Willy Packer leads WA State Dragon titles on Swan River

A highly competitive fleet of 17 Dragons assembled at Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club in Perth for the WA Dragon State Championship sailed over three days from 12 – 14 December.

On Friday afternoon the legendary ‘Freo Doctor’ oiled up its tonsils and blew a steady 25 – 30 knot Southerly buster across the azzure blue waters of the Swan River in Perth causing the abandonment of racing on day one of the WA Dragon State Championships.

Sailors were forced to endure the hospitality of Peter Hay’s mothership ‘Four Seasons’ for an impromptu Friday evening session with vast quantities of cold beer and prawns on offer!

Saturday serves up a real feast of racing

After the ‘freo doc’ had finally blew itself out on Friday night an early start beckoned for the 17 boat Dragon fleet on a typical stunning Perth summer morning under bright blue skies. PRO John Taylor (JT) got the fleet out early for an 0800hrs start with a forecast of a light early morning breeze building gradually throughout the morning to be followed up by another serving of a full gusty seabreeze by late afternoon.

Race 1 of the day got underway in a light and very patchy 8 – 10 kt breeze with some big shifts across the race track. The two lap windward/leeward course became quite a tactical dilemma even for these experienced Dragon sailors. The committee boat end was crowded but the first leg proved a tough call with 30 degree shifts on both sides of the course.

Willy Packer’s (Scoundrel) led round the windward mark from Tony Lynn’s (Saphira) with Peter Bowman’s (Aeolus) in close pursuit. A lead pack of four boats shuffled positions downwind as the pressure puffs came from their sterns but Packer remained in front at the gate.

Upwind second time round proved a decisive move for Andrew Foulkes’ (Tatsu) as he slid through the fleet to take the lead by the second windward rounding. Greg Leaversuch (Jump) chose the favourable side of the beat to climb to second followed by Rob Perrin’s (Seajoy).

Whilst the leaders tried to protect their positions, Ray Chatfield (Whizzardry) and John Anderson (Achernar) had cunningly gybed early and taken the inside line to pick up a handy little squirt of breeze downwind.

As they approached the finish line with 100m to go it was still a close call but Ray Chatfield sneaked across ahead of four boats almost overlapped on the finish line. John Anderson’s (Achernar) got the nod for second, a bow ahead of Willy Packer’s (Scoundrel) in third.

As the breeze faded the shifts remained a nightmare for PRO ‘JT’. After one lap of the second race of the day he fairly had to abandon with a second 100 degree shift and a glass out on the Swan river.

A short break for some morning tea, (toilet stops for the ladies onboard the luxury ‘Four Seasons’ start boat), and racing resumed for the second race of the day with another light to moderate SSE breeze.

After a general recall JT had no hesitation in bringing the ‘naughty black flag’ out to threaten the eager culprits. The restart was clean with both Scoundrel and Tatsu starting fast alongside each other but another tactical upwind leg meant plenty of snakes and ladders.

Will Packer’s (Scoundrel) rounded the windward mark just ahead of Peter Bowman’s (Aeolus) with Andrew Foulkes (Tatsu) chasing in third. The sea breeze just began to show signs of building with ‘the sheep out of the paddock’ as the kiwis say!

Downwind was another tricky game of reading the pressure puffs and it was Peter Bowman (Aeolus) who managed to just squeeze past Willy Packer’s (Scoundrel) at the gate with a big pack of Dragons in close attention.

The final upwind was another tricky affair and a real test of the experience and guile. Bowman’s (Aeolus) lead round the final turn with a fleet of five Dragons beginning to surf down the building waves.

In another almost photo finish, the wooden boat, Aeolus, (she celebrated her 50th birthday last week!), nosed across to take the gun ahead of a fast finishing Andrew Foulkes (Tatsu) and an excellent last leg for Tony Lynn on (Saphira) to take third from Willy Packer in 4th. Special mention goes to Trish Ford and her team on (Canewdon Witch) for a very credible 7th.

Surfing rock n role

For the third and final race of the day, the ‘freo doctor’ had found its full voice and the predicted 18 – 20 knot SSE flexed its muscles. Peter Bowman got a fast start at the committee boat end whilst Willy Packer over-stood and had to circle the pin and duck transoms. However having to sail out to the right hand side of the course, Packer picked up a handy 20 degree shift and bolted into a good lead at the windward mark.

Again a lead pack of four boats surfed downwind in superb Dragon sailing conditions. Willy Packer with his nose in front of the chasing pack led by Greg Leaversuch, sailing another blinder onboard (Jump), trading places with Peter Bowman (Aolus) and Ron Packer (Icefyre).

As the second upwind got quite boisterous Willy Packer’s team extended to round with a comfortable lead but the remaining podium places were up for grabs.

For the second downwind leg the ageless Dragon fleet sailors showed off some real vintage ‘rock n roll’ dance moves as they surfed down the white caps providing a chorus of ‘oohhs, aaarhs and the occasional OMG!’ from the start/support boat.

Race 3 was to be finished upwind so Willy Packer just had to hang on to his lead to finish with a consistent 3,4,1 for the day. Second over the finish line was a great performance by Greg Leaversuch and his crew on (Jump). Third was a steadily improving Ron Packer (Icefyre).

Racing resumes on Sunday with another three races planned from 0800 hrs start time and a light to moderate breeze forecast.

Results (top 6 after 3 races and no discards):

1 AUS214 Scoundrel Willy Packer/Denis Cullity/Julian Harding 3,4,1, 8 pts
2 AUS109 Aeolus Peter Bowman/Jenny Fitzhardinge/Jeremy Shellabear 10,1,4, 15pts
3 AUS203 Tatsu Andrew Foulkes/Andrew Jordan/Matthew Stafford 5,2,8 15pts
4 AUS160 Achernar John Anderson/Tim Cummins/Rob Hubbard 2,5,10 17pts
5 AUS221 Saphira Tony Lynn/Richard Timms/Andris Blankenburgs 9,3,5 17pts
6 AUS181 Jump Greg Leaversuch/Darin Maher/Hamish Carnachan 14,6,2 22pts

Regatta report & photos by Jonny Fullerton, Grand Prix Sailing

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