|EVENT REPORT: Musto Skiff State Championships, Sandringham Yacht Club - Victoria (AUS), 7 to 9 March 2020
Full results: https://www.syc.com.au/raceresults/2019/otb/I14B14Musto/series.htm
With a truly disappointing season settling in our rear view mirrors, dominated by fires, poor weather (as many weekends cancelled as sailed…) Victoria’s Mustoskiff fleet finally got lucky over Victoria’s Labour Day long weekend in March.
A smallish fleet turned up. Evergreen Wayne Bates was laid up with shoulder surgery. His son Casey, Hayden Harding and Hayden Brown decided to go to a music festival and rave (kids…!) rather than hang out with their older and wiser counterparts.
We joined the 14’ Skiff, B-14s and International Cadets fleets at Sandringham Yacht Club on the 7th, 8th and 9th in the Mark Fox Memorial Regatta. The forecast was breezy but manageable, the sun was out. For those who came to the Black Rock Mustoskiff Worlds, Sandringham is the next club north towards the city and we sailed on the same patch of water.
DAY 1: RACES 1 & 2
On Friday the breeze blew hard all day from the South West, and on Saturday, the wind had abated to 10-15 knots, but the chop was still well and truly alive, with whitecaps breaking down over Port Phillips famous steep waves. With a building breeze forecast, and a race course lengthened to meet the demands of the 14’ Skiff fleet, the day looked epic.
Race 1 saw a port biased line. Wind god Richie Robertson lit up his upwind after burners and raced off to the left hand side of the fleet, tacking to cross. He played the shifts up the first beat, leading from Jon Newman and Matt Houvangel. All boats gybe set in, with Jon reeling in Richie down the run. At the gate, Richie held a slender lead from Jon, Matt and Tim Hill.
Richie stretched his legs on the upwind, pulling away from the chasing pack while Tim managed to hit a series of good shifts, pulling up to second at the top mark, with Jon third. Tim and Richie gybe set while Jon and Matty bore away. At the finish, Richie held on for the win, Tim second, Jon third.
The sea breeze settled in for Race 2. Richie again started from the pin and went left, tacking to cross the fleet. Matt and Tim played the shifts up the beat trying to limit Richie’s lead, but the big man led by around 100 meters at the top mark, but then missed his timing on the last tack to the mark. The swim was brief but enough for Matty and Tim to both round on his transom. Richie bore away while Matty and Tim gybe set.
Tim and Matty gybed mid-way down the run while Richie, returning from the right hand corner found himself well under the mark. Matty led narrowly at the gate from Tim. Both chose the right hand side while Richie chose the left. Jon, recovering from a swim at the start pushed too hard and launched himself into the day’s biggest and best pitchpole as he neared the gate.
Meanwhile Richie resumed his lead by picking a favourable shift on the right, while Tim found a way past Matty to arrive at the top mark in second. Richie opted for a gybe set, Tim followed some 100 meters back, while Matty chose a bear way hoist.
In the mad cap run that followed in big waves and building breeze, Tim managed to soak down inside Richie at the gybe point. Both crossed Matty on the run to the finish, Tim then gybing to cross Richie on the line to take the win, Richie second, Matty third – a fast finishing Jon in fourth.
Richie and Tim led the regatta at the end of Day 1, with Matty third, Jon fourth.
DAY 2: RACES 3 & 4
Day 2 dawned with a raging Easterly, and, of course, its never like this. For those who came to the Black Rock Worlds way back when, and sailed in the difficult Easterly breezes then – well, that was the last time we sailed in an Easterly.
So, not only was it an Easterly, it was frickin’ windy – really, really, really windy – but with big holes, bigger shifts, and the waves smaller than Saturday but coming across the course rather than straight downwind. On starboard it was quite smooth, on port the boats plopped into the chop.
The line for Race 3 was set with a big port bias. The fleet chose to start on starboard and blaze into the shore looking for a left hand shift close to the layline. Richie, however, chose to start on port before tacking back to cross those who’d marched out to the left hand layline comfortably. He led to the top, with Jon in second, Tim in third.
The gust that greeted Richie on his bearaway drove his boat straight over his kite as he tried to set, capsizing his skiff. Jon and Tim negotiated the bearaway, cautiously ran down past Richie before finding a lull to gybe, then set to lay the bottom gate. Matty, who’d rounded fourth, threw caution to the wind, got his kite up quickly then gybed on Tim’s quarter, pushing them into the mark behind Jon in second and third respectively.
All boats chose (or had chosen for them) the left hand side of the gate, dropping and rounding to head to the right hand side of the course. Jon extended his lead, while Matty opted to tack early, then picked a left hand shift to pass Tim. Jon led to the top mark for the last time, Matty second, Tim third.
