It was down to the wire on the final day of the Starling Nationals, and Worser Bay was set to deliver some of its excellent conditions. The breeze was moderate in the morning, but by the afternoon the breeze was well in and with the cold, denser air, the race track felt very windy. A true northerly ended up filling in with the tide coming in so in different directions pushing up quite a chop to deal with. Going into the day, I knew who the competition was, and I knew that I would have to do my utter best to cement myself at the top of the podium.
The racing got underway pretty much on time, for the first day of all of my six days of racing on the water. Which was excellent, as it left plenty of opportunities for the race committee to get all the races out of the way. The total of four more which would allow the competitors to all get a second drop in ten races. In the first race, I was one of the front bunch but was on the outside of the significant shift of the day for the breeze to lock in and be consistent, so I lost some distance on the front bunch on the first beat. Hanging in with the group the whole race, to snatch a few on the last downwind and reach (one competitor of which was very tight on points with me). Race two I had a great race, with the first two boats separating from the fleet, and we battled till the end, and I slipped the win creating some more gauge on the leaderboard. Race three, I got squeezed out off the line and had to duck a large number of boats on starboard so ended up about mid-fleet off the line. I worked hard on the upwind to get into the top 20, cut through a bunch on the reach and was behind the front pack at the bottom mark after entirely sending it on the downwind. With the breeze increasing, I knew my opposition what start to feel the burn in their legs from hiking so I just put in that extra work and it paid off. I was 3rd or 4th at the top mark and then closed the gap on the downwind to scoot through on the last reach again.
The final race, much like last year it was down to grinding end, and I knew what was the margins 2 points ahead of Caleb Armit and 4 points ahead of Oliver Cowley. It was a balance between pushing the boat hard in the times that mattered but not getting too aggressive and making a mistake. After an excellent start and clearing off from the fleet in the first upwind 5 or 6 of us unleashed on the reach of the 23-25 knots, getting the starling dinghies well an genuinely stonking. On the downwind, I made my way to the front and was holding on until my first dropped tack of the regatta. I got the tiller extension stuck, and when I go it free I lost it, and the boat spun into a tack, and the boom sconed me on the head. There was a little bit pain, but more I felt slightly nauseous, but I pushed on as I knew the stakes at play. Rounding the top mark in first, I sailed a strong first part of the downwind to get myself in a strong position for the reach. I saw a pressure line coming down behind the three of us, and they both gybed before it and were in the lane for the rounding gate. I thought I was playing the safer game by putting in the gybe at the bottom on a tighter angle to gate meaning that I had room to spin up a few degrees, so I did not death roll, but that was no avail. The wind was at least 4-5 knots more, and I dug the chime in on the leeward side as I gybed and the boat spun out capsizing, pointing the wrong way to the gate. I had my back against the wall; I righted the boat, tacked with it full of water and opened up the self-bailers. I managed to get around ahead of the other competitors behind me and held on till the finish, thus the position of 5th equalising all three boats on the podium.
On the water, I was utterly gutted as I knew that I did not do the best I could and that I didn’t manage to finish the way I would have liked. I have had regatta ties not go my way in the past due to weird score breaks, but I knew if they did it by the rulebook I would have the win. However, that did not take away from the fact I had it clean, and I made a simple error that could have been very costly. Nevertheless, the score was broken in my favour because I had the most firsts and I’m stoked to go back to back titles something that has only been down three other times by other exceptional sailors. Including, Rohan Cooke, Time Christensen and Peter Burling. No-one has ever gone back to back to back, so there is an incentive for the next season to give it another crack!
P.S – Post to come on the next adventure, stay tuned!