Having owned Espresso, an S80 for all of 4 months I eagerly ventured forth to sunny Geelong to pit my whits and skills against 16 other skippers at the state championships.
My daughter had asked what competition I had entered, so with swagger and poise I responded saying that it was the S80 State Championships but since there were no interstate entries it was really the Nationals and because there are no S80’s outside of Australia then really it was the Worlds; imagine my disappointment when she was not suitably impressed.
We arrived at Royal Geelong Yacht Club on the Thursday afternoon after 7 hours on a close hauled port tack. So while I could not see straight I had the unusual ability to see around left hand corners until my neck finally straightened up.
We were permitted to tie up to the visitor’s jetty which meant for a fairly straight shot up to the main bar across the lawn (locked away into the memory for later that evening).
Having slept peacefully on the boat we dumped all the excess weight onto the jetty but I managed to climb back aboard and we set off for the first race.
I am not wanting to put off any prospective s80 newbies reading this article but a start line with 17 S80’s chock full of high calibre of sailing talent was a humbling experience. I was completely outfoxed at the start line and quickly made my way to the back of the pack.
I am of course jesting a fair bit here but the racing being so close is no joke. Quite often the entire fleet was on the same leg of the course (and I don’t just mean at the start) with really only a few boat lengths separating each skipper from the next. It really is tremendously exciting and we learned a heck of a lot over the weekend.
What often amazed me was how quick and efficient the other boats were at hoisting and dousing their spinnakers. Often a well- oiled machine akin to a formula one team enabled such activities to be completed in what appeared to be micro-seconds. It was often these things that made the few boat length differences between the competitors. In a nutshell this is what S80 one design is all about. All the boats are 1980’s, good solid fibreglass, no fancy stuff, a good boat can be had for $15,000 with which you can pit your skills (no matter how meagre) against the others without then need to mortgage the house and sell the kids to pay for a new number 3 jib.
Dinner and speeches on Saturday night was a lively affair with so much experience, war stories and anecdotes in the room creating a excited babble for the whole evening (and that was just me). I was in my element, asking other skippers how they rig their boats, strategize their starts and beat their crews (I find my arms get a bit tired wielding the spinnaker pole; perhaps I should go carbon fibre).
A third day of brilliant sunshine with mid- twenties temperatures and Corio bay to ourselves we set off again for the last two races with some significant wind changes causing our faithful OOD a few headaches in setting the course.
Determined to follow Luke’s advice for starting “just go for it” I found myself in pole position, hurtling toward the boat end of the line at full tilt with 30 seconds to go. Then Luke himself appeared from nowhere in Intrusion which was aptly named as he intruded upon my gap and had the audacity to push me up head to wind. Flogging pathetically I regained my momentum only to have Escape try the same thing pushing me way up above my line. As he bore off to cross the line I followed suit but somebody went and moved the committee boat right in front of me (jolly bad luck that his anchor slipped just at that time) and so I was compelled to clip his brand new port engine with my bow. Luckily there was no damage done (and his engine was ok too).
I now understand it is bad form to hit the committee boat (even though it was considerably bigger than my S80) and was indeed protested by said committee boat even though I had done a turn in penalty of hitting a “mark of the course” oh well, pop that one into the experience bucket, plus Luke got a good laugh out of it during his acceptance speech for winning the regatta.
So we sailed back to st Kilda that afternoon and I slumped into bed a happy man, you couldn’t have knocked the smile off my face with a rolled up 2.5 Genoa. I am already looking forward to the next championships knowing that I am currently 16th in the world.