The nine race 2014 Sydney 38 Australian Championship was hosted by Royal Geelong Yacht Club as part of the Festival Of Sails between the 24th and 26th January, 2014. Whilst the series only attracted a small fleet of 9 yachts including one from NSW, the racing was of a high standard and extremely close. There were five different heat winners and whilst the final result appeared to be a comfortable win for Lou Abraham’s “Challenge” team, it was their consistency that won them the championship. Third overall after day one of racing, “Challenge” enjoyed a good second day of racing with a win, a second and a third to lead the points score into the final day. Conservative tactics on day three kept them out of trouble to increase their lead to 10 points from the fast “Phoenix” owned by Brenton and Jen Carnell sailing in their first national series. “Zen” skippered by Gordon Ketelbey, won two heats but didn’t have a good day in the lighter winds on day three to finish third overall.
Day one provided the windiest day of the regatta with a southerly reaching 23knots at times. “Zen” had a mixed day by winning the first race comfortably and was second in Race 3. A disappointing eighth in Race 2 held them back but things could have been worse! Immediately after finishing the first race ,“Zen’s” steering chain broke. (No doubt as a result of wear and tear from a successful Sydney to Hobart win in the Sydney 38 division). Fortunately, a delay between races and a general recall allowed Gordon and his team to make the necessary repairs to start in Race 2. Perhaps the breakage was on their minds in the windy conditions as an eighth did not help their point score. ‘Cinquante”, with Club Commodore Ian Murray on the helm, appeared to be a real threat but their starting tactics resulted in an OCS in Race 3. “Sierra Chainsaw” sailed by the Mollison family had the most convincing win of the series to win Race 3.
After a long day on the water, a well attended social get together was held in a local pub. It provided a great opportunity for crews to chat and discuss the day’s racing.
Whilst less windy, day two provided a very interesting days sailing. “Challenge” had a battle royal with “Phoenix” in Race 4, but after breaking a tight cover, “Challenge” was able to win back the favoured right hand side of the course to snatch an unexpected victory. The local boys sailing ‘’Cinquante” regained their composure in Race 5 to lead from start to finish. “Zen” with great height and speed covered “Challenge’s” every move to win Race 6 but with a seventh and eighth placing, she had some work to do on the final day of racing.
Day three’s light air conditions provided further challenges for crews. Flat water tempted some crews to carry medium jibs whilst others preferred their lights. Spanners were busy as crews tuned their rigs. The easterly wind direction was remarkably stable so racing was all about starting cleanly, finding a lane and sailing fast. “Playground’’ skippered by the class treasurer, Andrew Robinson, with speed and height sailed his best race of the regatta to win from ‘Clockwork” owned by Gordon Mather and Frank McDermott with “Chutzpah38” skippered by Bruce Taylor, third. All the front runners had poor results. Bruce Taylor, inspired by his performance in the previous race sailed a great race to win Race 8 from “Challenge’ and “Cinquante”. Remarkably, the top five boats finished the race within 45 seconds of each other. The “Challenge” crew was aware that to lose the regatta they had to be OCS or infringe so the tactics were to stay out of trouble. “Zen”, unfortunately fouled “Audacious” skippered by President Greg Clinnick at the start and had to exonerate herself with a turn so it was game over for the “Zen” crew. This time it was “Phoenix’s turn to get the gun followed by “Challenge” and “Clockwork” or “Playground”, depending on which boat you were on!
In summary, the racing was exceptionally close. “Challenge” won because it stayed out of trouble, had mostly good starts, the crew has sailed together for a long time and their afterguard, Chris Jackson, Mike Boswell and Peter Milne were a formidable combination. In one race a jib sheet broke. Ian Taylor and Gareth Leaumont were able to replace it with the brace and sew it back together before the top mark without losing a place. These are the little things that win regattas!
In accepting the trophy, Chris Jackson acknowledged that it was a privilege to be involved in what will be Lou’s final campaign and he felt Lou’s presence on board through crew conversations and phone calls throughout the regatta. “Challenge” is now for sale. On another nostalgic note, Mike Boswell who was the tactician on “Challenge” was on board “Another Challenge” when Lou first won a National Championship and four other members of the crew have been involved in all four of Lou’s wins at the national level.
There were other reasons for celebrations at the end of the regatta. Leith Hore, the tactician on “Clockwork ‘’ and Brianna Lynne who also sails on “Clockwork” announced their engagement .
In addition, Ken and Kate Christensen, had a baby girl , Zoe two days after the regatta concluded. Ken is the tactician on “Audacious“, otherwise known as “the Love Boat”. The Southern Chapter congratulates both couples and best wishes for the future.