Willy Packer finally wins WA State Dragon title

Another early start for the 17 boat Dragon fleet competing for the Western Australian Dragon State Championships at Royal Freshwater Bay YC in Perth. PRO John Taylor (JT) had the fleet out for three back to back windward/leeward races on a glorious sunny morning on the Swan River however no one had told the breeze to turn up as early as 0800 hrs so Sunday morning was spent drifting around for two hours in a glass out with Peter Hay’s ‘Four Seasons’ providing the hospitality.

Eventually a faint sea-breeze wafted over from the ocean and race 4 of the championship could be started in a 5 – 7 knot SSE. Coming into the final day of competition Willy Packer and his crew sailing ‘Scoundrel’ had a seven point lead over a bunch of Dragons waiting to pounce. It was Peter Bowman’s ‘Aeolus’ who got the best start at the crowded committee boat end but the light pressure patches that could be seen from the fly deck of the ‘Four Seasons’, were far more difficult to pick at water level and the lead changed hands several times.

Ray Chatfield’s ‘Wizzardry’ and Sandy Anderson’s ‘Linnea’ challenged for the lead with the regatta leaders buried deep in the pack. In a short two lap race, an early error was costly and there was no way back for Willy Packer ‘Scoundrel’ or Andrew Foulkes ‘Tatsu’.

Sandy Anderson got the better of Ray Chatfield on the second lap and glided over the finish line for her well deserved first bullet of the championship, becoming the fourth different winner in as many races. Peter Bowman managed to claw back places to finish third and due to Willy Packers 13th the overall lead was now shared. Ethan Prieto-Low sailing an old wooden Dragon ‘Gustel XI’ crossed to an excellent fourth.

Race 5 followed quickly with a shade more breeze building to 10 – 12 knots. After the black flag made another appearance the fleet got away cleanly for another short two lap windward/leeward course. This time normal service was resumed with the familiar teams hitting the front in more shifty work. Andrew Foulkes ‘Tatsu’ led around every mark but the battle for second and third got quite interesting. Rob Black’s crew on ‘Nereus’ made a rare forage for a podium place and Ron Packer’s ‘Icefyre’ got into the mix.

By the final leg Andrew Foulkes crew had opened up a handy lead to win comfortably with Rob Black holding on for second. However, more importantly Willy Packer had to battle hard to cross in third just ahead of Peter Bowman in fourth.

At this stage the overall classification had Willy Packer with a single point advantage over Peter Bowman with Andrew Foulkes steadily climbing back into contention after the single discard came into play. However the SI’s stipulated an early finish to the regatta with a last start time of 1200 hrs mid day.

With one minute remaining PRO ‘JT’ and his crack start team onboard the ‘Four Seasons’ signaled the final race to decide the WA State Championship title. Under another black flag a cautious fleet head off for a final two lap race with an additional beat to wear out the flagging but ageless Dragon sailors.

Peter Bowman started well but Willy Packer was second row whilst Andrew Foulkes again had a solid start nearer the pin. It was a nervy beat with a new leader in Ron Packer’s ‘Icefyre’, Andrew Foulkes in third, Willy Packer in fifth and Peter Bowman buried.

During the second lap the breeze huffed and puffed and places changed regularly causing the ‘Four Seasons’ crew to get the calculators out to crunch the numbers. Andrew Foulkes and his crew on ‘Tatsu’ did an excellent job in wearing down his opposition to hit the front with Greg Leaversuch jumping up to second and Sandy Anderson having another great race in fourth. Willy Packer had now dropped to fifth and one point from losing his overall lead to Foulkes.

With one leg to go some of the fleet begun to tire but Andrew Foulkes did all he could to take his second bullet of the championship but sadly he could only watch as Willy Packer and his crew of Denis Cullity and Julian Harding, clawed their way back to cross the finish line in second and thus snatch the title at the last gasp. Sandy Anderson finished third but Peter Bowman was back in seventh, dropping him to third overall in the title race.

Once ashore Willy Packer claimed he really thought he had blown it in the last race but he was just so relieved to get ‘the monkey off his back’ having finished as bridesmaid to Andrew Foulkes for so many years.

With his two final race wins, Andrew Foulkes and his crew of Andrew Jordan and Matthew Stafford became runner-up and Peter Bowman with Jenny Fitzhardinge and Jeremy Shellabear had to settle for third overall.

– Jonny Fullerton, Grand Prix Sailing

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