Geographe Bay Yacht Club hosted the 2013 Tornado Australian Championships as part of Raceweek. The Tornado has only recently been dropped from the Olympics but is still the fastest one design catamaran competing in many countries as a class.
The Invitation Race before the ten race series was sailed in a ten knot classic north-west sea breeze that is unique to Geographe Bay and 'Black Caviar' shows a clean set of heals to win the invitation race and stretch the winning streak to 17 races. This was about to come to an end in another few races when the real racing got under way a few days later. There were threats of a trip to the Knackery after the streak ended but in the end the old nag held in for a healthy over all victory. ( 'Black Caviar', the nick name of the Windrush Tornado, is the name of a special Australian race horse who is still undefeated after 22 races including racing in Australia and the UK at the premier sprint races).
Day 1 - Sunday
The first day of racing was blown out with 30 knots. The crews could only sit and hope for the breeze to drop but sailing was declared cancelled with the forecast for the remainder of the day showing no letup of the 30 knots that was blowing in the south.
Day 2 - Monday
Day two was a completely different day to the previous. The boats were treated to light and shifting breeze in the morning providing frustrating conditions for all teams with some boats getting crucified when going the wrong side of the course both upwind and downwind with positions changing regularly during both races. Brett Burvill and Ryan Duffield commenced their defense of their title with a bullet, with Jack Benson and Matt Johnson keeping out a fast finishing Gavin Davies and Will Elks for 2nd and 3rd.
In race 2 Allan Gamble and Damien McAlinden took advantage of a wind shift on the last upwind of the second race to snatch victory from Jack Benson and Brett Burvill. Two races finished in the morning.
The boats were sent in with a dying breeze to wait for the changing south-westerly expected in the afternoon which came in with 8-15 knots with a building breeze to finish off the fourth race. Race 3 was a closely fought competition with the lead changing several times and Brett and Ryan having to fight back to gain the lead. Allan and Damien took advantage of the right hand shift on the last upwind to edge out Paul Raymond and Rod Hodgkin into 2nd place.
A late wind shift from the south with gusts of 20+ knots during the fourth race and some confusion over how many laps had been completed saw only four boats allegedly completing the 3 laps required. Jack Benson and Matt Johnson showing that young people can count finishing with a bullet, Paul Peterson and Jared Eyles getting a comfortable 2nd and young Harry Winspear and Mitchell Hardy claiming 3rd.
Day 3 - Tuesday
Three races today. One in the morning and two in the afternoon. Race 5 was a challenge with 6 knots or less coming from the north-east keeping crews on deck. Most of the fleet played follow the leader following Brett Burvill and Jack Benson up the right hand side with only Paul Raymond and Rod Hodgkin game enough to trust their instincts going left with big gains on the second upwind going from 11th at the bottom gate to 2nd at the top mark for the second lap. Jack Benson and Matt Johnson where able to steal back their 2nd place from Paul and Rod on the last downwind of race 5 with some skillful kite work.
The breeze swung around to the west after lunch and teams settled in with consistent finishes for both race 6 and 7. Allan and Damien showed he wasn't done fighting with a well deserved 2nd in Race 6 ahead of Jack and Matt.
Day 4 - Wednesday
One race today. Light breeze treated the boats for only one race with the north-westerly dying out. Brett and Ryan showed why they are on top leading from the start. Allan Gamble and Damien McAlinden lost their opportunity to keep Paul Raymond and Rod Hodgkin out after picking a late lift to the top mark and slipping into 3rd for the last downwind but hit the top mark and paid dearly with a 360 penalty allowing Paul and Rod to challenge Jack and Matt. Paul and Rod were able to take revenge on Jack Benson and Matt Johnson by stealing second place by one second in the last metres of the race by going left downwind following the shoreline and taking a different line to the finish. Jack failed to cover their gamble staying right and paid for it on the line by half a spinnaker pole. The remainder of the fleet struggled to finish in a dying breeze.
Day 5 - Thursday
Two races today. The northerly kicked in with storms and lightning and 18-20 knots. The big chop challenged crews with several boats loosing crews and skippers from the big waves and several boats retiring with breakages.
