The final day of the Flying Fifteen Australian Championship was set up to go down to the wire on the final day of racing and it certainly did that. A rare sight on the Indian Ocean off Fremantle, grey clouds rolling in from a rare direction NW. The earlier forecast predicted a swing to the regular sea breeze direction of SW but when would be the question.
The fleet set off from Fremantle Sailing Club for one final race due to start just after noon. PRO Kevin Wilson set a course 6 which was two windward/leeward legs of 1.4nm in distance followed by an upwind leg to the finish. At the start the breeze was only about 7 - 10 knots but it was always due to increase.
A clear start this time under U flag so no need for the black flag. At the top it was the usual suspects, Graham Vials and Chris Turner (GBR) led by a couple of boat lengths from a close cluster including Ian Pinnell and Ian Cadwallader (GBR), Nick Jerwood and Brad Sheridan (AUS) and regatta leaders Grant Alderson and Luke Paterson (AUS).
Downwind Alderson / Paterson slid down on an inshore track to gain second place at the gate behind Vials / Turner. Jerwood / Sheridan moved into third. Back upwind for the second time and the skies begun to get darker with a real threat of rain, a very unusual phenomenon in these parts! Was this the change we were all expecting? On the second lap there were several place changes below the top three boats but it was now beginning to look like a two horse race to the finish and a rapid look at the overall results to look at the maths.
Rounding the gate for the last time, Vials and Turner held a several boat length lead from Alderson and Paterson but the local Australians representing Royal Freshwater Bay YC would claim the win in the regatta on count back if places stayed the same. Alas a bit more drama was to come!
Vials and Turner were unlikely to be caught with a loose cover on Alderson / Paterson but any of the chasing boats could change the end result if one boat got between the race winners and Alderson / Paterson. This is exactly what happened, finally the big change came in the wind swung and the final beat became a fetch to the finish line in rapidly increasing pressure.
Graham Vials and Chris Turner from Derwent Reservoir SC/Lyme Regis SC in the UK, crossed the finish line in the mizzle to become Australian Champions. Nick Jerwood and Brad Sheridan (SoPYC/FSC) snatched second and Grant Alderson / Luke Paterson (RFBYC) had to settle for third missing out on the title by one solitary point.
Brits Ian Pinnell and Ian Cadwallader (Northampton SC) finished third overall and another British boat, Hamish Mackay and Andrew Lawson from Royal Thames YC finished fourth overall. Fifth overall went to Nick Jerwood and Brad Sheridan.
The remaining top 10 places were taken up by Australian teams with notable performances by the ex olympic sailors Lachy Gilmour and Ryan Donaldson (RFBYC/Esperance Bay YC) in sixth, Rod Beurteaux and Simon Wilder from (SoPYC/East Fremantle YC) the Viper sportsboat experts in seventh.
Philippa Packer and Dean McAullay (RFBYC) finished 8th, the Dunbar brothers from (SoPYC) in 9th and Andrew and Anne Knowles (SoPYC) in 10th.
The 79 boat fleet have a well earned lay day tomorrow before the whole show re-starts on Saturday 18 March with seven days of World Championship racing.
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by Jonny Fullerton - Regatta Services