This seasons WA Dragon State Championship is split into two events taking place over the weekend of Dec 10 - 11 and the second between Feb 11 - 12 held under the burgee of the Royal Freshwater Bay YC (Co host of the 2019 Dragon Worlds).
Racing on the first weekend was scheduled for a series of four races on the Swan River with early morning and late afternoon start times to avoid the busy club racing periods during the day.
A compact but competitive Dragon fleet rose to a stunning clear sunny morning on Saturday (10 Dec), accompanied by a very patchy and shifty breeze. On the way out to the start a Southerly streamed up Freshwater Bay but by the time the race committee had set up the course it had softened to a more normal 8 - 10 knots from an NE/E direction.
A two lap windward/leeward course was set and with oscillating shifts the fleet split in half and at the top mark it was John Cassidy (Seajoy) who led the way with Willy Packer’s (Scoundrel) in close pursuit. The two leaders chose opposite gybes and broke from the rest of the pack.
At the gate it remained Cassidy with a three boat length lead with Packer breathing down his neck. A newly formed Dragon team of Mark Lovelady (helm), John Longley (middle) and John Hay (bow) sailed into third spot in (Saphira).
Places remained the same until the dying moments when John Cassidy decided to round the gate and proceed up the course for a third lap allowing Willy Packer to steal the bullet (with an evil grin on his face)!
Cassidy realising his mistake was able to do turn the bow down and just get away with maintaining second place with Mark Lovelady claiming third and Dragon vets Rob Black, Syd Lodge and big Dave Hay slipping over in fourth.
Race two started in similar conditions, a swinging early morning breeze varying from 6 - 10 knots in pressure. This time Peter Bowman’s (Aeolus) was rather skilfully squeezed out at the CB end of the start by young gun Ethan Prieto-Low (Hotspur) and already second tier on the start. Generally the fleet believed strongly in the Western shore but the shifts were anything from 40 - 60 degrees adding to the stress levels for race officer John Taylor (JT).
John Cassidy and Willy Packer both wanted to go left off the pin end of the start and they were proved correct when they rounded the top mark in the same order as race 1. Mark Lovelady and his team had worked their way up into third again.
On the second upwind Packer started to close up on Cassidy to a point where a tacking dual played out. However Cassidy slipped out of the clutches of Packer to round the top mark in the lead again.
This time the team of John Cassidy, Rob Perrin and Adam Kay managed to hold on and claim their first bullet of the regatta. Packer had to settle for second and Mark Lovelady scoring another third. A good performance by the 17 year old Ethan Prieto-Low backed up by dad, John Low and Brad Stout sailed an excellent race to card a fourth.
PRO JT sent the fleet home for refreshments, a snooze and some boat meddling whilst the Swan River was invaded by club fleets of all shapes and sizes during the busy lunchtime racing period.
By late afternoon the S/SW sea breeze is usually well established but although the bright blue skies remained, the breeze remained rather lighter at around 8 - 12 knots and still very shifty.
Race 3 started at 1630hrs local time with two boats called OCS, Peter Bowman (Aeolus) and Mark Lovelady (Saphira). Bowman returned but alas Lovelady carried on which was a shame as she was in good stead with a pair of thirds. Yet more drama on the start with a penalty turn for Willy Packer which meant he had work to do.
But with a bigger three lap course and very testing conditions it was still all to play for. Ray Chatfield (who incidentally was one sailor who changed sails during the lunchtime break) sailed a good beat to round in the lead from Rob Black (Nereus) and Sandy Anderson (Linnea).
Downwind it was nip and tuck with the pressure applied to Chatfields team. Places stayed the same but by the third lap Willy Packer was back on the scene and ready to pounce. Also Mark Lovelady had done a good job to get up to second only to find out later he was DSQ!
The last downwind was tense with Ray Chatfield sailing with Peter Massee and Karen Chatfield, pursued all the way to the finish line. In the fading breeze it was a good win for Wizzardry with Packers (Scoundrel) stealing second due to the Lovelady misdemeanour. Sandy Anderson sailing with John Moncrief and Stephan Eyssautier were promoted to third.
Day two of the regatta brought an 0830 hrs early Sunday morning start and begun with the now all too regular hot temperatures and light E/NE breeze. However this was not to be any ordinary Sunday morning. The breeze literally went all round the clock driving the PRO mad!
The longer three lap course with breeze ranging from 3 - 17 knots from any direction between 180 - 240 degrees really kept all competitors with their eyes out of the boat!
It was a good clear start with most of the fleet second guessing the first big shift. Peter Bowman (Aeolus) chose the southerly shore going hard left whilst Mark Lovelady bombed badly opting for the right.
But it was the experience of Willy Packers long term crew (Julian Harding and Denis Culity), who with the bit between their teeth, really were tacking on every shift and choosing well.
Scoundrel rounded just ahead of Aeolus with Ray Chatfield’s (Wizzardry) third. Whilst the race management team were busy lifting every mark of the course juggling the shape at every turn, Scoundrel were playing the covering game with Aeolus challenging on every leg.
Places remained much the same on lap 2 but a big shift back to 185 degrees and a drop in pressure was threatening a change of leader. Bun Lynn (reserve skipper of Linnea) seemed to have his own private zephyr and much to Packer’s frustration glided past to leeward to snatch the lead. Bowman’s (Aeolus) also exchanged places as the breeze collapsed altogether at the top mark. Lynn (Linnea) patiently waited for the Westerly to fill whilst Packer chose to protect his position form Bowman who sailed past on an Easterly!
Sure enough the dark water and the new wind filled from the West and Linnea took off downwind regaining her lead. Up the final work to the finish it was snakes and ladders throughout the fleet and the dying breeze became more and more fickle.
Bun Lynn sailing Linnea held on to take the gun with Willy Packer snatching second with the last tack of the day on the line from Peter Bowman. Places 4 - 9 where like shuffling a pack of cards but John Cassidy skilfully cut though the fleet to grab a valuable 4th and Rob Black crossing 5th.
So at the half way stage in the State Championship Willy Packer’s (Scoundrel) leads by a slender 4 points over John Cassidy’s (Seajoy) with Sandy Anderson’s (Linnea) in 3rd.
Willy later explained “that must be the most bizarre morning Southerly I have ever raced in! It was a really tough race, very testing tactically”
The infamous WA Dragons (mug of the day) was displayed clearly off the yard arm of the starting vessel, (Four Seasons) to remind all competitors of the most important trophy of the regatta.
Despite a number of very valid contenders it was awarded to John (Casso) Cassidy for missing out on a bullet in race one. After racing John claimed “I have already sacked the navigator but out of the three of us we don’t who that is!”
Provisional Standings (Top 9 after 4 races (no discards)
1 AUS214 Scoundrel Willy Packer 1,2,2,2 - 7 points
2 AUS190 Seajoy John Cassidy 2,1,4,4 - 11
3 AUS210 Linnea Sandy Anderson 9,5,3,1 - 18
4 AUS201 Wizzardry Ray Chatfield 6,8,1,6 - 21
5 AUS109 Aeolus Peter Bowman 8,6,6,3 - 23
6 AUS191 Nereus Rob Black 4,7,8,5 - 24
7 AUS221 Saphira Mark Lovelady 3,3 OCS, 9 - 25
8 AUS144 Hotspur Ethan Prieto-Low 7,4,7,7 - 25
9 AUS198 Whim Rob Hammond 5,9,5,8 - 27
by Jonny Fullerton, Grand Prix Sailing
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