It was a day for the young 18ft Skiff teams on Sydney Harbour today when Noakes Youth defeated Panasonic Lumix by just 2s in a heart-stopping finish to Race 6 of the Australian 18 Footers League's Spring Championship.
The Noakes Youth team of Kirk Mitchell, Daniel Barnett and Tim Westwood grabbed the race lead for the first time at the final set of windward buoys in Rose Bay and held off the fast finishing Panasonic Lumix team (Lachlan Doyle, Rick Plain, Michael Vincent) in a spinnaker dash to the finish line off Clark Island.
Another young team on Rag & Famish (Bryce Edwards, Rory Cox, Jacob Broom) took the lead at the first windward marks in Rose Bay and led for the entire race before being caught on the wrong side of a wind shift up the final windward leg of the course. The team still managed to finish a strong third, just 29s behind Panasonic Lumix.
In a race which provided spectators and crews with plenty of dramas, Noakesailing (Sean Langman) finished fourth, ahead of The Kitchen Maker (Scott Babbage) and Asko Appliances (James Dorron).
The series has now produced six different winners from the six races sailed so far (Panasonic Lumix, Triple M, Quality Marine Clothing, De'Longhi, ILVE and now Noakes Youth) and the final result next Sunday will depend heavily on that race's result.
The present points table, after each team discards their worst performance, has Panasonic Lumix leading on 20 points, followed by Finport Trade Finance (Keagan York) on 22, Rag & Famish Hotel on 24, The Kitchen Maker on 28, Yandoo (John Winning) on 29 and Appliancesonline.com.au (Brett Van Munster), also on 29 points. The Appliancespnline points could change if the team is successful with a protest requesting redress, following a port-and-starboard incident in today's race.
Another Easterly wind prevailed for the race but the wind strength was more than the fleet have experienced for most of the championship.
AOL, Yandoo and Vintec (Ash Rooklyn) were leading the fleet up the first windward leg before Rag & Famish Hotel gained her advantage at the red marker. Once in the lead, the Rag & Famish Hotel team sailed superbly downwind and extended their lead over the two spinnaker legs back to the bottom mark off Kurraba Point. The Kitchen Maker was in second place and Panasonic Lumix third at that point but a change came over the race due to the incident between Yandoo and Appliancesonline.
On the second lap of the course the three leading positions remained unchanged and Rag & Famish Hotel went even further ahead at Kurraba Point the second time. The two Noakes skiffs (Noakes Youth and Noakesailing) were the only other teams in a real position to challenge the leaders after a large ship sailed completely through the fleet and destroyed whatever chance the rest of the fleet had to make a challenge.
Rag & Famish Hotel held the lead from The Kitchen Maker on the final windward leg but a directional shift in the breeze played into the hands of both Noakes Youth and Panasonic Lumix.
While there were plenty of hard luck stories to be told, the race proved a bonus for spectators with the final result coming only a few metres from the finish line.
The last race of the Spring Championship will be sailed next Sunday (19 November). Australian 18 Footers League's Spectator Ferry will follow all the action, leaving Double Bay Public Wharf, alongside the clubhouse, at 2.15pm.
– Frank Quealey, www.18footers.com