18FT SKIFFS - A gusty 25-knot North East wind pounded the 18ft Skiff crews as they contested Race 5 of the AEG 3-Buoys Challenge series on Sydney Harbour today.
Conditions were so demanding on both boats and crews that only five of the 19 entries were able to complete the four-lap course and none, including the winner, avoided at least one capsize.
After nearly 1½ hours, former Australian champion Micah Lane, along with his crew of Paul Montague and Tom Anderson, crossed the finish line as winner in their Appliancesonline.com.au skiff.
It was 6m33s later until second placed The Kitchen Maker, skippered by Olympic Gold Medalist Malcolm Page, and crewed by Cameron McDonald and Darren McKavanagh, finished.
Nick Press and his crew of Dave Ewings and Andrew Stevenson were third in Smeg, 31s behind The Kitchen Maker.
The only other skiffs to complete the course were Pure Blonde (Tom Clout) and Coopers-Rag & Famish Hotel (Jack Macartney).
Right from the outset, it was obvious that the conditions were going to take a heavy toll on the fleet.
Australian champion Thurlow Fisher Lawyers (Michael Coxon) was forced out after only a few minutes sailing then shortly after Giltinan champion Gotta Love It 7 (Seve Jarvin) was gone with a broken mast.
Coopers-Rag & Famish Hotel led at the first windward mark from Smeg but carnage struck behind them as both De’Longhi-Rabbitohs (Simon Nearn) and Asko Appliances (Marcus Ashley-Jones) nose dived on the bearaway.
Appliancesonline took advantage of the two capsized boats to move into third place, ahead of Pure Blonde, The Kitchen Maker and Rabbitohs-Kenwood (Brett Van Munster).
The spinnaker run proved too much for most boats as Coopers-Rag & Famish Hotel, Smeg, Rabbitohs-Kenwood and Yandoo (John Winning) all capsized before the bottom mark.
Over the second lap of the course Pure Blonde and The Kitchen Maker were well ahead of the other skiffs still on the course.
When Pure Blonde capsized on the gybe to the bottom mark The Kitchen Maker was left with a good lead, although Smeg had recovered and began to put in a strong challenge by the third windward marker.
A spinnaker set problem on The Kitchen Maker allowed Smeg to draw level on the following run back to Clarke Island and spectators were treated to a magnificent ‘match race’ between the two talented teams.
Only 5s separated the pair as they began the final lap of the course.
When The Kitchen Maker had her first swim of the day, Smeg was left as the likely winner – but this was not a day for taking things for granted.
With less than 100 metres to sail and only the final gybe to be made, Smeg capsized in the mouth of Double Bay, leaving Appliancesonline.com.au to complete the course as the winner.