The Australian International Tornado Championships were held in conjunction with the 2013 Race Week. The host club was Geographe Bay Yacht Club, in Busselton some 220 kms south of Perth in the fabulous wine region of Western Australia. The conditions were challenging and produced some great sailing.
Day one was abandoned with over 30 knots of breeze from the South. Crews could only sit on the beach and hope conditions would moderate.
The next day provided frustrating conditions for all teams with light and shifting SE breeze, with boats suffering big losses when picking the wrong side of the course. A 30 knot puff from the previous day effectively ended Ron Stokes’ regatta. The capsize near the bottom gate with gennaker blasting gave International Race Officer John Taylor a front row seat of Ron’s crew Nelson Clarke, performing a high dive from 20 meters in the air. Brett Burvill and Ryan Duffield commenced the defense of their title with a bullet, with Jack Benson and Matt Johnson keeping out a fast finishing Gavin Davies and Will Elks. In race 2, Allan Gamble and Damien McAlinden took advantage of a wind shift on the last upwind to snatch victory from Jack Benson with Brett Burvill in third.
In the afternoon of day two, an 8-15 knots south-westerly was a welcome change in race 3 with Brett and Ryan having to fight to regain the lead. Allan and Damien took advantage of the right hand shift on the last upwind to edge out Paul Raymond and Rod Hodgkin into second place.
A late wind shift from the south with gusts of 20+ knots during the race 4 saw only four boats complete the required three laps of the course. Jack Benson and Matt Johnson were first with Paul Peterson and Jared Eyles comfortably second and young guns Harry Winspear (17) and Mitchell Hardy (15) claiming third.
With three races on day three, race 5 was a challenge with six knots or less. The left side of the course was favored with one team gaining nine places. The breeze swung to the west after lunch and provided consistent conditions during both races 6 and 7.
On day four, only one race was sailed in a dying north-westerly breeze. Brett and Ryan showed why they are ranked in the top five Tornado teams in the world, they lead from the start and couldn’t be headed. Ron and Nelson finished a competitive seventh given Ron’s badly sprained right ankle. The remainder of the fleet struggled to finish in the dwindling breeze.
On five two races were sailed with 18-20 knots northerly, accompanied by storms and lightning. Not a good combination with carbon masts. The big swell challenged crews with several boats losing crews and skippers from the large waves and several boats retired with breakages. A rain squall during the first race of the day made for some interesting sailing on these big powerful cats. Brett and Ryan were not immune to getting hammered and they managed to break their tiller on the last upwind of the first race. Not the best conditions in which to lose steerage.
Jack Benson showed good skill to cover Brett Burvill for a well-deserved win. The storm abated and conditions settled for the last race with the breeze dropping to 10 to 15 knots but the waves stayed. Brett and Ryan were back in the action after repairing their broken tiller with some marker pens and duct tape. They regained the lead from Jack and Matt and finish the last race with a bullet.
Ten (10) races completed the regatta, final placing was:
1st Brett Burvill and Ryan Duffield on 'Windrush – Black Caviar' 2nd Jack Benson and Matt Johnson on 'ITB Racing' 3rd Allan Gamble and Damien McAlinden on 'Aeolus'
Handicap winner for the series was Harry Winspear and Mitchell Hardy on 'Dirty Harry'.
The ages of Tornado sailors varied from Mitchell Hardy at 15 years old to 72 years young Gwyn Cracknell. Gwyn (Crackles) showed that old dogs can learn new tricks finishing race 4 in second behind Brett and Ryan.
The other young guns Ethan Neaves and Harry Winspear were close for the whole regatta with Ethan finishing four points ahead of Harry and his crew Mitchell Hardy. Harry took out the Handicap result for the regatta with better overall consistency compared to Ethan and his crew Andrew Bravos.
Australian teams are planning to sail in the European Championships and later the Tornado Worlds at Ibiza in Spain in late September 2013.
The next Australian Championships is to be held in Perth, Dec-Jan 2014/15 prior to the Tornado Worlds.
International crews from Europe and the UK are keen to make the journey to sample the best WA has to offer as a sailing venue and have a month away from a depressing winter.