Britain’s Glen Truswell and Sam Pascoe turned misfortune into fortune, when they took on today’s extraordinary weather on Corio Bay to deliver a convincing win in Race 5, of the 2015 International 14 World Championships.
They tasted the fear of being beaten by the conditions and then the sweet flavour of success while their close rivals fell away with gear failure and wrong tactical calls.
In second across the line were Britain’s Andy and Tom Partington, while just 30 seconds behind in third were Australia’s Mark Krstic and Cameron McDonald.
As the boat yard at Royal Geelong Yacht Club filled up with casualties at the end of today’s racing, the war stories started to filter through about the drama and damage on the racecourse.
With an hour to go to the start of Race 5 heavy rain was being driven into shore by the strong north-easterly and the low cloud seemed to be all but blanketing the course area, but the 67-boat fleet slowly shuffled their boats towards the boat ramp.
Once on the course conditions varied greatly from eight knots at one end of the shortened course to 28 knots at the other. But, the visibility was sufficient to allow the race to go ahead on time.
On the start line defending World Champion Archie Massey and crew Harvey Hillary were at the pin end while Truswell and close rival, Ben McGrane and James Hughes, were closer to the committee boat end.
Truswell got a clean start. “The fast boys were all pressing the hammer down. It was pretty breezy, but we were holding station with Ben.
“As predicted none of us could see the windward mark. People started tacking and we thought, well, we need to cover our bases, so we tacked a minute or two after the first tackers. We sailed and sailed and sailed until eventually the windward mark became apparent. We had over-stood it massively. We were all reaching into the windward, really deep, really fast. We were a casualty there as we had gone too far,” Truswell said. They rounded the top mark in fourth place.
“The first reach was absolutely crazy. No one could fly a kite and with white sails we were doing crazy speeds. Our boat was just mental,” Truswell said. With no GPS on board it was hard to tell their speed, but others estimated they were travelling at over 20 knots. “The boat just goes and goes and the best way to survive is to let the dog run, which is what we did,” Truswell added.
At the wing mark they were in first place. They tried a white sail gybe only to then go end over end and down. They got back up, launched their kite, threw caution out and let their boat take them back into first place. “We weren’t fazed at this point as we knew the rest of the race was going to be a bit of a battleground and there would be casualties,” Truswell said.
Massey got to the gybe mark just behind Truswell and sailed fast around him, successfully setting a kite. But by the second time around the top mark and with Truswell close by troubles struck for Massey. He broke the starboard upper and lost their top batten.
“We then couldn’t carry kites. When we gybed we could put it up on port tack, but when we were on starboard gybe, which was the long one, we couldn’t carry a kite,” Massey said.
The breeze continued to build with the top mark boat recording at least one 30 knot gust while at the bottom mark there was only about 13 knots. Behind Truswell and Massey, the teams were struggling to manage the conditions. McGrane was the first to capsize at the top mark second time, then Devine/Furlong (AUS) and the Partingtons (GBR) followed.
“We put the kite up, but then hit a wave and pitch-poled. When we pulled the boat back up the mast was in two pieces,” McGrane said.
The clouds then started to lift, but there were still plenty of ‘sheep in the paddock’ with the north-easterly gusting 23 to 28 knots. Truswell kept up the lead, out in front all by himself. “Our boat, just the speed of it, was just crazy. The thing is just unstoppable.
“By the time we got to the next windward mark we were first by a margin. From there on we tried to look after the boat and not break it,” Truswell said.
By the finish line they were almost four minutes ahead of the Partingtons who sailed most of the course conservatively. “We were lucky not to have any damage. We lost our water bottle, my hat and a watch.
“This is the first time we have sailed in that kind of breeze for a long time. We raked the mast back quite a bit further and we went a lot faster,” Andy Partington said.
In the first place overall is Truswell/Pascoe (GBR) on four points after one drop. In second overall is McGrane/Hughes (GBR) on nine points. Provisionally in third place overall and with 16 points is Devine/Furlong (AUS) after they finished in fifth place today. On the overall point score that puts him in equal third with the Partingtons and Massey. On countback Devine keeps third and control of the Australian Championship title.
However, as the post-race party was getting warmed up and clouds clearing to a pleasant early evening, the first protest of the regatta was being heard. It’s between Devine and Richard Bone (GBR) with the outcome yet to be announced.
Luckily for many in the fleet tomorrow is a lay day. McGrane will spend a lot of the day busily replacing his broken mast with a spare and then setting up the new on in readiness for Race 6 on Thursday.
Image Credit: Rhenny Cunningham