Corsair skipper Brian Hitchins and crew Duncan and Odin Sage powered up in Saturday's Elizabeth Island Challenge. Photo: Contributed/Dan Parkin
Corsair skipper Brian Hitchins and crew Duncan and Odin Sage powered up in Saturday's Elizabeth Island Challenge. Photo: Contributed/Dan Parkin

Record falls in fast, wet and exhilarating race

RACE officials couldn't have asked for better conditions to stage the second event in the Club's Island Challenge Series.

In contrast to the relatively sedate Susan Island Challenge two weeks ago, Saturday's Elizabeth Island race was fast, wet and exhilarating.

A strong and gusty south-easterly breeze propelled the fleet around the 12.5km course in record time and gave crews plenty of adrenalin rushes.

The course was again nice and simple - start in front of the club, sail clockwise around Elizabeth Island then to a mark off the eastern tip of Susan Island. Gybe around that and return to the finish in front the club.

With the breeze coming from the south-east, the start was downwind.

The first leg to the bottom end of island gave crews some very memorable sailing.

With the breeze rapidly building and punctuated with regular and very intense gusts, the 5km reach was exceptionally fast with boats planing most of the way.

Nevertheless it wasn't just a case of sitting back and enjoying the ride with crews constantly hiking and trimming their boats to stay in control.

Even with the quickest of reflexes a number of crews got caught out by the sudden wind changes leaving them swimming alongside their capsized or inverted boats.

The return journey was no less eventful with the fleet encountering nearly every point of sailing - from tight works to broad reaches - as it made its way back up the river.

Capping it off was a hair-raising gybe at the top mark which also took its toll on a number of competitors before the final run to the finish.

In the Laser division, Steve Russell again showed his experience and fitness by handling the conditions with relative ease.

Despite working hard at times, Russell made few errors and kept his boat moving at full speed throughout the race giving him both line and handicap honours.

Debbie Parkin put in a great performance and took out second place.

Despite sailing a smaller radial rig, Parkin was never far from her full rig opponent and at times almost had the lead.

On the return leg, she adopted the tactic of bearing away in the bigger gusts then pointing back up as they abated.

Although this meant travelling a longer distance, her superior boat speed and control far outweighed any loss.

Third place went to a very determined and wet James Harrison.

Catamaran sailors Greg Lee and Debra Michell put in a spectacular performance by blazing around the course in the record time of only 49 minutes.

The miscellaneous division saw a sustained battle between Geoff Bauchop and Matthew Parkin sailing a Puffin Pacer and Brian Hitchins and his crew of Duncan and Odin Sage in a Corsair.

With highly experienced skippers and young and enthusiastic crews both boats ploughed through the rough conditions often only metres apart.

It was anyone's guess who'd take out the honours with both crews neck and neck on the final run to the finish.

Finding a final burst of speed the Pacer slipped across the line in first.

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