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20 February 2007, 09:45 am
Tough Opening Day
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Seawind Formula 18 World Championship 2007
Yeppoon, Australia

Heavy weather made for a tough first day of the 2007 Seawind F18 Worlds, being sailed at Rydges Capricorn Resort off Yeppoon, Queensland. An 80 boat fleet from 12 nations started but 16 boats capsized with three sailors requiring medical attention.
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The forecast for the start of racing on day one of the Seawind Formula 18 World Championship was for south easterly winds 20-25 knots. A heavy swell from the last three days of southerly winds, made the launch from the beach through the surf break exciting for the large numbers of spectators on the beach.

At the start, the wind was blowing at hardly more than 15 knots, but the swell was such that would normally be associated with around 25 knots.

French Pair Lead The Way

Jean-Christophe MOURNIAC and Franck CITEAU (FRA) led at the mark from triple World Champion Mitch BOOTH and his crew Pim NIEUWENHIS (NED), who came in from the port layline and were close at the top mark.

Billy BESSON and Arnaud JARLEGAN (FRA) were third, with the Spanish champions Fernando ECHAVARRI and Anton PAZ (ESP) in fifth place. Australians Darren BUNDOCK and Glen ASHBY were fourth at the first mark.

As the wind continued to build so did the seas, to 3 metres, and as the fleet ran down with the wind and waves at speeds of more than 20 knots, boat after boat capsized.

In all 16 boats retired from the race, after spectacular capsizes and nose dives. Rescue boats assisted three Queensland sailors, who needed medical attention.

At the second mark, BUNDOCK and ASHBY were third but catching the leaders by the top mark for the third time, BUNDOCK and ASHBY were clearly leading from BOOTH and NIEUWENHIS.

Aussie Bullet

The winners of race 1 were BUNDOCK and ASHBY, ahead of BOOTH and NIEUWENHIS, with MOURNIAC and CITEAU in third. BESSON and JARLEGAN were fourth with the Spaniards ECHAVARRI and PAZ, fifth.

On the beach BUNDOCK commented, 'We did not have the greatest start but we kept moving up and the top mark for the second time we made gains. Once we sailed into the lead we were able to consolidate and then sail a little conservatively as the conditions strengthened. 'It's good to be in the lead, so the other guys have to chase.'

BOOTH was smiling. 'The conditions were exactly what we expected, strong wind, lumpy seas and with the rough seas plenty of wipeouts. We started close to the start boat, went almost to layline on left.. left paid.. then on the second beat we went the wrong way and that cost us five places and we had to fight back from there. The lead changed five or six times, there were no dark horses at the top of the fleet.'

Steve BREWIN (AUS), former World A Class champion finished sixth overall with Andrew WILLIAMS (AUS), 'We were going all right until we fell off, we went from fifth to fifteen, at the top mark we managed to keep it upright and we had to fight all the way back. We know we have good boat speed; we've been doing a lot of sail development.'

Robert GREENHALGH with brother Peter GREENHALGH (GBR), sailed into tenth place and may rise, as protests were still being heard.

He commented, 'We are still learning about boat speed upwind. On the first two beats we had our set up wrong, by the third beat we felt we were on the pace. Downwind it was survival, with plenty of guys spearing it in, all over the place. We are looking forward to the rest of the regatta. Our learning curve will remain steep.'

Results are provisional and subject to protest. Due to the increasing wind gusting into the high 20s, officials were forced to abandon racing for the day.

One of the Queensland sailors injured was Luke MCDONALD (AUS), who sustained torn ligaments and tendons in his upper leg and groin after ducking a capsized boat. MCDONALD hit the rudder of the capsized boat and ended up washed off the back of his boat with his caught in the foot strap. After medical attention, MCDONALD arrived back in the boat park with his upper thigh strapped, but still able to manage a wry grin.

Leroy POLDEN (AUS) sustained badly bruised ribs following a capsize and Gordon BEATH (AUS) sustained a badly bruised ankle and broken fingers, also following a capsize.

Rob Kothe (As Amended by ISAF), Image, It was a tough openingh day in Yeppoon:© Andrea Francolini
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