Shifty conditions provided a final frisson of excitement in this last throw of the dice before the Christmas break. Hayden Whitburn aboard Upfront (814) may have been tempted to count his chickens with Valsheda (950) a DNC, but there were no dead-certs on a course bristling with false hopes and banana skins.
Only Feng Shui (1348) seemed able to pick her way faultlessly through the pratfalls to take a clean sweep, while the fortunes of the following fleet were mixed in a very close-fought flight.
Race 1 saw Feng Shui and Tortuga (779) make an early break onto port tack as the wind clocked left through 35 degrees such that the starboard layline was under the spans of the Harbour Bridge. Showing a clean pair of heels to the following fleet, Feng Shui, Upfront and Tortuga made for the downwind mark, with Tortuga creating and then losing the overlap to round in third.
With the top mark reset, the three leaders played the shifts up the middle and Tortuga was able to gain second place after Upfront pushed hard left and into a hole. Downwind, the ebbing tide began to tell and the deeper course of Tortuga allowed her to hang on to second place.
In Race 2 it was the right that paid on the first work. The long offset leg - laid close to the Westhaven breakwater - provided passing opportunities for the brave and the fleet remained very close for the run producing more than one photo-finish.
After the breeze settled for Race 3, Upfront will have been happy to take out 2nd overall (in both the flight and the season), having managed a 3. 4. 3 on the night. After a misstep in race 1, Windward (1114) posted a 3, 2 to finish 3rd in the flight.
Your correspondent once again enjoyed exceptional crew-work - and expert tactical guidance - from the English girls, Ellie and Rosie and only slipped out of the main running when failing to do as he was told.
Many congratulations, then to Feng Shui on a series win, to add to the a top-ten finish at the Worlds. Upfront (814) takes 2nd overall from Valsheda (950).
A very Merry Christmas to all Etchells sailors - with hopes that we will see more of ALL of you in 2016.
Results here (flight) and here (series)
'A blustery day gave way to a more beguiling lull ahead of the the 6:00 PM start, but by the warning signal it was fairly whistling down the course, against the last of the flooding tide. This made for a sporty start and an epic downhill slide, with Feng Shui (1348) leading the charge from an eight-boat fleet over some rowdy surf.
Tragically (particularly for an unusually well-placed Tortuga (779)), the downwind mark had not been set and the first race was abandoned. However, a new race was quickly re-set and the fleet set off again in similar breeze, albeit over a flatter course on the now-ebbing tide.
It is a sad reflection upon the paucity of homegrown Kiwi sailing talent that your correspondent has had to fly in his crew from the UK and Spain, but Rosie (fresh off the jet), Ellie and Antonio fully justified the price of their airfares (it's their suite at the Langham that's really killing me) by bringing Tortuga (779) home a comfortable 2nd in Race 1, behind Feng Shui and ahead of Valsheda (950) - welcoming guest-helm Jan Dawson on an impressive debut.
Race 2 was a far closer affair, with the boats so tight at the top mark that, paradoxically, the spreader mark was not missed. In what amounted to a sprint, Feng Shui took another bullet from Upfront (814) and Valsheda (950). Torguga had held her own until the jib halyard cleat gave way, but avoided a total loss thanks to quick work by the crew (whose pay has nevertheless been docked).
Race 3 was, frankly, odd. The race committee got the start sequence underway with commendable alacrity, but while some of the fleet were still some way off. When the start signal sounded, only 3 boats were anywhere near the line, and 2 of them - Tortuga and Feng Shui - were close enough to it, that an individual recall seemed to be aimed at them. But no. It was for the (distant) late-comers. This, your correspondent learned only after having re-crossed the line behind Feng Shui. Consequently, Windward (1114) parlayed a late start into a comfortable win from Feng Shui and Tortuga.
With only one flight remaining, Feng Shui seems relatively safe in the top spot - but second place is very much up for grabs between Valsheda and Upfront.
Many thanks to the race committee and congratulations to Jan Dawson and crew on a strong flight to keep Valsheda in second spot on the leader board.
Results here (flight) and here (series).
Ideal conditions prevailed for Flight 6 and the fleet was champing at the bit to get amongst it, checked only by a short postponement to correct a wildly biased line.
This will be an unusually brief report as the festive season brings numerous pressing responsibilities for your correspondent. Suffice it to say, Upfront (814) and Valsheda (950) are making a mark on this series and won't let Feng Shui (1348) take it by default.
Aboard Tortuga (779), your correspondent enjoyed mixed fortunes - albeit in fine company, with fleet debutante, Russell Benshaw in the middle spot. Sadly missed, of course, was your correspondents erstwhile ship-mate, the incomparably Dom Lundon, whose deft (and entirely kosher) touch on the main sheet and shrewd tactical counsel have always been the key ingredients in each of Tortuga's myriad successes.
Many thanks to the Race Committee for an excellent outing. There are two more flights before the Christmas break.
Results here (flight) and here (series)
Alex Webster is Auckland Fleet Captain and runs this website, so blame him.