Musto Skiff

Australian MUSTO Skiff Championships Bookmark and Share

Report by Tim Hill.

The inaugural MUSTO Skiff Australian Championships was held at Black Rock Yacht Club on Melbourne’s Port Phillip Bay from the 6th to 11th of January. The event was an opportunity to test the race management, scheduling and weather conditions for the MUSTO Skiff World Championships, to be held at the same venue in exactly 12 months time. The event was supported by the International MUSTO Skiff Association’s training fund.

Scotland’s John Reekie interrupted his honeymoon world tour to join the regatta, adding an international flavor to the enthusiastic fledgling fleet of 13 boats.

The first day was spent training, checking boat set ups, practicing tacks, gybes, hoists and drops with the newcomers on dry land. This was followed by an on-the-water session in a perfect sea breeze.

Day 1

The next morning John Reekie conducted a series of drills from the rib, covered on video, to improve race techniques and skills. After lunch the racing part of the regatta got underway in warm, sunny weather and a building sea breeze.

The first race started in a 10-12 knots southerly breeze, the fleet were a little over enthusiastic to use their new starting skills from the mornings training, with 3 boats over the line early and only Richard Ekberg coming back. Tim Hill led the fleet to the top mark from John Reekie and Marcus Hamilton by a slender margin, picking shifts along the left hand side, or land side of the course. On the first run Hill struggled for pressure in the centre of the course, while Reekie headed towards the land and Hamilton split chasing pressure out to sea. Hill held a narrow lead into the leeward gate picking up the building sea breeze on the right and led comfortably to the top mark for the last time. Hill extended his lead to record a comfortable win from Hamilton and Ekberg who sailed fast through the rest of the fleet after the false start.

With the breeze building to a perfect 15 knots, Hamilton bolted from the start of Race 2, crossing the fleet on port and led comfortably to the top mark from Richie Robertson and Richard Ekberg. Hamilton extended his lead on each leg of the course to record a comfortable win, while Hill recovered from a capsize on the first work to finish second, Ekberg was third, after Matt Hosie dropped it in on the last gybe to the finish. Tony Nash finished well in the mid fleet in only his second day of MUSTO racing, while John Reekie spent quite a long time on his side with spinnaker issues with his borrowed boat (kindly lent by Jason Beebe).

By the last race of the day the sea breeze continued to build to a solid 20 knots and the famous Port Phillip waves were beginning to develop for some fantastic white knuckle rides. Hamilton out-muscling a number of his heavier competitors off the line to lead narrowly at the top mark from the big guys Richie Roberston and Tim Moorhouse. Hill chose the right hand corner of the course on the next beat and closed to third at the top mark. Hamilton uncharacteristically mucked up the last gybe, leaving the door open for Roberston, but Hill had soaked down below him on the run and held him out from the necessary gybe onto port, and so went on to take another win. Hamilton recovered his poise to take second, Roberston who had been pushed past the layline flogged his kite for the last couple of hundred metres and finally dropping it in just before the pin end crossing the line on his side while standing on the centreboard for third, just in front of Ekberg.

Day 2

The second day began in very warm and sunny conditions (34 degrees) with a forecast of a light north wind in the morning, and a moderate sea breeze in the afternoon. The race committee was anxious to get at started before the land breeze faded and had the fleet on the course for an 11am start, but in a light sea breeze that seemed to have set in much earlier than forecast. John Reekie led towards the left hand side of the course; and although the breeze shifted to the right, managed to find the best of the pressure to lead narrowly from Hamilton and Hill at the top mark. At the leeward gate, Reekie and Hamilton chased each other off to the left side of the course and head inshore to a great big patch of no wind. Hill followed but tacked out to sea almost immediately, while Ekberg, Roberston, and Mark Elsworth chose the right hand side of the course and towards darker coloured water out to sea. Ekberg, furthest out to sea, was first into the new pressure a won easily when the race was shortened at the second windward mark. Hill followed in next from a tight group with Elsworth and Roberston.

As the fleet drifted back to the club for lunch, the sea breeze continued to swing right, eventually surprising everybody and confounding the forecast by settling into a hot, dry land breeze of 10-15 knots, which brings flat water and short, sharp windshifts.

The afternoon session started about 1pm, Roberston started on port and went hard right into the cliffs, picked a good lane of pressure to comfortably crossed the fleet. From a good start, Hill followed Hamilton and Matt Hosie to the left hand side of the course; before ducking back to the shore to follow Roberston into the top mark. Hamilton, Hosie and Ekberg followed in close company. Hill and Hamilton headed into the cliffs, while Roberston chose to gybe early back to the sea. Hamilton and Hill both passed Roberston down the run, and the whole fleet tried to be first back towards the cliffs up the next work. Hill was just in front on the run to the finish when Hamilton gybed back to the middle of the course and oblivion with no wind, while Hill rode his private supply of wind down the cliffs to a comfortable win. Roberston pushed hard into the left corner for second, Richard Ekberg third.

At the next start Roberston immediately tacked inshore again, followed by Hill, then Hosie and Hamilton. Roberston tacked out early, while Hill continued inshore and tacked to cross the fleet. Hosie and Hamilton tacked on Hill’s hip, on the right hand layline. The breeze shifted hard right; lifting Hill out from underneath Hamilton and Hosie to fetch the top mark and slender lead. While everyone else followed conventional wisdom and gybed back to the cliffs Robertson to a flyer out to sea and came back to second at the gate. On the second work, the fleet split evenly. Hill followed Hamilton in a loose cover to the cliffs, while Roberston and Moorhouse gambled out to sea again. The breeze swung steadily back to the left; leaving Hamilton, Hosie and Ekberg stranded on the right hand side of the course while Hill scrambled to cover Roberston on the left. Hill led into the top mark for the last time from Robertson; choosing the headed gybe out to sea, while Hosie looked for pressure from the cliffs inshore. Hill went on to take another comfortable win from Robertson and Hosie and Reekie in fourth.

