By Chris Holyday
The first two races of the Western Australian Sabre States have been run and won with a solid turnout of boats this past weekend at the Maylands Yacht Club.
Maylands is located almost five kilometres up-river from Perth city, and some 24 kilometres up-river from Fremantle Harbour.
It is Perth’s most eastern yacht club and on occasions in summer, it might not see the cooling south westerly sea breeze known as the Fremantle Doctor, forced back by the prevailing summer easterlies.
Sunday 29 November was not one of those days when 21 Sabres enjoyed the sprawling lawns and easy flat launching into the still waters of the Swan River.
It was the club’s first time hosting the Sabre class State Championship and it was a rather wintry-like grey and overcast day with a gusty sea breeze from the south-southwest and only 22 degrees that greeted the sailors just before race one.
Fortunately the wind settled down soon after the start.
The Maylands Yacht Club is still subject to the rising and falling tides of Fremantle, usually up to one metre, being part of the greater Swan River estuarine system.
Parts of the shoreline are heavily treed, and some tall buildings such as St John of God Hospital (the old St Annes Hospital), do create difficulties that test out the unwary sailor.
In addition, the tide flows around a large bend in the river at a wide lake-like main section where racing takes place.
A number of the fleet that had sailed at Maylands previously knew what to expect – as well as where not to sail – particularly upwind where one side of the shoreline should be avoided, which they most likely all know now.
All sailors faced the same challenge of squeezing around the windward mark at Bunbury Bridge, a mark that dates back as far as 1905 when an earlier East Perth Yacht Club used to exist close by.
The wind generally backs to give a starboard lift at that mark, but it is fluky, whereas coming in to the mark on port tack can usually provide a more reliable breeze sweeping under Windan Bridge – if you can avoid the starboard tack boats filing in.
Add to the mix a quite strong current at that narrow point, and it can be a daunting rounding!
After that, the downwind square run can also lead to boats passing you to leeward – again, if you have sailed too high into calmer waters.
I had the pleasure of picking up one of those starboard lifts very early on the first leg upwind in race one.
I had a bad start, so port-tacked half way across river immediately after, until I felt a strong header to swing across on starboard to gladly see the windward mark way off ahead in line with my forestay.
The leaders were working their way up the leeward shore, as they normally should, but I was just lucky enough to hold that lift and drop in close behind Scot Olsen three quarters of the way up that leg.
I could see Scott keeping his boat dead flat and as lifts came in from starboard, he was almost imperceptibly lifting the boat’s nose slowly higher with minimum rudder movement and maintaining maximum speed – very smooth indeed.
It was an unusual feeling for me to glance back over my shoulder to see most of the fleet behind us – and that feeling did not last long as Tony Carr in Zero Tolerance and Andy Rose in Lost Horizon were further to windward of both of us, with Bill Gillham not far behind them in Avenger.
I held on to that starboard tack too long, copped a bigger header coming into the Bunbury Bridge mark on port and found myself in the second group of three chasing Sabres behind these four leaders.
Those four boats had a great battle all race and I was pleased to scrap it out with The Rooster (Carl Girolamo), Aero (Richard Martin) and Fly In Fly Out (Lane Bauer) for the next four places after the leading group.
Tony Carr (Zero Tolerance) had a well-deserved win in race one with Scott Olsen close behind.
I was very happy with a sixth place in that race – my best ever in a State or National series in Perth where Scott Olsen of Fremantle Sailing Club and a cache of Perth Dinghy Club sailors have traditionally taken out all top 10 places.
In race two, my memories are clouded by a disappointing start where I was sitting behind the front group again – note to self: a bit more aggression to take on the front line next time.
The wind was dropping the further this race went as a good front had passed through the course area just before race one.
We enjoy flat water sailing at all times at Maylands – the only waves to speak of coming from passing power boats!
This leads to close racing on our tight courses and this race was no exception with Scott Olsen and Tony Carr again taking out first and second places respectively – this time the order was reversed and Scott prevailed.
It was great to see ‘the two Martins’ – Richard and Ray (not related I believe) fill third and fourth spots. Ray has sailed for MYC in the past in both Lasers and Sabres and knows our waters very well. He is always up there in light winds.
Maylands Yacht Club was proud to host the first two WA State Heats and we look forward to travelling down river to the wider waters of Matilda Bay and the Perth Dinghy Sailing Club for the next heats in the New Year – even if it means sailing in their short and sharp choppy waters… just kidding – but we do like our flat water sailing at Maylands!
Footnote – for those in New South Wales it is similar to sailing at Connells Point Sailing Club versus sailing at Georges River Sailing Club in a black nor’easter!
The Sabre Sailing Association would also like to thank its sponsor – Boating Hardware.
All photos courtesy of MYC Laser sailor and support boat helper – David Ponton – thanks David.