Dragon State Championships at Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club in Perth..
A highly competitive fleet of 17 Dragons assembled at Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club in Perth for the WA Dragon State Championship sailed over three days from 12 - 14 December.
On Friday afternoon the legendary ‘freo doctor’ oiled up its tonsils and blew a steady 25 - 30 knot Southerly buster across the azzure blue waters of the Swan River in Perth causing the abandonment of racing on day one of the WA Dragon State Championships.
Sailors were forced to endure the hospitality of Peter Hay’s mothership ‘Four Seasons’ for an impromptu Friday evening session with vast quantities of cold beer and prawns on offer!
Saturday serves up a real feast of racing
After the ‘freo doc’ had finally blew itself out on Friday night an early start beckoned for the 17 boat Dragon fleet on a typical stunning Perth summer morning under bright blue skies. PRO John Taylor (JT) got the fleet out early for an 0800hrs start with a forecast of a light early morning breeze building gradually throughout the morning to be followed up by another serving of a full gusty seabreeze by late afternoon.
Race 1 of the day got underway in a light and very patchy 8 - 10 kt breeze with some big shifts across the race track. The two lap windward/leeward course became quite a tactical dilemma even for these experienced Dragon sailors. The committee boat end was crowded but the first leg proved a tough call with 30 degree shifts on both sides of the course.
Willy Packer’s (Scoundrel) led round the windward mark from Tony Lynn’s (Saphira) with Peter Bowman’s (Aeolus) in close pursuit. A lead pack of four boats shuffled positions downwind as the pressure puffs came from their sterns but Packer remained in front at the gate.
Upwind second time round proved a decisive move for Andrew Foulkes’ (Tatsu) as he slid through the fleet to take the lead by the second windward rounding. Greg Leaversuch (Jump) chose the favourable side of the beat to climb to second followed by Rob Perrin’s (Seajoy).
Whilst the leaders tried to protect their positions, Ray Chatfield (Whizzardry) and John Anderson (Achernar) had cunningly gybed early and taken the inside line to pick up a handy little squirt of breeze downwind.
As they approached the finish line with 100m to go it was still a close call but Ray Chatfield sneaked across ahead of four boats almost overlapped on the finish line. John Anderson’s (Achernar) got the nod for second, a bow ahead of Willy Packer’s (Scoundrel) in third.
As the breeze faded the shifts remained a nightmare for PRO ‘JT’. After one lap of the second race of the day he fairly had to abandon with a second 100 degree shift and a glass out on the Swan river.
A short break for some morning tea, (toilet stops for the ladies onboard the luxury ‘Four Seasons’ start boat), and racing resumed for the second race of the day with another light to moderate SSE breeze.
After a general recall JT had no hesitation in bringing the ‘naughty black flag’ out to threaten the eager culprits. The restart was clean with both Scoundrel and Tatsu starting fast alongside each other but another tactical upwind leg meant plenty of snakes and ladders.
Will Packer’s (Scoundrel) rounded the windward mark just ahead of Peter Bowman’s (Aeolus) with Andrew Foulkes (Tatsu) chasing in third. The sea breeze just began to show signs of building with ‘the sheep were out of the paddock’ as the kiwis say!
Downwind was another tricky game of reading the pressure puffs and it was Peter Bowman (Aeolus) who managed to just squeeze past Willy Packer’s (Scoundrel) at the gate with a big pack of Dragons in close attention.
The final upwind was another tricky affair and a real test of the experience and guile. Bowman’s (Aeolus) lead round the final turn with a fleet of five Dragons beginning to surf down the building waves.
In another almost photo finish, the wooden boat, Aeolus, (she celebrated her 50th birthday last week!), nosed across to take the gun ahead of a fast finishing Andrew Foulkes (Tatsu) and an excellent last leg for Tony Lynn on (Saphira) to take third from Willy Packer in 4th. Special mention goes to Trish Ford and her team on (Canewdon Witch) for a very credible 7th.
Surfing rock n role
For the third and final race of the day, the ‘freo doctor’ had found its full voice again and the predicted 18 - 20 knot SSE flexed its muscles. Peter Bowman got a fast start at the committee boat end whilst Willy Packer over-stood and had to circle the pin and duck transoms. However having to sail out to the right hand side of the course, Packer picked up a handy 20 degree shift and bolted into a good lead at the windward mark.
Again a lead pack of four boats surfed downwind in superb Dragon sailing conditions. Willy Packer with his nose in front of the chasing pack led by Greg Leaversuch, sailing another blinder onboard (Jump), trading places with Peter Bowman (Aeolus) and Ron Packer (Icefyre).
As the second upwind got quite boisterous Willy Packer’s team extended to round with a comfortable lead but the remaining podium places were up for grabs.
For the second downwind leg the ageless Dragon fleet sailors showed off some real vintage ‘rock n roll’ dance moves as they surfed down the white caps providing a chorus of ‘oohhs, aaarhs and the occasional OMG!’ from the start/support boat.
Race 3 was to be finished upwind so Willy Packer just had to hang on to his lead to finish with a consistent 3,4,1 for the day. Second over the finish line was a great performance by Greg Leaversuch and his crew on (Jump). Third was a steadily improving Ron Packer (Icefyre).