One interesting activity from race 9 was Jack and Matt deciding to match race Brett and Ryan before the start and then on the first lap Brett and Ryan trying to break their control and doing some seriously low angles in an attempt to do so, before finally managing to duck through their lee after a tack, create some distance and climb up over them. It's quite interesting to watch the Go-Pro footage!
Brett and Ryan were not immune to getting hammered by the waves and Ryan managed to knock Brett off the boat after a wave took him out and breaking their tiller on the last upwind of this race but still finished 2nd. Jack Benson using this to get through and hold out Brett Burvill for a well deserved win.
The storm abated and conditions settled for the last race with the breeze dropping to 10 to 15 knots but the waves stayed. Gavin Davies and Will Elks started race 9 with a magnificent first beat to reach the top mark first only to park it when they hit a liquid wall while tacking to finally round the top mark in 8th position. Brett and Ryan were back in form after jerry rigging a broken tiller with some permanent marker pens and tape to take back the lead from Jack and Matt and finish the last race of the series with a bullet. With ten races completed teams were able to take two drops but the leader board didnít change. Final results for the Tornado National Championships:
1st 'Windrush - Black Caviar' - Brett Burvill and Ryan Duffield from NYC WA
2nd 'ITB Racing' - Jack Benson and Matt Johnson from Darwin Sailing Club NT
3rd 'Aeolus' - Allan Gamble and Damien McAlinden from NYC WA
The Series in Wrap-up
Race Control Officer John Taylor managed the series superbly and astounded Crackles with his weather predictions, his prescience was satanic, even during a thunderstorm he knew the Tornados were safe! Past Tornado Olympian Warren Rock contolled the mark laying to perfection and also acted as a coach for the whole fleet. He was ably assisted by Geoff Palmer and a past Commodore from Nedlands, Kevin Hall. Steve Winspear from Darwin acted as chief engineer on the mechanically challenged Start Boat while non members Brian Williamson, Trevor Baird and Jodie Wilson helped drive support boats. John Winchcombe from Dunsborough Bay Yacht Club provided their support boat for three days while Peter Harrison acted as photographer and video recorder.
Only two Tornados took heats off Brett Burvill, one by Allan Gamble in Aeolus from NYC and the other by Jack Benson in ITB Racing from Darwin. An excellent regatta ensued with the full variety of blows and drifters to test the skills and equipment of all sailors.
The ages of sailors on Tornadoes varied from the very spritely Gwyn Cracknell 72 years young to young Mithcell Hardy at 15 years old. Gwyn Cracknell (Crackles) showed that old dogs can learn new tricks finishing 4th in race 4 behind Brett and Ryan. I'm sure his local knowledge had a little bit to do with this result, or was it just pure luck? It may have been his borrowed Ullman One Design sails which gave him equal performance potential to the other teams.
The young guns Ethan Neaves and Harry Winspear sparred with each other during the regatta with Ethan finishing the stronger on the last day to edge out Harry by only four points to finish in 7th place overall. Also worth noting was that after the recent International class ballot bringing one design sails into the class nine of the thirteen crews using the new one design sails from Ullman. The information swapping and gains to the improving boats was quite impressive.
Numbers this year where similar to Darwin last year with good representation from WA and the Northern Territory where strong fleets provide good competition. The tyranny of distance and work commitments stopped many eastern states sailors making the 4000km trip to one of the best pieces of sailing water in Australia.
The next Australian Championships will be held in Perth Dec-Jan 2014-15 in conjunction with the Tornado Worlds. International crews from Europe and the UK are very keen to make the journey to sample the best WA has to offer as a sailing venue and as a tourist destination. With the influx of several boats due to come back from Europe after several Australian teams complete their campaign at the European championships and the later the Tornado Worlds at Ibiza in Spain from Friday 27 September 2013 to Sat 5 October 2013 interest from Australian and international sailors will be high for this event. Once again Geographe Bay turned on some amazing conditions for sailing.
Final Placings for the 2013 Australian Tornado Nationals held at Geographe Bay Yacht Club.