2010 Musto Etchells Australasian Winter titles - Tight at the Top

2010 Musto Etchells Australasian Winter Championship day 2. - A glorious Queensland winter's day and for the many spectators on the sandy shoreline, the sight of the 52 boat Etchells fleet racing around marks laid in the ocean off Mooloolaba beach was exciting.

Its tight at the top and with four races completed in the Series, a fifth race in the morning will allow a worst result drop and a sixth race tomorrow will mean any of the current top three could take the title.

Principal Race Officers, Ross Wilson and Kevin Wilson, set the course at 195 in 13-15 knots of breeze, causing quite a few ocean white caps.

Race 1 of the day was a clear start - the fleet remembered yesterday's black flag action and showed constraint at the line.

However it was not a good start for Peter Coleman and his crew on Mid Gybe Crisis as they became caught on the barging buoy behind the Committee Boat. They arrived at the start line quite late after spending precious time trying to disengage the boat, and as a consequence Coleman reached the first mark in third last place.

Most of the fleet headed left. First to the top mark was David Turton (Harold Holt) followed by 2004 Etchells World Champion Peter McNeill (Absolute Pearler), Brendan Garner (The Moe Szyslak Experience) and Jeff Rose (Fair Bump Play On).

Conditions moderated to 12-13 knots as the fleet headed for the bottom mark.

Yesterday's race leaders were back in the pack; Hong Kong's Mark Thornburrow (Racer X) rounded in 10th, while Alastair Gair (Velsheda) was in 20th place, one spot behind sailing legend John Bertrand (The Stig).

David Turton (Harold Holt) carried his form to the finish and crossed in first place ahead of Dave Clark (Fifteen), Brendan Garner (The Moe Szyslak Experience), Mark Thornburrow (Racer X), Doug Williams (Vertigo), Mark Johnson (Roulette), Peter McNeill (Absolute Pearler) and Graeme Taylor (Magpie). Alastair Gair (Velsheda) was ninth.

After race 1 of the day, Hong Kong sailor Mark Thornburrow had taken top position on the Series leaderboard (1, 2 and 4) with seven points, NSW sailor David Clark (Fifteen) was second (3,3,2,) on eights points, only one point behind.

New Zealand's Alastair Gair (Velsheda) finished the race in around tenth place, the result pushing him down the leaderboard to third.

Conditions had softened considerably for the 13:00 clear start of race 2 of the day. The Race Committee set Course 1 - 2.5 laps at 195.

Respected offshore and Volvo Ocean sailor Tom Braidwood (Fantazia) started on the pin, behind him was New Zealand sailor Lindsay Kennedy (Addiction).

Braidwood headed left, but most of the fleet took the right as their option, however the light conditions soon forced the fleet to cross back.

At the first mark in a very soft five to six knot breeze, 2000 Mooloolaba Winters champion Julian Plante (North Star) held the lead from Mark Richards (Are We There Yet?), Richard Hammond (Alchemist), Mark Johnson (Roulette), David Rose (This will make her scream), Stephen Gunther (Magic Buzz), John Bertrand (The Stig), Alastair Gair (Velsheda), Dave Clark (Fifteen) Mark Dagge (Una Mas), Graeme Taylor (Magpie) and Mark Thornburrow (Racer X).

Tom Braidwood who had stayed left, got dorked and rounded back in the fleet.

At the bottom mark for the first time Plante and his North Star crew were one minute and 55 seconds ahead of Wild Oats X1 skipper Mark Richards, with Mark Johnson third. John Bertrand had made his move up to fourth as had Mark Thornburrow who was now fifth. Dave Clark was 10th and Alastair Gair rounded in 12th.

The conditions were now very soft and Race Officials shortened the length of the remaining legs.

In the dying breeze Julian Plante managed to establish a two minute, five second lead at the top mark for the second time, over his nearest rival Mark Richards.

The big improver was Tom Braidwood who had managed to sail himself into third place from 12th on the last beat. John Bertrand was next, then Mark Thornburrow and Mark Johnson.

Alastair Gair was back in 21st position, while Dave Clark was nowhere to be seen.

As Plante turned back up the final beat his lead had dwindled to just a minute and five seconds ahead of the fast moving Richards. Up into third was Mark Johnson, followed by Tom Braidwood, Peter McNeill and John Bertrand.

Mark Thornburrow was back in ninth place while Gair, who was clearly not having his best sailing day, was in 11th place.

Plante (North Star) held off the attack from a determined Richards (Are We There Yet?) to cross the line first. Mark Johnson (Roulette) was third, Tom Braidwood (Fantazia) fourth, John Bertrand (The Stig) was fifth, Jake Gunther (The Boat) moved up in the mix to be sixth.

Series leader Mark Thornburrow (Racer X) managed tenth place, Alastair Gair (Velsheda) finished 13th. Surprisingly Dave Clark (Fifteen) was nowhere to be seen, finishing back in 28th.

Mark Thornburrow from Hong Kong holds the 2010 Musto Etchells Australasian Winter Championship Overall Series lead and has a six point buffer going into the final day, tomorrow. Mark Johnson is now second overall, ahead of New Zealand's Alastair Gair.

Quotes of the Day

Alastair Gair (Velsheda), leading the field yesterday but with a 9,13 day is now third. 'We were struggling up wind today ... it was a minefield really.

'Other guys were just doing it better than us. We had some good moments but really just not good enough.'

Big boat skipper Mark Richards (Are We There Yet?)- 34, 2 today. 'After a disaster this morning the second across the line in this afternoon's race was very welcome - we had a few nice shifts and a good race, it's not often two boats split from the fleet like that. I'm gradually getting rid of the rust.'

Mark Thornburrow (Racer X) from Hong Kong and Overall Series leader after 4,10 today. 'We hung in there today; we were pleased to climb up to fourth in the first race of the day, definitely a keeper in this fleet, and we were deep in the second race and improved on the runs, the crew did a really great job.

'I bought this boat, Racer X, after it won the Worlds and when it's tuned right is very quick - looking forward to tomorrow.'

John Bertrand (The Stig) - 17,6 today. 'Terrific racing ... . what a wonderful winter's day. It is just great to be on the water in this very active and expanding class.'

Julian Plante (North Star) - 13,1 today 'Half way up the first beat, we went harder right than most; we kept getting lifted up, we thought we were in the top 10, then the top five, then suddenly we were well clear. We made a good gain on the run, we got better and better pressure. However going back through the fleet, we got really bad air ... we hung in there, we were getting nervous but eventually we were clear and we kept a loose cover on Ricko (Mark Richards) to the end.

'We've not had the regatta we'd hoped for up to now but today's win reminded us why the front of the fleet is so great. The air is clean, the boat speed is better, decisions are easier.'

Mark Johnson (Roulette) - 6,3 today. 'What a glorious day. It was crazy out there today. For a while on the first beat, in the second race we thought we were minutes ahead and we came around third.

'But to be second overall at this stage is good. Our combination is working very well, Peter (Conde) is looking after the rig and the boat speed, Nik (Burfoot) has his head out of the boat - we hope we will get two races tomorrow.'

Dave Clark (Fifteen) - 2,28 today. 'We were very pleased with our second this morning, but we were buried this afternoon. Assuming we can drop that 28, we have 3,3,2 - so its all going to come down to two final races.'