2013 49er & 49erFX West Australian Championships
Over the weekend of 16th and 17th of March RFBYC played host to the exciting Olympic skiff classes, the 49er and 49erFX. A strong fleet of thirteen 49ers and 4 49erFX´s turned out to see who would claim this years state title for the respective classes. The 49er and 49erFX classes would race against each other for the first time in WA. This provided an excellent opportunity to see how the 49erFX compared with the 49er.
The girls in the 49erFX class have been training very hard leading in to the regatta and they faired very well against the 49er. In another first there was to be a windward gate added to the traditional windward leeward course. This made for exciting top mark tactics and kept racing very tight. Overall it was an exciting development for the class. Saturday morning conditions were SE, 10 to 18kts. Certainly the first 2 heats were the windiest and provided good thrills and spills for those watching. Thankfully the breeze held in to allow 4 good races.
The form teams to watch were Dave Gilmour and Sam Phillips, Tom Johnson and Jasper ´Fang´ Warren and reigning champions Steve Thomas and Paul Kelly. Tessa Parkinson and Kate Lathouras were the form team for the 49erFX crews as they are the current Australian Champions. Ella Giudice with fill in crew Bayden Schutte would keep them honest throughout the regatta. In the fresh morning conditions the form teams asserted their dominance over their respective fleets. A number of other teams pushed them hard but were unable to lodge them from podium places.
The 49erFX´s were proving very competitive against the 49ers and during race 2 it was the top two FX teams leading at the first windward gate. After the first session of racing the top three 49ers were separated by 2 points. Tessa and Kate had three straight wins and a 2nd giving them a good early lead. Late Saturday afternoon saw the 49ers and 49erFX´s take over Freshwater Bay and the clubhouse filled with the dulcet tones of Pete Nicholas who provided live commentary for the three afternoon heats. The south easterly had hung on through the day and provided a steady 5 to 10 kts. The club house gave a great vantage point of the start, bottom gate and finish line and I am sure the crowd enjoyed the commentary of the young 505 guru.
The lighter conditions brought everyone back in the game and results were varied for most of the crews. This was not the case for Thomas and Kelly who put on a clinic to win all three heats. Giudice fought back hard in the afternoon and posted 2 wins and a 2nd to keep them in the hunt for the title. Saturday night saw the leaderboard headed with Thomas 8 points, Gilmour on 13 points and Johnson on 14 points.
The leaderboard for the 49erFX´s had tightened up considerably from the morning session with Parkinson leading by 1 point from Giudice. Sunday morning was an early start with a 9am warning signal. This time the morning easterly was looking unlikely to last long enough to enable three races. The morning breeze can often be tricky, particularly when it is fading fast. This proved to be the case in this race. Thomas had an altercation with a Mirror dinghy and this cost them dearly. Gilmour was in a good position and looking to gain points on the lead. Rookie competitors Matt Jerwood and Alex Landwehr were sailing a great race along with Duncan Head and Simon Marks. The last downwind leg saw Johnson and Warren roll the dice and head to the right of the course. The rest of the fleet had gone to the left of the course away from the shoreline. Johnson and Warren timed their gybe perfectly to allow them to run with pressure to the line and steal the win from Duncan Head. The fickle easterly hurt both Thomas and Gilmour and they finished with 6th and 5th place respectively.
With lack of breeze all teams were sent back into shore for lunch, which left 4 heats to go for the afternoon. All top three 49ers were within reach of taking the title. This meant we were set up for a great afternoon of racing. For the 49erFX teams it was a battle for 1st between Parkinson and Giudice and for 3rd between Monique De Vries and Lauren Dawson. The final battle for the titles began at 1pm with an eight to ten knot seabreeze, perfect racing weather for 49ers and 49erFX´s.
Parkinson struggled in the first of the afternoon and posted their first 3rd place for the regatta while Giudice took out the win. Points were tied with both teams on 12 points with one drop. The 49ers had two newcomers to podium places with Matt Jahn and Leo Showell finishing 2nd and Adam Glaskin and James Loughridge finishing 3rd. Johnson finished a disappointing 6th with Gilmour in 4th which made it hard for them to catch Thomas who managed to win heat 9.
Parkinson managed to steady the nerves and win the next two heats for the 49erFX and this pretty much assured them of the title. Johnson and Warren fought back hard and won two heats in a row but unfortunately for them Thomas was good enough to finish 2nd in both races. Gilmour and Phillips finished the regatta well with a solid win for the last heat. With keel boats, power boats and 49ers flying down breeze, traffic management was a major issue and gave us all an insight as to what it must be like sailing skiffs on Sydney Harbour!
This was the most successful State Championships in history for the 49er class in WA. The quality of the fleet has improved steadily over the years and will continue to improve. The 49erFX teams have been a great addition to our racing and we look forward to more 49erFX teams competing in future years.
The racing was very exciting and though the top teams had their way this year there are a number of teams that are nipping at their heals and already looking forward to next year. There are a number of boats for sale in Perth at the moment and this class is in high demand around Australia. We encourage people who are interested in the class to get along to our racing and see the action first hand. If you are interested in having a sail or would like more information about the 49er and FX feel free to contact Matt Jahn through mattjahn(at)hotmail.com or look for the Western Australian 49er/FX Association page on Facebook.
The association wishes to thank RFBYC and all the volunteers who helped to make the regatta such a great success, in particular Andy Curnow (RO) and Debbie Blaauw. Matt Jahn President WA 49er/FX Association.