A scorching hot day was forecast for day one of Fireball International Week incorporating the Australian Championships sailed at Mandurah in Western Australia. The temperatures delivered but the breeze fell a shade short. Whilst air temperatures reached 38c with a thunderstorm threatening, the sea breeze failed to fill, resulting in only one race being completed.
A fleet of 63 boats representing Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Great Britain, Japan and Switzerland took to the turquoise waters of Comet Bay for the first two races of a six race series.
Race one begun in around 6 – 8 knots of breeze, with an impressive clear start by the entire fleet. A Sausage/Triangle/Sausage course was set aiming for a race lasting around 60 minutes. At the windward mark first time around it was the four time world champions Chips Howarth and Vyv Townend of Great Britain with a close lead over another British team of Dave Wade and Tim Saxton with Australians, Robert Inns and Joel Coultas in close pursuit.
The following downwind leg became a bit tactical as the breeze began to drop out. Shortly after the leeward gate rounding the weak breeze dropped to barely 3 knots leaving the fleet becalmed up the second beat. As a lurking thunderstorm threatened to disrupt racing it was two of the overseas boats from Switzerland that sniffed out the new breeze first. Claude Mermod and Ruedi Moser (SUI) got a jump on the fleet and reached to the wing mark opening up a fifty meter lead.
"On the second beat we crossed to the right side of the course and we headed for the dark area of water and clouds" explained Claude.
Their Swiss colleagues Kurt Liechti and Gabriela Ernst also spotted the new pressure rounding second as the chasing bunch clambered to fly spinnakers as the breeze notched back up to 6 knots. However as the race time neared one hour the PRO decided to shorten the course on the completion of the triangle to the delight of the two Swiss teams. In the reshuffle of places, the first Australian boat home was Heather MacFarlane and Chris Payne from BRSC in Victoria.
A long wait ensued whilst the race committee desperately tried to start a second race but alas the wind gods were not playing ball and as the majority of the fleet were wilting in the afternoon heat, all racing was postponed for the remainder of the day.
The forecast for Friday 30 December is for much more wind! 20 – 25 knots of regular sea breeze.
Provisional Results after Day 1:
1st SUI 14799, Claude Mermod/Ruedi Moser
2nd SUI 15028, Kurt Liechti/Gabriela Ernst
3rd AUS 15048, Heather MacFarlane/Chris Payne
4th AUS 14970, Andrew Martin/Andrew Stocks
5th GBR 15013, Chips Howarth/Vyv Townend
6th CZK 14827, Petr Koran/Jakub Napravnik