Boisterous conditions pushed the international fleet fast around the Mooloolaba open water course on day three of the Evans Long 20th Etchells Australasian Championship conducted by Mooloolaba Yacht Club.
The first two race days were glorious conditions for the 39-boat fleet contesting the seven race series. Today it changed, dramatically. The wind built, at times gusting well over 20 knots, and the sea turned ferocious as the little 30-foot one-design boats were put to the test of strength and skill.
While the young sailors on the Brisbane team Fair Dinkum went into the final day with a comfortable overall lead and then won the first race of today, the Sydney entry Ciao, skippered by Doug McGain and crewed by Mick O’Brien and Stuart Clark, kept their heads, focused on the prize, placed consistently in the top 10, and won the coveted title.
Hudson’s Fair Dinkum team were eager to race the heavy conditions. They first got together one year ago and have since been gradually working their way up the results ladder. This was their time to shine.
Their first race was a “blinder”. The boys were buzzing. “We had so much boat speed in that race,” Hudson said.
They were so close to bagging the big prize. But the wind kept building and trouble set in.
“The water pump broke, the jib fine tune broke and we had a bad second race start,” Hudson said. “The boat was slow with all the water sloshing around. It was hard to steer and to catch up the rest of the fleet,” a despondent Hudson added. They finished 16th in the final race.
On Ciao, McGain struggled to believe that his team had achieved this result and would be adding their names to the coveted trophy of which over the 20 years only one skipper has won twice.
They placed second in race one of the day and then fourth in race two. With Fair Dinkum’s poor second race result, it deservedly gave Ciao a one point advantage overall and the trophy.
“We had a good day today, but then it came down to how the other guys finished,” main trimmer and tactician O’Brien said.
Around them were broken masts, shredded sails, damaged crew in the big sea conditions. But that didn’t distract the experienced Ciao crew who kept their eye on the prize.
“We didn’t go out today adding up scores. We went out to race our boat and not worry about anyone else. Our beats weren’t great, but our runs were so we had some good results in the end,” McGain said.
Bowman Stuart Clark proudly showed off his battered hands. “I trimmed hard all day. The hands are glowing. The stomach muscles are killing me and I can’t bend down,” a delighted Clark said.
What really made the difference for this team was their speed and control on the runs. That’s where they made their gains. “On the runs it was about concentrating really and trying to remember to breath,” McGain added.
In third overall was another the Top 40 Sydney team of Peter Merrington, Geoff Bonouvrie and Ian McKillop.
Defending champion Yandoo XX skipper Jeanne-Claude Strong, looked exhausted, but still had a broad smile after a long day. They finished the series in 14th place after receiving redress from the dramatic first day race-ending collision.
For full results, go www.mooloolabaetchells.com
– Tracey Johnstone