The forecast for day 3 of the Subaru Flying Fifteen World Championship was for very light airs all day but by the time competitors started to arrive at the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire on Sunday morning, a faint breeze wafted around Dublin Bay tempting PRO Jack Roy to send the fleet of 75 Flying Fifteens out for two more races.
Race 4 of the championship started on time at 1300 hrs under hazy skies and some threatening black clouds over the city of Dublin. The breeze held up at around 7 - 9 knots from an Easterly direction for a two-lap windward/leeward course.
GBR’s Greg Wells / Andrew Jameson, Ian Pinnell / Jeremy White both of Hayling Island SC, and Australia’s Mike Hart / Dean McAullay (RFBYC) appeared to get good starts but after a shifty first leg with the fleet split over both sides of the bay, it was the Apthorp family who popped round the weather mark in the top three. Charles senior with his Irish crew Alan Green and Charlie junior crewing for the Australian entry from the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron, steered by Ashley Smith. These two were pursued by Wells / Jameson, the multiple world champions Graham Vials / Chris Turner (GBR) and Nathan Batchelor / Ricky Rigg (Tynemouth SC).
The pack shuffled downwind as the breeze ebbed and flowed and the early leading pack split gate marks. Upwind for the second time Ashley Smith / Charlie Apthorp kept a close eye on Charles Apthorp / Alan Smith. Greg Wells, Nathan Batchelor and Graham Vials were in close pursuit.
It was all about looking for the pressure and staying in it on the second run and the rich got richer and the poor got poorer as the fleet spread out and the breeze softened. Australia’s Ashley Smith and crew Charlie Apthorp managed to get one over dad, Charles senior who crossed second and Wells / Jameson third. Britain’s Batchelor finished 4th and Vials 5th. Mike Hart and Dean McAullay from Perth, Australia banked a useful 6th. Charlie Apthorp became one of the youngest crews to win a Flying Fifteen Worlds race and celebrated with a ‘whoop’ as he crossed the line.
Of course, the worlds is not all about the semi-pros and the top guys, the corinthian club sailors are racing to improve on their own standards. South Africa’s Patrick Harris and crew Jeremy Kriek from the Royal Natal YC sailed a great race to finish 24th and representing Spain, Jonny Walker (nothing to do with the whisky brand)! and his local stand in crew Carden Kent, sailing for the Royal Club Nautico Puerto Pollenca in Mallorca, finished a superb 26th.
A quick break and PRO Jack Roy got race 2 of the day (5 of the championship) started around 1435 hrs as the skies had darkened over Dun Laoghaire. Clear start this time but the breeze had already started to fade. Again the 75 boat fleet spread both left and right upwind and pressure was king. Nathan Batchelor / Ricky Rigg (GBR) rounded just ahead of Mike Hart / Dean McAullay (AUS) followed by the usual persistent British bulldog pack.
Australia’s Hart / McAullay took the offshore route whilst Batchelor / Rigg went in-shore. Batchelor / Rigg squeezed round the leeward gate with a four boat length lead over the Aussies. The Brit pack were fighting for the remaining top places joined this time by David McKee and Mal Hartland (Dovestone SC).
By the time the majority of the fleet started the second beat the breeze was really struggling and the skies going black above. The second lap was reduced to a crawl as the leaders rounded the gates for the last time and much of the fleet were beginning the final run with drooping spinnakers.
Hart / McAullay had reduced Batchelor / Rigg’s lead to just about three boat lengths with just a very short work to the finish line. Rounding third was Vials / Turner. Mike Hart tried a last ditch attempt to attack Batchelor but Vials used all his considerable experience to continue on one tack to come in and intercept the Aussies and slam dunk in front of them on the finish line.
There was then an agonising wait to see how many boats could finish before the time limit. McKee and Hartland (GBR) crossed 4th and Steve Goacher / Tim Harper 5th. 20 boats managed to limp across the line before the dreaded race officers hammer came down. The luckless Australians Chris Villa and Mark Holmes from Lake Macquarie, sailing an aptly named boat ‘Up Ship Creek’ were only a boat length form the line when the time limit lapsed. Many others had to record a DNF on their scoresheet.
Mike Hart sums up his days racing:
“Pretty good, its quite interesting because we went hard right in the first race of the day and came out quite good and the second race of the day we went hard left and were second round the windward mark so we couldn’t work out which side was paying, pressure was the key today. Staying in pressure gave you a 5-degree lift every time, it was very tricky.”
“There was a lot of indecision on what side to the course to go, I don’t think it mattered which way you went as long as there was pressure there. It was especially tricky on the run because once you were on one side it was very difficult to get across to the other, you just had to live with it.”
“In the second race of the day we caught Nathan and Riggy going down the second run and got within about 3 or 4 boat lengths of them at the leeward mark so decided to attach them on the short beat to the finish, fully aware that it could go wrong and Graham got past and that was what happened but such is life and any result in single figures is good on a day like today.”
After 5 races have been completed the first discard comes into play leaving Graham Vials and Chris Turner in pole position with 9 points net. In second overall is fellow Brits Nathan Batchelor and Ricky Rigg (15 points) meaning the two Ovington Boats representatives sit in 1/2 overall. Andy McKee and Richard Jones are in 3rd overall on 20 points. The first boat to break the British stranglehold is Mike Hart / Dean McAullay (AUS) in 6th overall.
Two local Irish boats remain in 14th and 15th respectively, Ian Mathews / Keith Poole and David Gorman / Chris Doorly both of host club The National YC)
The current New Zealand Flying Fifteen champions Hayden Percy and Scott Pedersen from Napier, sailing a chartered boat, continue to collect very credible top 20 finishes, they scored 20 / 17 to sit in 16th overall. Another long distance traveller, Campbell Alexander and Dave Herridge from Natal YC in Durban, South Africa also continue to put in some very worthy performances finishing 18 and 19 for the day which places them in 17th overall.
Kiwi Hayden Percy on sailing at Dun Laoghaire:
“The boat we have chartered is a difficult boat to get used to but we are getting there slowly, time in the boat means a lot but every race we feel like we are improving but it is pretty tricky. You feel like you get it going one day and then you go the wrong side the next day. Today was a lot steadier for us, you could just take the small shifts, the last couple of days have been hard because the wind would shift 20 degrees one way then carry on another 20 degrees the same way and you can never pick that. We are enjoying it here in Dublin, the weather is probably similar to our winter in New Zealand! “
Racing continues on Monday with a start time of 1300 hrs and a more promising forecast of a bit more breeze.