Sailors enjoy their heat in the heat for Club Pointscore
WHILE the mercury was nudging 42 degrees in Grafton on Saturday a group of hardy sailors were rigging their boats for the next (and appropriately named) heat of the Club Pointscore Series.
Their main concern however wasn't so much the temperature but the wind.
A light but strengthening north-easterly was fighting its way up the river against the prevailing westerly creating a zone of almost zero wind as the two cancelled each other out. Fortunately the north- easterly prevailed and by the time racing started, had settled into a steady 5-8 knot breeze that provided some unexpectedly good sailing conditions and gradually took the edge off the heat.
Fleet numbers were down because of the hot conditions, but nevertheless 12 boats faced the starter for what would become some of the tightest and changeable racing of the season.
Whether it was because of the heat or otherwise, many of the usual strategies didn't seem to work. For example, the lift that normally occurs along the northern bank of the river upstream from the club didn't eventuate, nor did there seem to be much advantage in sailing in the outgoing current on the southern side.
This left skippers gambling on new and untried tactics which sometimes worked and sometimes didn't, resulting in huge changes of fortune as the race progressed.
Every boat had an equal share of good and bad luck and as the final lap got under way the bulk of the fleet was packed tightly together making it impossible to predict the winners until the last few minutes.
In the Laser fleet Steve Russell got off to a great start and took an early lead with Brian Wright and visiting Big River sailor Wayne Culph nipping at his heels.
Into the second lap some brilliant sailing by Culph saw him edge to the front and, for a time, even led the much faster catamarans.
By the third lap, results were again in doubt with most of the mid-fleet boats now only seconds behind. The final work to the finish was exceptionally tight and with the breeze starting to waiver the slightest error was going to be very costly.
Culph hedged his bets by sailing up the centre of the course, while Russell attempted to find a lift on the northern side but failed, giving the visitor the edge he needed to take out the prize.
Russell came in shortly after taking out second place with Debbie Parkin in third. Handicap honours went to Neil Burgess.
Burgess had a difficult start but made a spectacular comeback after the first mark by charging through the fleet and overtaking everything in his path.
The catamaran division was a two-way contest between Paper Tiger skipper Neal Carter and Greg Lee and Debra Michell sailing a Mosquito. Carter held the lead for most of the race but Lee and Michell kept chipping away at it, slowly closing the gap.
On the second-last leg they found some breeze that had bypassed Carter and surged to the front. Now with the advantage of clear air they not only held their lead but increased it, crossing the line comfortably ahead of their rival.
Yard stick correction put Carter back into first place, however Lee and Michell had enough time up their sleeve to take out the handicap hon-ours.
Sole competitors in the NS14 fleet, Greg Brotherson and Morgen Parkin sailed well in their first outing for 2013 and despite constant harassment by the Lasers, finished the distance in a very respectable time.
Upcoming Bic skipper Mathew Parkin completed the junior course, ably assisted by crew member Odin Sage.
Sailing confidently in the variable breeze the pair demonstrated their rapidly expanding skills and some great teamwork.
On a note of caution, the club recorded its third bullrout strike of the season.
The best form of protection against this very painful injury is to wear good quality sailing boots or aqua socks when launching boats or swimming in the river.
Sailing next weekend is the Elizabeth Island Challenge.
More information on the club's website crsc.yachting. org.au