23rd of January 2005, Australia, Oceanic Championships

Behind the scenes.. Race Director notes from the tower.

by Ian Fox

Race Director notes from the tower:

Day 2 Racing underway in an early and rising sea breeze at 1310 hrs vs schedule of 1300. Not bad considering the crews arrived to find themselves effectively barricaded out of the sailing and club areas by a very large national Triathlon event still finishing. That was all agreed with authorities and access/times confirmed well in advance, plus the late start FW arranged for this day only to cope. After a short delay and no apparent action or resolution in sight, matters were resolved (carefully) ourselves and racers were able to access the parking/rigging/club areas on time, whilst the slowest end of the triathlon field staggered past over the sailing access roadway on their way to their finish line. For them , a long day. Ours? It was just about to begin !

Race 5 (Day 2/ Race1) was a classic. Upwind downwind centre gate course and wind on the water around 15 (actual) knots. Clean start and the fleet streamed out into the top corner of the Elwood "bay", whilst higher and a little slower the familiar ERA logo covered well. Hot on him was NZ's JP Tobin, POL10 tacking across early and very strong and super high on the upwind work to the top mark. Familiar stuff. DEN111 and Brett Morris also tacking early and cutting upwind fast. But around the top its Jesper Orth AUS10 in 5m18 first, Wojtek, Sean O'Brien and Sam Parker hot behind. hard downwind and thru the centre gates Wojtek sneaks thru on better lines, whilst a head to head develops between the two red Severnes on the two silver F159s with the two Deboichet fins of the two Jespers Orth and Vesterstrom ! Nothing in it. Around the top again and back down to the finish and it Wojtek now looking unstoppable with Jesper V holding a narrow lead over JesperO. As they run into the line, it's POL 10 and 34 seconds back to JesperV, who eases ever so slightly, behind him JesperO is RIGHT there and senses a chance and squeezes even harder, but not quite and JV is over for second slot a few seconds clear of JesperO. Sean O'Brien gets it home ahead of Sam Parker and JP arrives there ahead of Tasmanian Dave Morehead who's starting to fire in the more powered conditions.

Short break and the same course is rerun at 1406 start. Wind is 18 kts average on course and definitely continuing to fill. Most sailors have rushed to change down to their smaller (smallest sails) already, fearing a repeat of the NP day 2 "seabreeze" that lengthen more than a couple of arms that day..) Good clean line and fast at the line. Two guns, OCS and individuals for POL10, NZL1 and AUS56. One is around so fast it looks like a slalom comp - no guess on who - whilst the other two sail on unaware of the OCS awaiting their efforts around the course. Wojtek is barely out of the snake and before long is charging back up thru the field. Jesper V makes good his "escape" at the front and swings around the top ahead in 5m32, but (unreal) is that truly and ERA logo around second ? Course boat please confirm. Affirmative. Wow, now he is really on fire. Jesper Orth holding third could be forgiven for not even realising Wojtek made an unscheduled detour. Flat out again to the bottom and this time DEN111 looks like he's sensing a chance at P1. He hammers downwind, but behind at some distance Wojtek covers him move for move, but making little ground. The Orth also takes advantage of this and closes a little on the two leaders, all around the bottom mark at 8m40 within 10 seconds of one another. Upwind it's on again and this time JP Tobin also sneaks some advantage and starts to get towards the battle at the front, taking advantage of some good lift and getting a high angle to the top. Yes, there are some others in the race but right now it's forgivable to think these guys are on a start of their own. Second top rounding at 13m28 and the red DEN111 still leads POL10 from AUS10. Downwind the Polish hammer comes down again but Jesper V hangs on determinedly and this one is his, home in 17m04 from POL10 and AUS10 all inside 0m10 gap. Tight. Sean O'Brien really starting to carve his name on P4 slots and this time NZL 79 Dave Holt nails it down with a great P5 from Windsurfing NSW president Brett Morris in P6 and Jono Squires in P7.

Back on shore a slightly longer break is announced to allow for rest and expected further gear changes, sailor activity actually pretty quiet, most have changed or rerigged for the race prior. A new and more complex course is laid, a few minutes delay once the sailors are afloat at around 1505 caused by start line adjustment and then a further postponement is efficiently cleared to adjust the top mark (close to the start) further upwind to allow a slightly longer leg and the fleet to clear a bit further for the first rounding.Wind in the tower reading 20-22MPH, gusts to 24/26MPH. On the water, realistically it is 20kts at the lower end of the course and a couple more at the top. Fleet is starting to look a bit ragged in the wind, the extra hold at the start line, although only minutes also wearing them a little more. Race is on around 1535hrs and again it's POL 10 around the first top rounding in 2m10, with DEN11 hot behind. The seemingly complex navigational issue disappears and the overall result is for a very windy race, with most riders clearly struggling for both control and energy. the front runners in this race start to look like the General Classification : Wojtek, Jesper1, Jesper2, Sean, JP Tobin, Sam and again Dave Morehead at home in the tough conditions ahead of Brett Morris. Wojtek is back at the finish at 20m07, just settling some bets taken between Tower and C'tee boat as to whether the race would be under or over the 20 minute calculated duration. It may have been on schedule, but the body language of the finishers told a stronger story and many rigs were dragged rather than carried from the water at the end of this one. Later finishers were really struggling, being possibly less comfortable out there in the first place and secondly, forced to endure it longer out on the coarse as they weren't home so quick. Some safety issues are discussed as some riders are down and struggling to restart. Some riders are particularly satisfied to finish racing for the day at this point, although the measured windspeeds at all locations are well below the 35 kit class limit, with solid 25 being the typical average/s. Sea conditions are getting rougher though and both sailing and rescue are obviously more difficult. A delay to reset the course to a simple windward return (whilst allowing the seabreeze to peak and moderate) is proposed, but with safety/recovery issues from the current race increasing, the decision is made to confirm no further races today and concentrate on any required recovery. There was almost a cheer from the beach when the flags went up, or was it a sigh of relief that it was "No Further racing" rather than AP or START !
After the shock has susided, many riders commented that the course was actually a lot better and more exciting and challenging to race than they had expected.

Certain riders were concerned with conditions re windspeeds being excessive and course angles being tight. These comments were all well intended but the data from both wind stations and rider GPS tracklogs (Wojtek/Dave Morehead) confirms that both the wind strength and course raced angles were well within class guidelines. Even if it proved a little more challenging than expected. Recoveries required, breakages or other safety actions (other than preventative) were actually zero, and even young Mitch Stevenson (who disappeared off the radar for a few moments) sailed dit back home under his own efforts. Good stuff.

So that was it. Day Two over.

A few lucky ones pulled out the B&J gear and went for it, but not long after the wind abated significantly although water conditions did remain quite choppy from the residual swell.

Half way thru the regatta and 7 races total in the bag, a good forecast for tomorrow and marginally positive for Tuesday. They will all sleep well tonite. Tomorrow, is another day !