Devine and Furlong dominant
Locals Brad Devine and Ian 'Footy' Furlong dominated like no others in living memory of the class to win all seven heats of the 96th Australian championship for the International 14 class on the Swan River in Perth. The drought in domination is partly due to the competitive nature of the top ten International 14s in Australia. Year after year, the hot boats rock up and slug it out, swapping race wins and jostling for the title. But not so this year.
Devine and Furlong were close to flawless on their home track to win their fourth national title in 14s. Their local knowledge, preparation and skills in a range of conditions proved a class above other entries in the 32-boat fleet.They certainly make a formidable team. Devine as the talented helm with his true grit, gunslinger approach and Furlong, as the archetypal for’ard hand, who is big and gentle ashore but becomes all athletic power on the water.
In their bag of tricks was dropping their combined crew weight down to172kg, with for’ard hand Furlong shedding some 10kg from his imposing 196cm frame. His previous racing weight was 106kg. Dropping weight however, does not mean the genial big bloke from the west will lose his nickname any time soon.
Renown for their abilities in fresh to strong winds, the duo from the west have been carrying some scars from regattas like the Sydney Worlds in 09/10 and the Adelaide Nationals in 10/11 where they failed to fire in generally light conditions. Defeat, however, can inspire reinvention and the pair went into the Australian championship regatta keen to be consistently fast across a wide wind range.
Devine says the biggest issue they had to deal with was being a “one-trick pony”:“With Footy’s size and weight, and the fact that I was getting older and fatter we were always quick in a breeze but to win regattas this had to change,” Devine said. “Footy lost 10 kilos and I lost seven. We then felt going into the regatta that we were faster in the lighter breeze than we were in the heavy. This for us was a great turn around.
“Having sailed together for quite some time we know each other very well, so sailing the boat fast was not an issue as long as it would go fast. We have a saying that boat speed makes you famous. So if you can get the boat to perform across the range you are half way there.
“On the boat everything is adjustable. This way we can’t get caught out with the wrong settings. For us boat set up is very important and it is critical that everything works perfectly with no break downs. The regatta was held in winds that were very strange (variable strengths and directions) to Perth … so to perform across the range was very pleasing for us.”
Runner up for the title was Stuart Sloss with crew Cameron Elliot. Sloss is, like Devine, a product of Perth Dinghy Sailing Club where his family name is synonymous with a love of fresh conditions and an excellence in boat handling skills.
Sloss and Elliot had only recently teamed up but obviously clicked into a highly-charged and tactically smart combination. Cameron also made the main and jibs for their boat to break up the usual mix of I14 sailmakers who dominate the class. Although P&B in the UK made their kite.
Devine/Furlong carried a set of Alexander sails with a Glasser (USA) spinnaker, while third placed Dave Hayter used all Alegayter, and fourth placed Lindsay Irwin and fifth Roger Blasse flew the popular Irwin Sails.
Hull shapes seem to have stabilised across the Australian fleet with Paul Beiker’s design no.5 the dominate boat. The design is now seven-years old and despite the emergence last year of a Beiker 6 design, there is a view the no.5 is hard to fault. Archie Massey’s boat George 1st was a Beiker 5 and the Briton sailed it to back to back World Championship, including the most recent event held in 2011 at Weymouth, England.
In a show of Aussie fleet strength, seven of the 32 boats competing in Perth had only recently returned from competing in the World Championship in England. Where Victorians Mark Kristic and Scott Cunningham finished fourth, fellow Victorian and former World Champion Lindsey Irwin seventh and South Australian David Hayter finished 10th.
While the Beiker 5 is dominant in this semi-restricted class, one noteworthy difference in carbon hulls across the top place getters was the builder. The first and third placed boats were Canadian-built, while JK Marine of Victoria, Australia, built 2nd, 4th and 5th. The Canadian boats were shipped to Australia in kit form, ready for assembly and finishing.
Devine says the Canadian hulls are light, strong and can be assembled without major drama. De Boca Vista was put together in his shed at home with the help of local boat builder Ben Lawrie. All control lines are under the deck along with the spinnaker chute to provide a clean cockpit to work from.
Like the hulls, the rigs are carbon. Del Boca Vista carried a standard CST 14 mast with deep box-section boom. The runner up Quickshift sported a Southern Spars mast and the remainder of the top five used a variety of Beiker sections.
The other noteworthy element of the 14 is the now universal use of adjustable hydrofoils mounted on the rudder. The foils give lift aft, reduce hull drag and enable the boats to hit 12 knots upwind, while giving stability and sailing depth downwind with speeds of more than 20 knots under spinnaker. The top five boats used foils from either Ben Lawrie, Russell Brown (USA) or Water Rat (USA). These foils are becoming highly refined, high aspect appendages which are adjustable on most boats by simply twisting the tiller extension which in turn drives a mechanism that alters foil trim at any time, including from out on trapeze.
An innovation this year was to fit Tack Tracker GPS devices to all entries. With data downloaded and merged into a single file post race, it was possible to watch and re-run the race on monitors in the clubhouse. The re race made interesting post-race entertainment, exposed awkward truths and surprised many with the learning available from this technology. Re-runs of all races can be viewed here.
While Brad Devine was sweeping all before him, his 73-year-old father Bill showed plenty of class to finish 20th overall sailing with crew Darryl Dedman. That included a 12th in the windy race 3 when conditions exceeded 25 knots. Bill is a class act and class legend who crewed in the winning boat of the 1960/61 Australian Championship and won the 1979 Open World Championship in Los Angeles.
The Devine dynasty was further on show at the regatta with Brad’s eight-year-old son spending hours blasting around in the fresh breezes in a small training boat out in front of the family’s beloved Perth Dinghy Sailing Club. It seems like the next generation of Devine is working hard on boat handling and soaking up local knowledge.
Devine said when it comes to the next big developments for the class it will more than likely be in the reduction of rig weight and foil drag.
“There are some exciting developments happening with regards to rigging and high modulus carbon that will shift the goal posts as far as rig development goes,” he said. “The hull weight should remain the same or if anything be increased slightly to keep slightly older boats competitive and increase their value.”
Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron is to hold the 2012/13 Australian championship off the Brisbane bayside suburb of Manly and the fleet will then focus on the next World championships to be held in Toronto, Canada, in September 2013.
2010/11 Australian Championship - top five results:
1st Del Boca Vista WA (Brad Devine/Ian Furlong 1,1,1,1,1,1,1 ),
2nd Quickshift WA (Stuart Sloss/ Cameron Elliot 3,3,2,3,7,2,7 ),
3rd El Diablo SA (David Hayter/Trent Neighbor 5,4,8,8,2,4,2 ),
4th Ronstan/Irwin Sails VIC (Lindsay Irwin/Rhys Bancroft 6,8,3,2,3,3,12 )
5th Do You Get It VIC (Roger Blasse/Andrew Gilligan 8,15,4,4,5,5,8 )