Mandurah delivered on the third and final day of racing of Fireball International Week incorporating the Australian Championships. Three races were completed in winds ranging from 13 – 20 knots and a bumpy sea in Comet Bay. The fleet of 65 boats from 8 countries headed out in partly cloudy conditions and a building sea breeze, accompanied by pods of inquisitive dolphins.
With all four races counting for the overall result and no discard it became a game of consistency with four time world champions Chips Howarth and Vyv Townend (GBR) sealing victory with a score line of 5,7,4,1, to finish with 17 points, eight points clear of the new Australian Champions John Heywood and Brett Littledike from Adelaide, South Australia. The third podium position was taken by Dave Wade and Tim Saxton of Great Britain.
The second race of the championship and first race of the day was started in a 13 knot building sea breeze and the PRO set a Triangle/Sausage/Triangle course providing some superb reaching legs. Chips Howarth and Vyv Townend led round the first mark but were overhauled by Adelaide based Ben Schultz and Phil Bowley (AUS) who maintained a good lead until the final downwind leg. Ben misjudged the final turning mark to the finish and had to settle for 5th. It was just not his day as he damaged his mainsail and had to miss the second race.
Fellow Adelaide sailors Robin Inns and Joel Coultas (AUS) took advantage taking the gun ahead of yet another Adelaide boat, Nathan Stockley and Dave Kemp (AUS), with John Heyward and Brett Littledike (AUS) making it an Adelaide 1,2,3.
The breeze slowly built accompanied by a rolling sea making life quite difficult for the lower end of the fleet and a number of capsizes kept the safety boats busy. Race 3 was a clean start turning into a real battle between Tom Gillard and Sam Brearey (GBR) and Robert Inns and Joel Coultas (AUS). The two reaching legs of the triangle turned very tight and it became a game of cat and mouse, as to whether to sail high with two sails or low under kite.
Eventually the British pair just held on to take the bullet from the Australians with Dave Wade and Tim Saxton claiming third. The overall placings were now very close and the regatta would be decided on the last race of the day.
About a third of the fleet retired from racing the last race as the breeze topped out at around 20 knots with a good rolling sea. It became a clincher as some of the top contenders suffered damage and dropped out of contention. Robert Inns and Joel Coultas (AUS) and Tom Gillard and Sam Brearey (AUS) were both scored DNC, whilst Nathan Stockley and Dave Kemp were scored OCS, disappointingly having won the race on the water.
This left the International Week and Australian Championship titles wide open. After a close fought race with Inns and Coultas scoring OCS, this left a real dog fight between two British boats, Chips Howarth and Vyv Townend and a steadily improving Martin Lewis and Richard Byrne. On the last hitch to the finish line Howarth and Townend clinched the win and sealed victory in International Fireball Week, the warm up event for the 2012 Fireball Worlds in a few days time.
The strong British contingent filled first, third and fourth places but other notable performances came from early championship leaders Claude Mermod and Ruedi Moser who claimed 5th overall and Martin Korbovy and Pavel Winkler from the Czech Republic with a respectable 7th overall.
With a fifth in the last race John Heywood and Brett Littledike sailing ‘Renegade’ were crowned Australian Champions ahead of Greg Allison and Richard Watson sailing ‘AEG’ also part of the large Adelaide mob. With a steadily improving score line, legendary West Australian sailor and veteran Fireball champ, Gordon Lucas, crewed by Jake Flintoff, claimed third spot on the podium, racing an aptly named ‘Second Wind’ The Inns family from Adelaide filled fourth and fifth with Peter Inns and Chris Went just four points ahead of the unlucky Robin Inns and Joel Coultas who were forced out of the final race without the option of a discard.
International Week Results: (top five, provisional)
1st GBR 15013, Chips Howarth/Vyv Townend, 17pts
2nd AUS 14786, John Heywood/Brett Littledike, 25pts
3rd GBR 15045, Dave Wade/Tim Saxton, 29pts
4th GBR 15056, Martin Lewis/Richard Byrne, 33pts
5th SUI 14799, Claude Mermod/Ruedi Moser, 36pts
Australian Championships Results: (top five, provisional)
1st AUS 14786, John Heywood/Brett Littledike, 25pts
2nd AUS 15032, Greg Allison/Richard Watson, 40pts
3rd AUS 14782, Gordon Lucas/Jake Flintoff, 60pts
4th AUS 15026, Peter Inns/Chris Went, 71pts
5th AUS 15025, Robin Inns/Joel Coultas, 75pts
The fleet now have a well earned layday before the commencement of the 2012 International Fireball Worlds on 2nd January, 2012 hosted by the Mandurah Offshore Fishing and Sailing Club.
The International Fireball Class would like to wish all sailors and supporters a happy new year with plenty of good sailing in 2012.
For full results visit www.fireballaustralia.org