Wild westerly winds send sailors ashore during Audi Showdown

North-west to westerly winds, gusting sharply up to 40 knots at times, forced the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania to bring sailors ashore after less than an hour and a half of racing on the opening day of the Audi Showdown on Hobart’s River Derwent yesterday.

Race officers pulled the pin as the wild westerlies sent dinghies, skiffs and catamarans and even keelboats spinning out of control, but generally the mostly young sailors showed outstanding skill in handling the tough conditions.

After monitoring the weather, principal race officer Nick Hutton at 1.13pm hoisted the flags to indicate that all racing had been abandoned for the day.

“The wind gusted to 40 knots a few minutes ago and is showing no signs of abating this afternoon, so we told competitors to pack up and come back to tomorrow,” Hutton said.

The Club’s fleet of patrol boats shepherded the smaller boats ashore after race officers hoisted the postponement flags on all three course areas. Several boats had already retired with damage and had headed back to shore.

The weather played havoc with the fleet results, with no Paper Tiger catamarans finishing their first race and just three the second, with Stephen Price the overall leader.

Only 13 of the fleet of 23 Lasers completing their first race, just eight finishing the second. Tasmanian champion Sam King won both races for the Laser 4.7s.

The SB20 one-design sports boat class, racing off Howrah, bore the brunt of the wind and choppy waters on the river, completing one race with the race officer abandoning the second as the wind continued to freshen.

Tasmanian champion Nick Rogers sailed Carabost to victory after a close duel with Ciao Baby II, with fouler Moth sailor Rob Gough on the helm, third place going to Wicked (Andrew Blarney).

Victorian yachtsman Stephen Fries, helming wisely v (note to subs: that’s the name of the boat) from Sandringham Yacht Club, was the one retirement from the race, breaking his bow pole.

“We had lots of wind and some big, awkward waves across the river, we dived our bow a couple of times racing downwind and there were a few broaches in the gusts, “said David Graney, skipper of Wedgewood, which finished a close fifth.

On the International 2.4mR course, one of the single-handed keelboats filled with water, with Australian champion and London Paralympic sailor Matt Bugg describing conditions and “tough at times.”

Bugg won the one race from Lisa Blackwood who, back ashore, gave Bugg a lesson in sailing a radio controlled yacht in the more sheltered waters of the RYCT ‘pond.’

The strong winds played havoc with the two smallest class boats, the Optimists and the Sabots, each class sailing one race. First place in the Optimist Open class went to Charles Zeeman, while in the Sabots the winner was William Wallis.

The two-handed International Cadets handled conditions well with Sam Abel n and Hugo Allison winning their one race from Jasmin Galbraith and Matilda O’Donoghue.

Other winners and class leaders after the limited racing yesterday were Jock Calvert (Sailboards), Peter and Karen Davis (NS14s), Darren Flanaghan and Quentin Cook (OTB catamarans), Daniel Maree and Lara Racape (Sabot two-up), Queenslander Stuart Plenderleith (Laser Radial) and Gabriel Morrison and Silas Hamitlon (, 29er, Combined Yardstick).

From Peter Campbell

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