Photos: Rolf Lunsman

Carnage among the 12ft skiffs

Gusty conditions at the Slam 12ft Skiff Interdominions

Wednesday January 12th 2011, Author: Di Pearson, Location: Australia

It was a day of carnage at the Slam 12ft Skiff Interdominion as a big gusty ENEerly picked off one boat after another in Race 7 at Hunters Hill today - and not even the top starters were immune - startled river cat passengers saw all off Cockatoo Island as the out-of-control skiffs barrelled downwind under kite.

Some survived, some did not. It was a day of “no guts, no glory – and when the going got tough – the tough kept going. It was day that belonged to 2009 Interdominion champion and reigning national champion, Garde, crewed by Brett Hobson and Alex Johnson from Woollahra Sailing Club who came home with two wins and big grins.

“It was pretty gusty – pretty gnarly,” Johnson said of the winds that peaked at 30 knots. “You had to pay attention the whole time or you’d find yourself in the drink. You had to keep an eye on the traffic, the gusts and the shifts, but we had a big win in Race 7,” he said.

Skipper Brett Hobson commented on their day. “We’ve got a day to go and we have to remember that, but it feels great to come ashore with two wins. We tried to keep our noses clean and tried to sail a bit safely; we took it one mark at a time. That was one of the hardest days I’ve sailed. The sea was short and sharp."

Chris Reid, the skipper of Kiwi entry C-Tech agreed: “I have to admit I’ve struggled with the venue a bit; the traffic and the shiftiness, but everyone’s had to deal with the same stuff. There were a few ferries on the course today and a few of the skiffs got taken out in the lull behind a ferry. It was tough but fun at the same time,” he said.

His crew, Ben de Fluiter commented: “I don’t think I’ve ever sailed in a place that’s as hard as this one.”

Maybe that’s why the next two best boats did so well. Series leader, Dimension Polyant (Aus), sailed by Nick Press and Brad Yabsley and Gemmell Sails crewed by Nick’s dad Murray Press and Ben Gemmell both sail for the Slam Interdominion organisers, Lane Cove 12ft Skiff Sailing Club.

Press/Yabsley scored third and second places today, while Press/Gemmell came home with a pair of fourths.

“We had a great day really – no swims – so that was a bonus. We tried to say conservatively, but that was impossible in those conditions. I reckon we were doing 20 knots in 30 knots of breeze at times,” Murray Press said. “The Garde and Dimension Polyant guys know how to drive a boat hard in that sort of weather and it makes for great viewing. You can do that when you’re young!”

In what is now a close series, the reigning Interdominion champions Dimension Polyant (AUS) leads Garde by three points, with Gemmell Sails third on 20 points with two race drops in place. So the Slam Interdominion and the Silasec trophy will go to one of the top two.

While the day belonged to the top boats, spare a thought for others. The crew of Arrogant Frog, Steve Hill, did a swan dive through the headsail, which tore right down the seam, ending their day. Maersk Line broke the top section of their mast, her skipper Jakub Ronowicz is still wondering how it happened. “We’d just rounded the top mark and put our spinnaker up, but it didn’t feel right. I didn’t hear anything, but I looked up and the top section was missing.”

CST Composites from Woollahra pulled out of the race, but her crew made quick repairs in time to make Race 8, Panadol Rapid came ashore with a big headache, Vantage Real Estate was unlucky for a second day running and the lone Queensland entry, Squid, also pulled out. More followed.

Opposite the Hunters Hill Sailing Club, Rip, Rack, Roar & Rumble nearly ended up on the bricks, Ken Williams and Bob Paton’s boat had to be towed ashore, missing Race 8.

Back out on the water, there were more lying down than there were standing. Second overall going into today’s two races, Garde’s crew, Brett Hobson and Alex Johnson (Woollahra SC) sailed down the first run conservatively, not even attempting to hoist a kite. It was to their advantage in the long run.

Behind them, the Slam 12ft Interdominion leaders, Dimension Polyant, went the kite, but quickly hit the drink in the shifty and puffy airs. Many followed behind them, including C-Tech, Gemmell Sails, Frankenskiff, unable to hold up, yet still some behind them chose to hoist – to their disadvantage.

A few left their rig choice till the very last and by the time the start gun went just after 2.35pm and it was apparent by then that the small rig was the only way to go. Those with medium really struggled and came ashore before Race 8 to change down.

The carnage continued into Race 8 and even the top guys had their moments. Dimension Polyant (AUS) nearly put it in on the second upwind leg and struggled to get back in the race. Behind them, Kiwi boat Frankenskiff, skippered by six-time Interdominion champion, Tim Bartlett, was not so lucky, capsizing just off Hunters Hill SC as the wind continued to fluctuate and shift.

Cousins Heidi and David Winning were first out of the race, followed shortly after by Dipolar Software and Martin Hughes from Auckland. Then Craig Ganley and Craig Anderson brought Dimension Polyant (NZ) ashore with a broken mast.

Hosted by Lane Cove 12ft Skiff Sailing Club, with the cooperation of Hunters Hill Sailing Club, the 51st Slam 12ft Skiff Interdominion has layday tomorrow and concludes with two races on Friday, 14 January.

Top eight overall after eight races and two drops:
1 Dimension Polyant (Nick Press/Brad Yabsley LC 12s), 9 points
2 Garde (Brett Hobson/Alex Johnson, WSC), 12
3 Gemmell Sails (Murray Press/Ben Gemmell, LC 12s), 20
4 Nuplex (Alex Vallings/Cameron McDonald, ASC, NZ), 22
5 C-Tech (Chris Reid/Ben du Fluiter, ASC, NZ), 25
6 Frankenskiff (Tim Bartlett/Adam Miller, ASC, NZ), 31
7 Andrew Short Marine (Michael Spies/Damian Vlotman, LC 12s), 32
8 As Good As It Gets (Glenn Armstrong/John Shultz (Well, NZ), 38

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