Australian J/24 Nationals
January 30, 2016
Host for this year’s Australian J/24 Nationals was Sandringham YC, where 19 teams showed up to compete for class honors. With a variety of conditions, it was not surprising that the local “Black Prince of Sandy” (David Suda) made sure no one vanquished his Pacemaker team on home waters. Here is how it all went down way. “Day one: After an abandoned practice day and with the possibility of day one being a no-go as well, it was great to be able to say we got three good races in. The first two races were with most people on genoas in a 12-15 knot SE breeze, and the third race onto jibs with the wind coming in around the 18-20 knot mark. As winds came up, the shifts got trickier and swung through a wider arc with the beach side of the course paying dividends more often than not. A little confusion with reading the sailing instructions or not… I saw a number of boats taking the unnecessary scenic route around the hitch mark on the second leg…ugh! In general, the fleet was well behaved, and everyone was happily back in the marina showing off their battle flags. The Black Prince of Sandringham was in the lead with a 1,2,1 from Steve Girdis, Brendan Lee, Ron Thomson and Simon Grain. Day two: perfect sailing weather (it’s always like this at Sandy!) with a 10 knot SE breeze and flat water. Shirts-and-shorts sailing so the northern hemisphere overseas visitors were very happy. Three races in, and the big mover was Jet with two bullets and a second to Convicts in race six. With the drop now in place, this brought the leader board to Pacemaker on 9 points from Jet on 13, two back to Convicts and a further five back to By the Lee. In a great display of sailing, our ‘local guest’ skipper Peter Lee (Brendan’s father, By the Lee) sailing one of our youth boats (Sidetracked) in a last minute entry finished third (11 places ahead of the boy racer son) in one of the races and was up there for most of the other two. We’ve always known that Sidetracked (a revitalised Jarkan) was a fast boat and that Pete is a good driver (he taught Brendan all he knows, and plenty he has forgotten). Might be time to think about your own boat Pete! In other news, after the first day’s clean racing, we had the first protests so the room was busy–a certain lady skipper in the middle of it, I gather. Bruce Alexander on Gunboat with a new crew did a bit of trawling with the kite but was otherwise in the thick of it. Dave McKay on Stockcar had his drop with an OCS–gotta listen to the radio Dave! In general, the racing was tight with an average of 35-40 minutes per race and the fleet finishing within four minutes in each race. Following a lay day, racing would resume on Thursday. Day three: A tough day on the water with southerly winds of 22-28 knots and big seas—hard work upwind but great surfing downwind. Only two races were sailed with the third being canned when in the starting sequence, I think many were quite glad to be going back to the marina. Dave Suda, ‘The Black Prince of Sandringham,’ showed his mettle again with two wins from Simon Grain and Steve Girdis in a tie for second in the first race and from Simon Grain and then Steve Girdis in the second race. Brendan Lee was fourth in both races. Brendan and Dave were both very fast upwind, with Jet picking up the places downwind. ‘Mr J/24′ Hugo Ottaway in Bruschetta VI, Robyn Coombs in Hyperactive, Ron Thomson the new National President in Kicking and Dave McKay in Stockcar were the bunch fighting out the placings from fifth to eighth—all pretty close on points so it was anyone’s final placing in this group. Of particular note was John Neville in Vice Versa lying in ninth and sailing very well (consistent placings gave John his best Nationals position so far…well done John). Up to the prior day, the Thommo Cup was alive and well with equal numbers of wins to both Janette and Ron, but the stronger conditions have seen Ron take two wins off Janette. The forecasted lighter conditions may suite Janette more. This was the first Nationals the two have battled it out in their own boats. There are the usual hard luck stories on windy days, and Peter Lee’s day came to an abrupt end with the kite and Fitzy’s head being trashed. Fitzy got stitches in the Sandy Hospital but is ok (hard head!). There were a few skippers licking their unexpected placings at the back end of the fleet. Just remember guys…you are in a classy even if smaller fleet than we would like and the boats further up the food chain are not going to give anything away. It’s tough and getting tougher. A belated welcome to Zibo Madej from CYCSA in Adelaide with a crew of Chinese from Shanghai. Not everyone speaks English on the boat, so it is a vertical learning curve for the crew. Well done Zibo and thanks for coming to the regatta, with more practice and time I hope we will see you again and further up the fleet. The handicap placings were very similar with Dave Suda leading from Simon Grain, Steve Girdis, Brendan Lee and Hugo Ottaway. Day four (the finale): The Black Prince of Sandringham returned to his throne. The final day was a series of ups and downs. Steve Girdis sailing Convicts Revenge came up from third to claim second and Jet went down to third. With the first race sailed in lighter airs, Jet had the edge on speed and moved closer to the top with another win. Dave was getting worried, but Brendan reminded us all that Simon hadn’t had his bad race yet and he did in the third race of the day (our new drop!). With the breeze building throughout the day, Pacemaker reeled off a string of firsts and Convicts a string of seconds. Game over. Brendan and Hugo came in with consistent thirds and fourths to cement their overall fourth and fifth positions. Kirsty steering Robyn Coombs’ Hyperactive took sixth even with an apparently spectacular Chinese on one of the runs. Ron Thomson won the Thommo Cup but Janette did a great job sailing in the rough conditions to record a very consistent result mid-fleet. The Handicap result mirrored the One Design except that Hugo took out third overall from Jet in fourth. The committee and club excelled at a memorable presentation dinner with the usual ‘short Scottish’ speech from President Doug MacGregor and MC for the raffle and other comments from the Class’ funniest resident wit John Neville. The Victorian committee did a great job with the whole organization of the regatta. It’s a huge job, and the team brought it together very well. The club’s race management volunteers led by Graeme Watt and Craig Wiley also excelled on and off the track—a big thank you on behalf of all the competitors. Thanks also to our long time sponsor MonJohn Security for once again supporting the regatta, also to John Neville’s Data Agility and Iguana Design for contributing to the success of the event. Luis Ferreiro’s on water photography is superb: go to http://www.sportsnap.com.au. For more Australian J/24 Nationals sailing information, visit http://j24.com.au/.