All boats set cautiously reached the gybe point, made their gybes and then ran through the finish as the breeze inexplicably softened to around 15 knots.
With Richie finishing 5th, Tim now led the points, but Jon was looking impressive in fresh to frightening conditions.
The softening breeze of Race 4 didn’t signal the arrival of the hoped for sea breeze. Instead, the gradient returned with a vengeance. Half the fleet opted a port tack start with Jon, ignoring the mayhem around him, looked calm, stable and in control. He led to the top mark with Richie in second, Ricky Ironmonger in third. All opted to keep their kites in their bags. Positions remained unchanged at the gate. Behind the leading trio carnage ensued with Robin Dayes, Matty, Tim, Paul Newman all capsizing multiple times on the lay to the top mark, around the hitch mark and on the top third of the run. Tim attempted to upstage Jon’s Saturday pitchpole by standing his Mustoskiff vertically on its nose, the skipper flying downwind as the boat somersaulted, bobbing in the water from bow to spinnaker throat, the rest of the skiff standing vertically in the sunshine and whitecaps. Only Matty mastered the conditions, ignoring his earlier capsizing to blaze down the second half of the run with his kite up in a distant fourth.
The more it blew the better Jon looked. Richie pushed up the second work but Jon held him at bay, Ricky remained in third. The leaders again opted to keep their kites dry, but Jon chose set his kite after gybing, arriving at the finish line in chaos and mayhem, crossing mast first mid-capsize, comfortably in front and now leading the series. Richie finished second, Ricky third.
DAY 3: RACE 5
The experience of Sunday made everyone circumspect about Monday. On Sunday, the offshore Easterly meant the wind felt great on the beach but was madness on the water. On Monday, the same conditions greeted competitors on the shore, with the Easterly persisting rather than abating as forecast.
The points were very tight. Jon lead by a point from Richie and Tim, who were tied. Matty lurked in fourth. If Jon won, he won the series. If Richie or Tim won, Jon won on countback. If Jon finished third, and Tim or Richie won, then the final heat winner would take the trophy.
The Race Committee decided to postpone for an hour, waiting for the weather to abate. With no one interested in repeating Sunday’s mosh pit, the fleet agreed for one race rather than the scheduled three, not trusting the race committee’s judgement after Sunday’s carnage.
And we looked pretty stupid…because the breeze was good! The Easterly was still blowing but it had begun to swing to a sea breeze. Race 5 started cleanly in 12-15knots.
The course was again set well offshore and Tim took the pin looking for a left hand shift, while Jon and Richie started further up the line. Tim didn’t get his shift when he needed it and took Jon and Richie’s transoms, bailing out from the left too early. Both leaders got the shift that Tim missed and crossed comfortably halfway up the beat. Tim went back to the left and made up ground. At the top, Jon held a slender lead from Richie in second, Tim in third. Matty rounded in fourth and Paul Newman in fifth.
The tight pack all chose bearaway sets and skipped down the reach. Richie suffered in the lighter conditions as first Tim, then Matty and then Paul slipped past down the run. Jon extended his lead at the bottom mark, Tim second, Matty third.
Jon chose the right hand gate and headed left, Tim followed while the rest chose the left hand gate, heading out to sea looking for the sea breeze which had begun to disrupt the gradient. Tim opted to tack back to the group, Jon delayed a little to stay on the left hand side. On the long port hand tack back to the pack, the sea breeze began to operate on the right hand side of the course, lifting Matty, Richie and Paul back up to Tim. Tim crossed narrowly on the layline to cover, Jon tacking further upwind to cover also. Matty chose to point up as high as he could to make the mark, while Richie footed off below. The breeze at the top mark then swung back left, and while Jon and Matty managed to squeeze into the mark on starboard, Richie came back on a lift to cross Tim, who’d dropped from 2nd to 4th. Jon rounded first, Matty second, Richie third.
Jon and Matty chose to bearaway set while Richie went for a gybe set, looking for the sea breeze. Tim rounded just behind and followed the leaders. Paul opted for the same. Tim got the pressure down the reach to pass Richie, whose gamble out to sea didn’t pay. Matty finished in second, Jon winning again.
With the gentleman’s agreement in place to race just one heat, the fleet took off for the beach. Jon took the trophy (again), winning by 4 points. Tim finished second, 1 point clear of Richie, who finished third, pipping Matty on countback.
So finally the weather did what it was supposed to in Australia – sunshine, big waves, big (and bigger) breeze – loads of fun in the sun. Big thanks to Australian President Paul for organising the event, ably assisted by Sandringham local Robin Dayes.