Monjon (Australia) 2012 J24 Victorian Championships – Story by Doug MacGregor
Day one, race one; the wind vanished faster than a Scotsman’s wallet. Four boats not only didn’t finish, they didn’t even get to see the finishing line as it was lifted and moved…with the flag for this being flown from some boat other than the committee boat. We’ve just got to introduce (at least) one drop in this series now that it involves 7 races. That’s what we huffily suggested amongst my crew.
For the next three races the wind couldn’t have been better. To give a clearer picture, we race at the back of what we, on Crackerjack, call the pelaton. The learned amongst you will know this makes the first top mark (before the pack has thinned out a bit) very interesting to say the least. You are holding your line to the mark, the mob arrive in front of you and then…you don’t have the line. You have to make more tacks than Santa Claus makes roof top visits on Christmas Eve. And we made the same mistake over and over and over again. We thought we’d beat that gang of bullying sails to the mark, and never did. Some of the first top marks made stock car racing look like synchronised swimming. All of that aside this was our third time that all five of my crew had been on the water together since May last year. So really, we were “training”…I told my crew it’s called “competition training”…for the nationals. (ahem). We were in awe of the speed and sheer precocious talent the younger crews showed. All along I had been saying to my crew that sailing Js is a whole other ball game. Tell that to the youth posse. Whilst in my modest opinion they were in the most part sailing their J24s way too heeled over…still they made us feel as if we were sailing backwards. So, day one…frustrated, humiliated, depressed, impressed, puzzled and our pants down around our ankles. Strangely “all is not lost” was our battle cry. To be honest I had one hand on my “Boat for Sale” sign.
A feisty wind presented itself to the fleet on day two. “Bring it on” was our new battle cry…we do slogans well, don’t we??…Our belief is the heavy air really finds out the crews who aren’t as well oiled as they could be. That turned out to be us! Race one was touch and go genoa weather…we changed gear more times than Barry Humphries has changed stage costumes. We were please with our speed but completely bemused by our position in the field…er, that would be near back. Race two…I’ll not even get into it that much except to say that jibs became the order of the day (gusts of 28kts)…. We rounded the first top mark and popped the kite…with the vang on(!!!)..A broach, up again, then another broach straight into a Chinese gybe…a very, very, long Chinese gybe. Very long. Waaaaay long. (funny that, the photographer was there too – Ed) An injury to take care of; a jarred neck, then another one; a cut through an eyebrow. Life jackets on folks. No more kite on that run. Uphill again we toiled and we popped the kite again for the second downhill run…back in the saddle as they say. It was beyond our skills to hold the spinnaker in those gusts so down it came and we opted for safety. The final race we decided, for the hell of it, to mix it with the big boys. We crossed the line at the pin end just behind the incredible (and ultimately victorious) Ben Lamb and basically spent the whole of that first leg copying everything he did…steering, trim, tacking…as much as we could anyway. All of which gave us our crowning moment…eighth to the top mark. Felt like we’d won the trophy.
Before I sign off I want to thank my crew. Brave and loyal and tough. They never give up, they never stop trying to be better, they are never casual. Battered and bruised and still they are there, looking at the nationals and knowing we are capable of much, much more. I am lucky to have them.