Showing the silky skills that had them short listed for YA’s “team of the year” (didn’t say in what :))LOEG get a great start in fresh air in the middle of the river, while the Axis accelerates from the rowers covering Still Festering in very little air. SF pulls away from us quickly, with their big headsail producing enormous power in the light wind, as LOEG crosses the river. With a couple of quick tacks inside the quick running flood tide (a trick taught to him by Master Sumo), LOEG rounds Abbotsford leading comfortably and across Abbotsford Bay.
Settling down the boat, adjusting the rig and tacking on every lift we find we are able to stay in touch with the big boys who have simply used their power in the light breezes. There’s no doubt about it, the Axis is a real “sailor’s boat”.
As we sail in toward the old Lysaghts site the entertainment for us begins with Still Festering rounding up a beauty. This could be fun today as we “like to watch) (must be said with a Scottish accent). As heavier gusts from the building sea breeze continue to hit both LOEG and SF along the Drummoyne shore and to Cockatoo with both boat rounding up and stalling along the way. We like what we are watching, as we keep in touch with these big boys.
We pass Cockatoo Island as SF sails crosses the mouth of Lane Cove River, and are a few hundred metre behind the red porch light girls. Using another trick taught to him by Grand Master Sumo, LOEG tacks and cross to Balmain shore, and we follow the LOEG. A great lift at long nose point sees us still in sight the big guys.
Between Balls Head and Goat Island both big boats get slammed, losing valuable time, and it is apparent that young Anakin Willo has forgotten all that Darth Sumo taught him about this section of the river as he becomes flustered. SF takes LOEG following a starboard call and the chase is now on, with both mains blowing inside out and more roundup occurring. This is becoming more entertaining by the moment. At this stage we begin to pass the leading Division 3 boats with Roustabout, having a commanding lead on Farrgo as we sail pass Goat Island.
The water at this time is not too lumpy and our little boat is sailing nicely and well balanced as we go under the Harbour Bridge. Nice lifts allow us to ease sheet a little to pass Pinchgut to port. With plenty of room to pull away in the fresh air and sheets eased the big boats pull slowly away until they a just sails in the distance. As we approach Shark Island SF is around with pole out and LOEG still behind the island, we are relatively happy with where we are. Maybe 10 behind SF and 8 minutes behind LOEG.
Being a “sailor’s boat” (as opposed to a boat that serves Evian water and Chai Lattes) the big kite goes up as soon as we round the YA mark. “What have we done” I say to myself as Speed steers a very fast course to Clark Island, it’s getting bloody tight and with the north in the breeze we are not sure whether we can carry this kite across the Harbor and around Fort Denison. If only Bloody Sumo was here with his gut I swear under my breath as our puny but hairy, barrel chested bodies struggle to hold the Axis flat. As we roar towards Garden Island, Speed (Sumo’s greatest apprentice) calls for a jib hoist, Thank God I say waiting for the call to drop the kite. This is a difficult thing to do at high speed and with the boat on its side, but we manage to get it done and a few moments later round Fort Denison by the closest of margins with both sails working wonderfully. We can see the girls on LOEG gasping in amazement at our feats of seamanship and their oohs and aahs are audible across the water.
We drop the jib and square up for a run under the bridge. Bullets come over Bradley’s and start sending us down to the Harbour Bridge. Speed is an interesting sight with tiller in on hand, main sheet in the other and yet somehow manages to let off the vang to keep us on the edge of control in these squirts. We managed a short surf on some residual waves going under the bridge and it’s been a great ride so far.
We are under the Harbour Bridge and have just noticed in all of the flurry and excitement that we have passed Still Festering. Are these guys the world’s greatest sandbaggers? Or more likely enjoying a quite Latte and the passing scenery.
As we near Long Nose Point I see the LOEG in the distance, and with the breeze tightening we drop the kite and steer out in to open water, with SF sailing up the inside of us, gee that boat is fast. Up goes the kite again and we fly to Balmain in and out of 16 footers like a dodgem car, unlike Sumo I think, who just used to go straight through them (Apologies to Warky, however Sumo was in the right).
Onward we go, and when our kite was again set after the quick drop, we glanced up and were stunned to see LOEG just passing Cockatoo. Are they sandbagging too? In 15 years of racing Willo we have never seen him give in, so what is going on?
The little boat with 3 men continue to work dropping the kite round Snapper and working hard to catch both SF and LOEG who are now close. As we round Wrights point the spinnaker is back up and the chase is on, once more. Still Festering finally beats us by 40 seconds and LOEG by 2 minutes. As a result of our hard fought handicap win, we lose 2 valuable minutes on Handicap and today we win the Steven Bradbury award. For persistence, bravery, and sheer determination. Well done skipper and crew.