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2018 Great Southern Championship and Albany Cup.

On a grey, overcast weekend in March, eleven skippers from Perth made the trip down Albany Hwy to visit our friends in Albany. Three skippers joined the fleet, whilst a few others volunteered their time to officiate.

Most drove down on Friday, stopping off at various country bakeries to sample the various pies and pastries on offer in the little country towns along the way. It was important to get a handle on where the best places to dine are, as we have planned for the Western Australian State Championships to be held in Albany in December and we need to be prepared!

The forecast for the weekend was for light, variable winds with a fairly high chance of showers. As we came over the hill and saw the town for the first time, it was obvious that the forecast was going to be pretty right.

A few skippers hit the water on Friday afternoon for a practice sail, but most spent the afternoon settling into their digs.

Saturday morning was a fairly leisurely affair. A later start was scheduled, allowing people to have a relaxed breakfast and wander down to the marina. Ian Hebiton took on the role of Race Officer whilst Ian Lunt also volunteered to act as an Official.

As the racing got underway, the easterly wind decided to be typically difficult. There were some fairly decent shifts, changes in direction and bends around some of the larger yachts moored in the marina. Ian was kept on his toes chasing the breeze, and Andrew Grist did a magnificent job in the boat setting the courses with a great deal of accuracy.

The light breezes suited Andrew’s Goth, and he notched up some impressive results. Edgar Vitte was also sailing very fast, managing the shifty winds really well. Many skippers were quite frustrated with their sailing. There were difficulties seeing the boats, and skippers were commenting that they were having trouble telling which tack they were on, as well as difficulty getting the jib to swing out whilst sailing downwind. This was partly due to the light and partly due to there not being enough strength in the wind to make the boat heel, or the jib to wing out. Add to that, a few showers, and the afternoon was quite challenging.

Over the course of the afternoon, Ian managed to get 14 races completed. He did well keeping the racing going. Overnight, Glenn Dawson had hit the lead by the slimmest of margins from Rosco Bennett. Edgar was a couple of points behind, and Andrew Grist was right on their tails.

Saturday night, and most of the skippers and their wives, partners and girlfriends went out for a meal at the local. The company was terrific, but unfortunately, the food wasn’t great (that’s being generous). The meal may have played a part in the outcome of the regatta as we would find out next morning…

Sunday dawned with a few early showers early in the morning. However, by the time we arrived at the marina, the sky had cleared. The morning was a great advertisement for Radio Sailing. Nearby, there were markets, coffee shops, bands playing, kites flying and all sorts of activity. There were quite a few spectators watching the racing, and people were really getting involved.

The wind was forecast to come from the east again, but when we arrived, it was blowing from the west. There was a time when the wind faded all together, and we needed to wait for it to fill. Gradually, the breeze filled from the south and then the east again. As the morning progressed, the breeze built to about 8 knots, and racing was becoming quite interesting.

Across the course of the regatta, there were 8 different heat winners from the 24 completed races. That’s more than half the fleet managing at least one win. Many skippers had their moments, right near the front of the fleet. Some managed to hang on for a win, others for a podium finish. Many races were very tight indeed.

Early on Sunday morning, Glenn managed a number of firsts and seconds, whilst Rosco found himself having a couple of lower places. This gave Glenn a bit of a buffer. It became apparent that Rosco was suffering. Remember how I mentioned that the meal might have had something to do with the outcome – well, Rosco’s guts were not the best on Sunday morning, and it wasn’t alcohol this time!

At the end of the regatta, Glenn held on to top place by 5 points from Rosco Bennett. In third place was Edgar Vitte. The Albany Cup was awarded to Andrew Grist, who sailed an outstanding series, finishing up in fourth position by just a couple of points from Rob Mews. The Cup was awarded to the top placed Albany skipper.

Whilst on the locals, Colin and Greg Westerberg should be mentioned for their really nice boats. They have designed and built their own hulls and sails. The progress they have made with their boats, largely on their own, is a credit to them. We hope to see Colin and Greg progress even further in the development of their design.

Many thanks go to all the volunteers who gave up their time to help run the regatta. Both Ian Hebiton and Ian Lunt worked tirelessly to keep the regatta going. Andrew Grist did a great job in the boat, and Ray Forsyth travelled down to do the scoring for the weekend. Ray is a great asset to radio sailing in WA, making an art form out of scoring. Thanks also to Andree Bennett for calling the finishing positions – she reckons she doesn’t do anything, but she is wrong! Andree is also really important to our regattas, calling the finishing positions correctly every time.

A lot of us stopped at the Mount Barker bakery on the way home – that was clearly the winner – wow – the pies there are outstanding!