, having done turns. Jeremy Davy & Martin Huett (GBR) from Draycote Water SC took the lead at the gate, followed by David Yu & Chris Nelson (AUS) from Royal Freshwater Bay YC in Perth. The kiwi chase pack rounded in a huddle led by Murray Gilbert & Jonathan Burgess.
The second lap was more of the same, 9-11 knots with the breeze flicking regularly left and right. Davy & Huett begun to extend their lead from a charging Greg Wells & Richard Rigg (GBR). There were a number of crucial place changes in the final leg to the finish but Davy & Huett held firm to take their first gun of the regatta, fellow Brits Wells & Riggs crossing second and Yu & Nelson recovering to 3rd. The Jerwood’s crossed in 4th and Goacher & Harper in 21st but sadly the final result of the championship would have to be decided in the protest room.
After a lengthy hearing Nick & Janet Jerwood were disqualified from the final race handing the title to the British team.
Steve Goacher was a very happy man winning his 4th world title nearly 20 years after his last win in 1999. However he was even more pleased for Tim his crew of the last two years as it was Tim’s first world title. He claimed it was one of the tougher championships he had raced in 25 years or more of Flying Fifteen sailing.
By finishing the last race in 6th, the kiwis Gilbert & Burgess rose to 3rd on the overall podium overtaking Percy & Pedersen as first kiwis. Aaron Goodmanson & crew Alister Rowlands made up the third kiwi boat in the top ten.
Hayden Percy & Scott Pedersen however have the honour of being first Silver boat with an impressive 6th place overall in the Open rankings. First Classic division boat was Nicholas Heath & Philippa Noon from the UK.