After a well earned rest to lick wounds and patch up boats, the fleet of 63 teams headed out into Comet Bay for the penultimate day of racing to decide the title winner of the 2012 International Fireball World Championship.
Again Mandurah delivered, this time with 15 – 20 knots from the S/SW but accompanied by some big rolling waves creating ideal conditions for fast Fireball racing. Some competitors were recording their personal best boat speeds and most came ashore with big grins.
The race for the title couldn’t be closer; the two leaders have broken clear of the pack with two races remaining and one discard still to be counted once 9 races are sailed. Tom Gillard and Sam Brearey from Great Britain have their noses in front after two bullets today but it didn’t come easy. They battled all the way round the race track with the lead changing hands several times as they duelled with their Australian rivals, Robin Inns and Joel Coultas. Both race finishes were settled by around one boat length on the finish line.
Back on shore Tom Gillard explained, “Last year we came second in the worlds on count back so we are determined to go one better this year.”
“We have never sailed in Australia before but these are some of the biggest conditions we have sailed the Fireball in.”
Tom’s crew Sam Brearey added, “We have spent a lot of time in the gym training for this regatta and the fitness levels are starting to tell.”
The race committee set the now familiar ‘Whisky’ course, (triangle/sausage/triangle), meaning several legs included super quick reaching but this time in rolling seas of around 2-3m at the top mark. The first reach was a two sail job but right before the bottom mark the leaders started to hoist kites before a tricky gybe mark. On the turn race leader Chips Howarth and Vyv Townend (GBR) caught a nasty gust, sending them wide and allowing the young guns Gillard and Brearey and the ever steady Inns and Coultas to tuck inside.
Some full-on three sail reaching followed, and these two broke away from the chasing pack including Greg Allison and Richard Watson (AUS) and ‘The Big Bang Theory’ sailed by class secretary Ben Schultz and crew Phil Bowley from Adelaide. The sausage leg didn’t take the lead pack long so before the blink of an eye the Brit/Aussie dogfight ensued on the triangle again. It was a close finish but the Brits edged it with Howarth/Townend taking third and Allison/Watson fourth.
Considering the conditions the retirement rate was not too high, there was an assortment of broken masts, rudders and some gear failures but the fleet coped well.
The second race of the day (Race 8) was started after one general recall and conditions were similar, however the waves were noticeably bigger at the windward mark than the wing mark. Surprise surprise, Gillard and Brearey took a narrow lead around the top mark followed by Tom Gordon and Jack Fletcher of Australia and Britain’s Martyn Lewis and Richard Byne. An impressive face plant by the French crew, Eric Moser and Jean Francsois Nouel was well worth an award, as were some of the other airborne roundings. Then the usual reaching battle between the top two boats played out all the way round the race course.
Ben Schultz and Phil Bowley were having a much better day, surfing down the waves into third spot. There were many place changes in the top ten according to who could fly their spinnaker and hold it on the tight reaches. As before, by the second lap, the two boats showing the superior boat handling were Gillard/Brearey and Inns/Coultas. The final triangle was a joy to watch as the two boats ducked and dived playing a game of cat and mouse.
As they turned for home at the final hitch mark it was the young British pair who again nosed in front to win by a boat length. Claiming third was the ever improving Schultz/Bowley partnership. Previous world champions, Howarth and Townend suffered a broken forestay and after a rapid repair, clawed their way back to 16th but effectively ended their chance of the title.
Outstanding performance of the day and handicap prizes went to Greg and Jeff Schultz from Adelaide, and in race 8; Phil and Glenn Peverell from Victoria in Australia.
Going into the final day’s racing Gillard/Brearey lead Inns/Coultas by four points with a big gap to third on the podium. Races 9 & 10 to complete the series will be sailed tomorrow (Saturday), with a first start scheduled for 1100 hrs local time. A second discard comes into play after 9 races are sailed.
The usual free beer was handed out on returning ashore supplemented by a sausage sizzle at the MOFSC Weather for Saturday looks likely to be more of the same, big winds and big waves resulting in big smiles.
Provisional Results after 8 races including 1 discard:
1st GBR 15041, Tom Gillard/Sam Brearey, 1,4,2,(6),1,2,1,1 = 12pts
2nd AUS 15025, Robert Inns/Joel Coultas, 5,3,1,2,(8),1,2,2 = 16pts
3rd AUS 15032, Greg Allison/Richard Watson, 8,2,4,4,6,(21),4,8 = 36pts
4th AUS 14786, John Heywood/Brett Littledike, 7,1,3,7,(17),6,6,9 = 39pts
5th GBR 15045, Dave Wade/Tim Saxton, 3,6,(11),5,5,5,9,6 = 39pts