Another terrific performance by WA skippers at the DragonFlite 95 National Championships which concluded at Austin Lakes this afternoon. Congratulations to WA's Andrew Grist and Barry Donaher for taking the first two places in the regatta. NSW skipper and DF Class Association President, Phil Burgess rounded out the podium taking third postition.
It would be fair to say that Austin Lakes was not at it's best over the last two days. Those who had not sailed here before would be scratching their heads as the winds blew all day from the east. Typically, an easterly around Perth is not a very friendly wind for sailing. There are plenty of shifts, holes, changes in direction and strength to contend with. Normally, the sea breeze is strong enough to eventually take over, but when the low pressure trough is offshore, the sea breeze has a great deal of difficulty breaking through. Unfortunately, that is what happened over the last two days.
Difficult for skippers but similarly difficult for Race Committees trying to set courses, as the wind shifts can be 30 to 40 degrees in a very short period of time. The best you can do is try to estimate the median, set a course long enough so that legs take a number of minutes, and hope like crazy that there is enough of a change in direction to make the leg reasonable.
Our boatman for the event, Rob Mews was kept extreemely busy as Race Officer Warren Rock tried feverisly to provide good fair courses for the participants.
Day One was sailed as the Qualifying Series. Ten reaces, each with two heats, were completed, and overnight, the leaders were Barry Donaher, Phil Burgess and Andrew Grist. Races were quite long, taking between 12 and 15 minutes to complete. This allowed skippers who did not get a great start, time to sail themselves back into the race.
Early on day 2, Phil Burgess took off, winning two of the first three races. It seemed as though Phil was on a roll, but unfortunately for him, the wheels started to get a little wobbly towards the lunch break.
Meanwhile, the wind really died out and was coming from all directions. Only one thing to pass the time....a Rum Race. These races have a tendency to be very unusual. First - a Le Man start, with all skippers holding their boat on the shore. The call wasn't "Boats in the water" - it was "Boats in the Air".
Those skippers at the favoured end were instantly hit with a 360 penalty to try to keep the fleet together. At the first mark, the first boat arriving was awarded a 720 penalty and the second got a 360. The course only gets announced after the first boats reach the mark, so nobody is quite sure where the race will lead. Lots of fun and plenty of sledging, joking and general sillyness.
That frivolity filled in a bit of time, until the easterly eventually beat out the sea breeze and filled in again. Then it was back to the racing that mattered. In an attempt to get a few more heats in, the course was shortened to two laps.
In the Silver Fleet, the battle between Alan Griffith, Jurgen Luther and Paul Martin was on. Early in the day, Alan seemed to be in the driver's seat, but Jurgen was working hard to lay out the challenge. Paul didn't quite get going, but he did keep the others honest. By the conclusion of racing, Jurgen had opened up a good lead over Alan, with Paul in the third place.
In the Gold fleet, the scores sea-sawed around, until Andrew found a groove, sailing consistently and not making as many mistakes as the others. Ian Sherriff was making a run at the leaders, finishing the event with a 3,1,1 score card. IT was just a little too late, and Ian missed the podium by a meagre two points.
Our Champion for 2020 is Andrew Grist from Albany - Congratulations Andrew. It is a great result for the Albany club, who have really embraced the DF boats and now boast the National Champ.
Second place went to our US Aussie, Barry Donaher.
And filling out the podium, Mr. DF himself, Phil Burgess:
Thank you to all the Volunteers who put in a great effort to host these inaugural Nationals. We were really fortunate to have the services of Roy Granich, who flew over from Auckland in New Zealand to manage the Simple Heat Racing System. Roy has written the computer scoring program and is passionate about spreading the word about the benefits of the scoring method. He ran the fleet board, the online live scores and generally was a terrific source of information to ensure the event was managed effectively.
Our Race Officer for both the 65 and 95 fleets was Warren Rock. A huge thank you to Warren for everything you have done to manage the racing and keep us all working effectively as a team, with great humour and fabulous stories of earlier events you have been involved in.
Ross Bennett, Rob Mews and Alan Stuart all contributed their time and energies to ensure there were "hands on deck". The biggest thank-you goes to Peter Buchanan, who took the prime role in the management and administration of the regatta. Peter's contribution was outstanding, and the success of the Nationals can be linked clearly back to his efforts.
Pete Buchanan awarding Jurgen Luther with his Gold medal for Silver Fleet. We have a rule here in WA called the 24 hour rule which is that if you win a medal, you have to wear it for 24 hours.....
The overall results can be found here. If you click on the image, it will take you to the website.