Story by Dave Suda
The Australian J24 fleet is returning to its glory days and enthusiastic owners and crews are reaping the benefits, as I reflect on another excellent regatta.
The MONJON Victorian Championship went along without a hitch last weekend, largely due to the huge amount of preparation from a dedicated team of volunteers, led by the Victorian Association’s own Sarah Thompson and Doug Macgregor.
The weather, race committee and eager owners and crews combined to provide exhilarating racing and spectacular viewing for those lucky enough to be out there. Throughout the fleet we could see the individual battles, all as important as the next.
Up front Ben Lamb hung in on a testing Saturday and then took control on Sunday in a performance as good as I have seen in a J24, to hold the Pacemaker and Convicts teams at bay. Kaotics win all the more important as they helped NSW get one back, after Pacemaker had taken out the NSW and National Titles earlier this summer.
I remember racing Ben Lamb in similar conditions at the 2006 Worlds when Kaotic won Race 7 and we finished third, and I can safely say they have lost none of their speed, particularly downwind.
The racing between Kaotic, Pacemaker and Convicts Revenge in the big breeze on Sunday was as tough as it gets, as we pushed each other to the limit. Stephen Girdis, a multiple National Champion and successful worlds campaigner has certainly regained his J24 mojo and would have probably taken the title, if not for two separate incidents with hyperactive which resulted in costly penalty turns.
The battle for top 5 honours was intense but Adam Evans and Hugo Ottoway showed cool heads on Sunday with solid performances in the strong northerly, enough to keep the chasing pack at bay, which was no easy task considering the improvement of the next bunch. Our first female skipper Kirsty Harris on Hyperactive was a very credible sixth, followed by Jumping Jack Flash who had fourth all but stitched up with consistently strong finishes, until their OCS in the final race. In eighth and sailing a chartered boat we had Dave West, followed by By the Lee and Make My Jay rounds out the top 10.
Normally a report might stop at the top ten but the next four boats need special mention, especially when 11th place is Joel Aulich helming Gridlock. Sailing with dad Steve on strings and sisters Megan and Kate keeping the front half in order with Steph Strong, this was their first regatta and I look forward to watching this crew cause headaches further up the order in the near future. Ron Thomson finished 12th to comfortably keep the ‘Thommo Cup’ in Victoria, followed by Michael Lewenhagen in Excite your Sense. This was a very solid result considering most of their energy went towards ensuring we had an awesome Saturday evening BBQ, which we did! Thank you Mark Haughton (VIC Measurer) for your efforts getting the fleet measured, and in some cases painted, so we had another boat on the water.
Andrew Hunting and his youth team are new to the class and in finishing 14th they kept 6 boats behind them in their first regatta, despite carrying maximum points in the final two races following gear failure. Smart thinking from their team got the boat home safely and I must say it is great to see the rejuvenated “Sidetracked” being sailed by such a great bunch of guys.
The racing was very tough, and as we continue to tweak our equipment, Ben Lamb highlighted the value of perfecting the pin end start. At the pointy end, the crew work was super slick and the speeds were so even, that in most cases if you want to win races, it comes down to who gets off the line best. This is especially the case when the pin end is favoured and the left side of the course is paying, as it has been in almost every race of both the Nationals and the Vic States. At the Nationals each race went to whoever won the battle at the pin end, and on Sunday Kaotic did it in every race for three wins!
So where to from here you ask? Well at the moment a Victorian boat holds the NSW Title, a NSW boat holds the Victorian Title and the Nationals went the way of the Victorians by a solitary point. VIC 2 lead NSW 1. Bring on the NSW Titles later this year! One Design all the way.
by Dave Suda