The Australian 18ft Skiff champion Smeg team was back to its best form today claiming Race 4 of the JJ Giltinan Championship after a mighty battle on Sydney Harbour.
Smeg’s final winning margin was 1 minute 11 seconds over championship leader appliancesonline.com.au, but this doesn’t truly reflect the closeness of the contest.
Lee Knapton, Ricky Bridge and Mike McKensey grabbed the early lead on Smeg, but had to survive a race-long battle with David Witt, Tom Clout and Tom Anderson on appliancesonline.com.au before they received the judge’s flag.
New Zealand’s Yamaha (David McDiarmid, Matthew Steven and Bradley Collins) was never far from the two leaders for almost the entire race and finished only 15 seconds behind in third place.
Another New Zealand team, Knight Frank (Riley Dean) also put up a great performance to stay with the three leaders for most of the race before falling back a little over the final two legs of the course.
Defending champion Gotta Love It 7 (Seve Jarvin) finished fifth, after being recalled at the start, and John Winning’s Yandoo was sixth.
Provisional points after four races has appliancesonline.com.au leading on nine points, followed by Smeg on 12, Gotta Love It 7 on 14, Yamaha 18, Thurlow Fisher Lawyers (Michael Coxon) on 20 and Coopers 62-Rag & Famish Hotel (Jack Macartney) on 31.
The position will be much clearer after tomorrow’s race when discarded totals will be more relevant.
Rig selection for Race 3 was automatic as all teams went for the smaller #2 sails, but it was an entirely different story today with hard decisions being made at the very last moment.
Appliancesonline, Coopers 62-Rag & Famish Hotel and New Zealand's C-Tech were the only in the top six placed teams to go for the big (#1) rigs, while Smeg, Gotta Love It 7, Yamaha and Thurlow Fisher Lawyers all went with the smaller sails.
The race began dramatically when Gotta Love It 7, Thurlow Fisher Lawyers and Triple M were all recalled for breaking the start.
Smeg was quick to grab the lead on the windward leg from the start in Taylor Bay across the harbour to Rose Bay with the New Zealand trio hot on their tail and with appliancesonline close by in fifth place.
Unfortunately for the four-handed C-Tech crew, a torn spinnaker shortly after rounding the buoy basically put an end to their day and the crew had to limp around the entire course without a spinnaker and came home in 25th place.
At the bottom mark Smeg retained the lead from Knight Frank, Yamaha and appliancesonline and this group had edged ahead of the large group vying for the next eight placings.
Gotta Love It had staged a good recovery to fifth, ahead of Peroni (Nick Daly). Thurlow Fisher Lawyers, Yandoo, Noakes Youth (Ash Rooklyn), Coopers 62-Rag & Famish Hotel, Mojo Wine (James Ward) and De’Longhi (Simon Nearn).
Smeg’s lead at the Clarke Island mark was out to 30 seconds over Knight Frank, while appliancesonline and Yamaha were battling for third place, one minute from the lead.
Witt and his appliancesonline team used their bigger sails to advantage on the tight run to Chowder Bay where only two boat lengths separated them from Smeg.
Following the second work from Taylor Bay to Rose Bay, Smeg’s margin was 15 seconds, but appliancesonline was going to gain an advantage with her bigger sails on the run back into Taylor Bay.
The two teams, as well as the two Kiwi teams, which were hot on tails gave the crowd plenty to cheer as they raced with little between them over the following two legs of the course.
Smeg was just three boat lengths ahead as spinnakers were set for the run back down to the bottom mark, but Smeg’s crew work was immaculate as they managed to hold off the strong challenges by appliancesonline and Yamaha.
Everyone viewing the race was totally entertained by one of the best races we’ve seen for a long while and the outcome of the championship is likely to go down to the final leg of the last race on Sunday.
Some of the top Sydney teams haven’t shown their previous form and as the conditions change over the next four days there could be a few more surprises in store for the crowds.
Race four results