Willy Packer takes title in final race cliffhanger
Another early start for the 17 boat Dragon fleet competing for the Western Australian Dragon State Championships at Royal Freshwater Bay YC in Perth. PRO John Taylor (JT) had the fleet out for three back to back windward/leeward races on a glorious sunny morning on the Swan River however no one had told the breeze to turn up as early as 0800 hrs so Sunday morning was spent drifting around for two hours in a glass out with Peter Hay’s ‘Four Seasons’ providing the hospitality.
Eventually a faint sea-breeze wafted over from the ocean and race 4 of the championship could be started in a 5 - 7 knot SSE. Coming into the final day of competition Willy Packer and his crew sailing ‘Scoundrel’ had a seven point lead over a bunch of Dragons waiting to pounce. It was Peter Bowman’s ‘Aeolus’ who got the best start at the crowded committee boat end but the light pressure patches that could be seen from the fly deck of the ‘Four Seasons’, were far more difficult to pick at water level and the lead changed hands several times.
Ray Chatfield’s ‘Wizzardry’ and Sandy Anderson’s ‘Linnea’ challenged for the lead with the regatta leaders buried deep in the pack. In a short two lap race, an early error was costly and there was no way back for Willy Packer ‘Scoundrel’ or Andrew Foulkes ‘Tatsu’.
Sandy Anderson got the better of Ray Chatfield on the second lap and glided over the finish line for her well deserved first bullet of the championship, becoming the fourth different winner in as many races. Peter Bowman managed to claw back places to finish third and due to Willy Packers 13th the overall lead was now shared. Ethan Prieto-Low sailing an old wooden Dragon ‘Gustel XI’ crossed for an excellent fourth.
Race 5 followed quickly with a shade more breeze building to 10 - 12 knots. After the black flag made another appearance the fleet got away cleanly for another short two lap windward/leeward course. This time normal service was resumed with the familiar teams hitting the front in more shifty work. Andrew Foulkes ‘Tatsu’ led around every mark but the battle for second and third got quite interesting. Rob Black’s crew on ‘Nereus’ made a rare forage for a podium place and Ron Packer’s ‘Icefyre’ got into the mix.
By the final leg Andrew Foulkes crew had opened up a handy lead to win comfortably with Rob Black holding on for second. However, more importantly Willy Packer had to battle hard to cross in third just ahead of Peter Bowman in fourth.
At this stage the overall classification had Willy Packer with a single point advantage over Peter Bowman with Andrew Foulkes steadily climbing back into contention after the single discard came into play. However the SI’s stipulated an early finish to the regatta with a last start time of 1200 hrs mid day.
With one minute remaining PRO ‘JT’ and his crack start team onboard the ‘Four Seasons’ signaled the final race to decide the WA State Championship title. Under another black flag a cautious fleet head off for a final two lap race with an additional beat to wear out the flagging but ageless Dragon sailors.
Peter Bowman started well but Willy Packer was second row whilst Andrew Foulkes again had a solid start nearer the pin. It was a nervy beat with a new leader in Ron Packer’s ‘Icefyre’, Andrew Foulkes in third, Willy Packer in fifth and Peter Bowman buried.
During the second lap the breeze huffed and puffed and places changed regularly causing the ‘Four Seasons’ crew to get the calculators out to crunch the numbers. Andrew Foulkes and his crew on ‘Tatsu’ did an excellent job in wearing down his opposition to hit the front with Greg Leaversuch jumping up to second and Sandy Anderson having another great race in fourth. Willy Packer had now dropped to fifth and one point from losing his overall lead to Foulkes.
With one leg to go some of the fleet begun to tire but Andrew Foulkes did all he could to take his second bullet of the championship but sadly he could only watch as Willy Packer and his crew of Denis Cullity and Julian Harding, clawed their way back to cross the finish line in second and thus snatch the title at the last gasp. Sandy Anderson finished third but Peter Bowman was back in seventh, dropping him to third overall in the title race.
Once ashore Willy Packer claimed he really thought he had blown it in the last race but he was just so relieved to get ‘the monkey off his back’ having finished as bridesmaid to Andrew Foulkes for so many years.
With his two final race wins, Andrew Foulkes and his crew of Andrew Jordan and Matthew Stafford became runner-up and Peter Bowman with Jenny Fitzhardinge and Jeremy Shellabear had to settle for third overall.
Results (top 6 after 6 races with 1 discard)
1 AUS214 Scoundrel Willy Packer/Denis Cullity/Julian Harding 3,4,1,(13),3,2 - 13 pts
2 AUS203 Tatsu Andrew Foulkes/Andrew Jordan/Matthew Stafford 5,2,8(11),1,1 - 17pts
3 AUS109 Aeolus Peter Bowman/Jenny Fitzhardinge/Jeremy Shellabear (10),1,4,3,4,7 - 19pts
4 AUS210 Linnea Sandy Anderson/John Moncrieff/Geoff Totterdell 8,(9),7,1,8,3 - 27pts
5 AUS170 Icefyre Ron Packer/John Longley/Mark Cubitt (15),8,3,7,5,4 - 27pts
6 AUS201 Whizzardry Ray Chatfield/Karen Chatfield/Peter Massee 1,11,(14),2,9,5 - 28pts
For full results see: http://www.rfbyc.asn.au/perch/resources/files/final-result-for-dragon-consistency.pdf
Race report and photos by Jonny Fullerton, Grand Prix Sailing