76 Flying Fifteens from 6 countries left Fremantle Sailing Club for the first two races of the 2023 Flying Fifteen World Championship held off Fremantle under cloudless skies. It was Fremantle back to its best offering up race 1 in a SW sea breeze starting at around 12 knots and increasing during the afternoon to a feisty 16 knots with a building chop making the downwind legs a real pleasure to sail.
The PRO Kevin Wilson set Course 1 for the first race of the series. A windward/leeward followed by a triangle to give the fleet an opportunity for some screaming reaches and some entertainment for a building fleet of spectators enjoying the weekend watching the action at the wing mark. Under U flag the start only caught out one boat. At the top the familiar blue kite of current world champions Graham Vials and Chris Turner (GBR) popped a good distance from the rest of the fleet. A flurry of Australian and British boats followed downwind including Ian Pinnell and Ian Cadwallader (GBR), Nick Jerwood and Brad Sheridan (AUS), Hamish Mackay and Andrew Lawson (GBR) and Charles and Charlie Apthorp (GBR).
By lap 2 on the reach to the wing mark Vials and Turner had opened up an unassailable lead leaving Pinnell / Cadwallader and Jerwood / Sheridan to fight for second and third place. The Australians pulled through to take second leaving Pinnell / Cadwallader in third. The Scots Mackay / Lawson crossed fourth and an excellent fifth for Michael Wilson and Peter Greenhalgh (GBR).
During the break the wind increased a notch to a steady 15 - 16 knots along with the short chop wich made for some glamour downwind surfing. A lot of dolphins were spotted out on course dancing off the bows of the fifteens in the waves.
Course 6 was signalled for race 2, which was two windward / leeward legs of 1.5nm in length followed by a final beat to the finish. After a clear start the majority of the fleet seemed to prefer the left hand side (shoreside) of the upwind leg. Yet again it was the sail number we are getting used to seeing at the turn (GBR4071) Vials and Turner with a handy lead.
This time it was Australians Philippa Packer and Dean McAullay (RFBYC) who had a peach of a start at the committee boat end and rounded with the Irish crew John Lavery and Alan Green (National YC) in close pursuit. Maybe it was off the back of the Paddy’s day celebrations the day before but the Irishman were on fire. These three boats had clear water behind them to the chasing fleet.
On lap two Vials / Turner again stretched their lead but the chase for second was a lot closer. Nick Jerwood and Brad Sheridan (SoPYC/FSC) closed in on Packer / McAullay whilst local Australians Grant Alderson and Luke Paterson (RFBYC) were also on the move.
On the final work to the finish Vials / Turner from Derwent Reservoir SC/Lyme Regis SC in the UK were out of sight to finish the opening day with two bullets.
Jerwood / Sheridan finished the day with two second’s and third this time was Packer / McAullay. Lavery / Green (IRL) scored an impressive 8th.
So after day one of the Worlds it is shaping up to be a bit of an ‘Ashes’ battle between GBR and AUS occupying the top 9 places overall. The Irish crew sit in 10th overall.
Racing continues on Sunday with a slightly earlier warning signal of 1200 noon.
Let us just hope the gorgeous sailing conditions continue and the racing is just as much fun for the 76 boat fleet and those watching the action.
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by Jonny Fullerton - Regatta Services