Whitsundays turn on the wind at the UON SB20 World Championships

Nine sequences, six competitors black flagged and disqualified, two general recalls, two postponements, two course changes, an abandonment and a partridge in a pear tree. A mini-series could be made on the highs and lows of day four of the UON SB20 World Championships at Hamilton Island.

The 42 international crews contesting their world title in the 20-foot sportsboats set off from the marina at 9.30am this morning, most towed to the course area in the light winds. Nearly five frustrating hours later after the race committee twice moved the racetrack further east chasing steady wind, the first race of the day got underway in a building NNE breeze.

Principal Race Officer Denis Thompson finally settled on Chance Bay off Whitsunday Island and that’s where the magic began. After three days of light air the adrenaline was pumping and the spray was flying as the Whitsundays turned put on its best face for the visitors, up to 18 knots of breeze, white caps and sunshine galore.

Race 6 was a thriller, on the risk of a black flag disqualification following two general recalls the fleet judged the current right and got away cleanly in 15 knots of NNE breeze. Glenn Bourke’s Club Marine was first to the top post chased by the two British boats, Robert Greenhalgh’s The Beard and Geoff Carveth’s WKD. 

The crews turned the corner and powered up for the downhill slide, bodies crammed at the stern quarter to balance out the pressure over the right shoulder and keep the boat on its feet. By the second top mark rounding places had swapped, WDK led Club Marine and Pietro Negri’s Stenghele (ITA), and this was how they screamed through the finish gate under kite.

Race 7 was another black flag start only this time Thompson’s gavel came down with a bang. Six SB20s were disqualified, including top contenders The Beard, Ian Brown’s One Design Sailing and Ben Saxton’s Bango Powered by SLAM, an expensive penalty which will become their discard race. A number of those disqualified are seeking to be reinstated with ‘night sailing’ about to commence in the jury room.

Carveth and his crew of mainsheet Roger Hudson and bow 1 and 2, Lesley Dhonau and Asenathi Jim, picked up back-to-back wins today to move into third overall.

“Finally some good hard racing, that’s what we came here for,” said an exhausted Carveth this evening. “When the wind came in it was worth waiting for. There were some tense moments with the black flag and in the second race we nearly lost our lead to the French and Rodion [Team Russia], but we climbed back over them and put ourselves in charge again”.

Second in race 7 was Rouxel Thomas’ French entry, Hyeres 2013, named ahead of next year’s SB20 worlds venue, and again, the Italians in third.

Team Russia’s grip on the pointscore top spot is tightening, their eighth and fourth enough to keep the wolves at bay for another day. After tomorrow’s scheduled race 8 a discard will come into play.

Glenn Bourke, Andrew York and Greg Macallansmith’s Club Marine has moved into second on the overall pointscore after seven races, eight points from the Russian masters and just one ahead of Carveth, a previous SB20 world champion.

One Design Sailing is the next best Aussie boat on the pointscore, currently 10th, followed by Tasmanian Nick Rogers’ Karabos in 13th, Stephen Fries’ WSIWYG V in 17th, Peter Jones’ And Then in 19th, Troy Forrest’s Black Rat in 20th and Victorian Chris Dare’s Flirtatious in 21st place.

It’s been a long day for competitors and officials and as the sun set over Hamilton Island, SB20s and official vessels were still making their way back to the marina.

All crews enjoyed yesterday’s only series layday. Great Barrier Reef tours, a visit to the famous Whitehaven Beach, a round at the stunning Hamilton Island golf course and relaxing crew lunches at the many restaurants were just some of the activities crews opted for before competitors gathered at the main pool for the Bundaberg Rum layday pool party.

With two days and five races of the SB20 world titles scheduled there is still plenty more to come.

Tomorrow’s forecast is for NNE winds 5-10 knots tending ENE 10-15 knots in the afternoon.

Results at http://worlds2012.sb20class.com/ and http://www.hamiltonisland.com.au/sb20-worlds-2012/