Mercedes-Benz Mornington Couta Boat Nationals

It’s said that in Melbourne the period between 1 December and 28 March is most accurately pronounced with a stutter, “Some-Summer” and the Nationals did not escape this.

Day 1 was blown out and the Race Committee (RC) decided early to abandon racing for the day and Friday’s re-sail was likely to be used.

Day 2 was rescheduled to an 11:00 start and racing got underway with a beautiful 12 knot northerly. Half way through the race the breeze dropped and then swung and the RC jumped to shorten Div 2 at the top mark and Div 1 at the gate in an attempt to salvage a race result, if possible.

At the gate, Volunteer displayed S Flag over Pennant 1 and lined up to get the first two boats times as they crossed the new finish line (the gate) and then picked up the right gate mark on her bow so that boats would not try to finish between her and one of the gates.

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The rain came in to white-out the fleet and a few that appeared though the rain were confused by what they saw with some finishing between Volunteer and the previously positioned finish mark astern of her. There was no improper action by the RC, but the obsolete finish mark was promptly removed.

With the rain squall the breeze swung and boats were now beating to the leeward gate to finish. It became clear that from observation and reports from the course that the breeze had flipped the positions of a lot of boats and it was unfair to those with lower handicaps, that had not been able get on the new breeze. The thunder got closer and it was getting dangerous. After considering the consequences for all boats, the RC abandoned and sent the boats ashore to await further signals.

Volunteer remained on the course waiting for the weather to settle down to attempt more racing when a severe weather alert was issued by the BOM (basically predicting Armageddon), so Volunteer returned to moorings. Storm cells ended up passing us on both sides and once they passed, Volunteer was out on the course again, hunting a stable breeze.

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Around 15:15 it looked really promising and the AP/H was lowered ashore. Boats were given a bit of extra time to get out the course and at 16:00 racing got away. 3 boats were OCS and only one did not return. The breeze built to 18 knots on the last leg and fleet headed ashore, delighted to have stolen a race from Melbourne’s ‘some-summer’.

Up in town, the weather had not been so kind with flooding and damage across Melbourne.

Friday’s forecast predicted little breeze for the 10:00 start and many boats believed the statistics. Volunteer was out on the course early to get the actual conditions and at 9:20 announcements were made that there was breeze and racing would start when it settled to a steady direction. This caught out a few boats that didn’t envisage a suitable racing breeze and were late leaving for, and arriving to, the race course.

Two quick races were fired off with clear starts in great conditions. 3 laps for Div 1 and 2 for Div 2 with downwind hook finishes enabling the RC to roll into the next sequence with just a brief respite for the crews to gather themselves; with the best weather of the season, this was not a day to stop for lunch.

For the third race the flood tide had built and was ascending up the Sorrento elevator, dragging the fleet to and across the line, the pin was obscured when the 1 minute signal was made.

The RC discussed blowing the start with an AP but the line was true. It was startline fever for the whole fleet. With fingers crossed, the 1st substitute was in hand and the RC held on to the start signal when the start pin appeared astern of the fleet bar one. All boats on the course side were identified in accordance with rule 29.1 and an individual recall was signalled.

The radio announcement took a moment to sink in for most of the fleet. “Individual, individual recall for all boats except C70”. A cheer erupted from Jennifer and the Couta Boats eased sheets and returned to the pre-start side of the line.

Kate, having been too high on their approach had had to abort their start and circle around then sailed past Volunteer at speed and clear air and although 20 seconds late, effectively won the start with unique style.

With good speed, clear air and owning the right hand side of the course, Kate was set up to take second place in the race and seal her victory in the series with a 2 – (6) – 6 – 2 score line, dropping her 6th in race 2.

The Div 2 start was delayed a few minutes with so many of Div 1 boats heading back to restart. Div 2 had seen the effect of the tide in the previous race and they were all careful to stay back from the line. Morning Star got a great start and never looked back, winning the race and taking out the series with an impressive (2) – 1 – 1 – 1 scoreline; The first race proved to be a great warm up!

Back ashore, the deck was abuzz and apart from one spectator, the crews were unanimous that the individual recall for the fleet was the right call. It was pretty clear that a general recall would only have succeeded in adding a bunch of UFDs and BFDs to boats’ scores and it had already been a long day.

For full results, click here.