Day 3

The Race Committee was presented with a range of uncomfortable choices as a strong northerly was forecast, then a dry front – followed at some stage by a moderate sea breeze. All this was supposed to happen sometime during the middle of the day. With this uncertainty, they again tried to get racing underway at 11am, attempting to get a race in before the front. The fleet got away in a 10-12 knot land breeze, Reekie and Hamilton led to the top mark, followed by Hill and Tim Moorhouse. Hamilton and Reekie elected to gybe back to the cliffs, while Hill and Moorhouse gybed out to sea. The breeze began to persistently shift left knocking Hill and Moorhouse in building pressure, and they overtook the early leaders at the gate. Halfway up the next work the breeze shifted through about 140° and blew in at about 25knots, so the race committee abandoned the race.

The front appeared to blow through during lunch leaving the race committee keen to complete two more races in the afternoon. Following lunch; the start boat led the fleet into a moderate southerly but large waves and a patchy easterly breeze that refused to settle down. Just after the race finally got underway the breeze swung to the right and rapidly strengthened to 25-30 knots as the front finally arrived. Reekie and Ekberg went right, Hill, Hamilton and Moorhouse joined them from the centre of the course. Reekie led to the top mark, followed by Ekberg, Hamilton and Hill. For some reason Reekie believed it would be better to power up his main and set his kite for the run.

“I think it (the kite) flapped once before I lost control and the mainsail drove the boat down to windward; actually – I think it was a micro flap…”

Reekie was probably goaded by Hamilton, who – in an outrageous piece of boat handling managed to sneak to the inside position at the hitch mark, pick a big rolling wave, complete a gybe and set his kite and then assumed the safety position (back foot behind the back rack and next to the rudder gantry, front foot on the windward gunwhale just behind the back rack; hands held in prayer). He capsized shortly thereafter.
Hill followed Ekberg onto the run; both keeping their kites firmly inside their chutes. Ekberg commented “I had absolutely no intention of taking my hand off the tiller or moving my bum forward; especially after watching the young blokes go down the mine…”. Ekberg grannied. Hill found a long, rolling wave and got away with an all or nothing gybe got back into the safety position and headed for the gate. The race committee noted the carnage and shortened the race to finish at the gate. Hill crossed first, Ekberg second, Hamilton third and Moorhouse fourth.

Hamilton’s finish drew a standing ovation from the committee boat as he crossed the line. Hamilton described the situation:

“I decided not to try and set the kite again – because I couldn’t – the halyard was wrapped around the forestay and wouldn’t move. I had just got through the gate when this big hole opened up in wave in front of me. I was at the back of the boat and I knew it was going under so I bailed out early rather than get launched. When I was in the water, I looked up to see the boat around 3 boat lengths to leeward standing perfectly balanced on it’s nose – I think only the front foot was still in the water…”

Day 4

A light sea breeze and sunny weather (again) and temperatures in the mid 30s. With 3 races scheduled, Hill had to just about turn up in Race 9 before the championship was secure.
Race 9 began in a 5-8 knot southerly that saw John Reekie lead the fleet to the top mark from the left hand side of the course, followed by Hamilton and Hill. Reekie held held on for the rest of the course to record a narrow win from Hill.

Race 10 followed immediately after with the sea breeze refusing to build. Reekie once again led to the top mark, followed by Elsworth and Hill. Hamilton worked the pressure lanes down the runs, trapezing off the gunwhale while others chose to soak. Elsworth, still in second, gybed too late for the finish and had to drop early to lay the line, to drop back to fourth.

Conditions remained light for the last race, Richard Ekberg tacked straight onto port from the start to find a lane of pressure to cross the fleet when he rolled back onto starboard. He continued o the left hand layline, found a knock and tacked to lead by a comfortable margin at the top mark. He was followed by Reekie, Moorhouse, Elsworth and Hosie. Reekie closed the gap down the run and then sailed through Ekberg’s lee with lighter body weight up the next beat, skipped away to a comfortable win to record a perfect score for the day - showing the Australians just how much improving they need to do in light conditions. Ekberg held on for second in a photo-finish to Hill.

“I was lucky on a number of occasions with the breeze, especially on the second day. I was also fortunate to be in the right place at the right time to benefit from boat handling mistakes from others - this also helped – but I am thrilled with the result am looking forward to the Worlds next year.”
Special thanks Mark Taylor and Bob Graham on the start team, and all the race committee and volunteers from Black Rock who produced excellent courses for the regatta, resetting the windward mark for almost every lap.

The next event on the MUSTO calendar in Melbourne is the Blairgowrie weekend on the 20-21 February.

AUS 245 Tim Hill Jet 11 1
AUS 391 Marcus Hamilton Cingale 21 2
AUS 241 Richard Ekberg Black Spot 23 3
AUS 218 John Reekie Honeymoon Bliss 35 4
AUS 379 Tim Moorhouse Bad Kharma 41 5
AUS 380 Ritchie Robinson Whale Oil Beef Hooked 42 6
AUS 413 Matt Hosie Blackbird 48 7
AUS 243 Mark Elsworth RTHTH 51 8
AUS 408 Brett Williams Bling 70 9
AUS 417 Tony Nash Cadence 81 10
AUS 418 Matt Hannaford No Fear 88 11

Detailed results >>>

Below: Richard Ekburg with Champion Tim Hill ...

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