It was 'do or die' today for several Contenders with aspirations of winning the 40th Contender World title which was on offer this afternoon. It was another sunny day as the fleet left the dock at the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron, with 12-13 knots blowing, and a little cloud to seaward.
The top Contenders handled their pre-race in very different ways. Christoph Homeier
(GER551) appeared a little nervous, Jonathan Neate
(AUS2323) was out early, while Andrea Bonezzi
(ITA11) looked relaxed. As he wandered down the ramp it was a frank assessment from the Italian. Looking at the breeze he commented ruefully 'If you want to put money on the 2010 World Championship put it on Jono Neate, these are his conditions not mine.'
At the start of Race 9 the fleet was held out on Waterloo Bay as a new course was set to 060. Excitement as a Windrush catamaran capsized just below the pin and the mast stuck firmly in the mud. Two men and a dog (named Mojo) were rescued as the fleet focused for the start. The breeze was now 13 knots from the north east.
As he had done in four previous starts Jono Neate started on the pin, Matt Mulder (AUS2408) just up from him with Bonezzi and Homeier. Once more Neate's strategy worked well and he was the clear leader at the top mark ahead of Bonezzi, Mulder, Grant Robinson (AUS2136) and Homeier.
As they came in on the second reach it was Neate, Bonezzi, Mulder and Homeier at the bottom mark for the first time. At the top mark for the second time, Neate came in from the left just one boat length ahead of Bonezzi and as they came round the mark they were nearly bow to stern. Matt Mulder was next and then Robinson. Homeier was sixth and could be out of contention for the title.
Ten kilos lighter than his Italian rival, Jono Neate held on for another lap for a victory. Andrea Bonezzi was second, Matt Mulder third with Christoph Homeier fourth.
It was now second drop time in the ten race World Championship series. Neate dropped a seven and Bonezzi a five, meaning Jono Neate led the Contender World Championships by three points going into the final race.
The Race Committee reset the line for the final race in the 40th Contender Worlds; heading 055, distance 0.8 nm. First a general recall, then a clear start.
The Championship leader Jono Neate was fourth up from the pin, with the twin Ronstan logos of 2009 World Champion Andrea Bonezzi next and young Christoph Homeier, one above them.
At the wing mark Simon Mussell
(GBR2420) was leading, local sailor Phil Evans (AUS1753) was second with Bonezzi 30 seconds back and Neate back in seventh. Down at the bottom mark, Neate had made up a placing on Bonezzi, the duo were equal with a lap and a half to go. Up the work however Neate in a softening breeze, outsailed the elder statesman; Neate was sixth while Bonezzi was seventh. Homeier was back mid-fleet, looking like he'd sailed his drop.
At second bottom mark, Mussell had broken well clear but the British sailor had left his challenge a little late. He was well clear of Evans and the big mover was Neate who was now third. Bonezzi was back in sixth. All Neate needed to do was to keep his mast in the boat for another 0.8 nautical mile work to become the 40th Contender World Champion. And he did.
There were cheers as the fleet came in for the new Contender World Champion.
'I am just stoked. I was second behind Andrea in Denmark. So this was the goal'
said the young Cadastral surveyor, who did his Civil Engineering degree at the University of Melbourne. 'After the first two days Andrea had a good lead on us so I realised if I was going to win I had to step up a gear, so I took more risks on the start.
'Andrea's traditional strength has been his beat. I knew if I could be with him at the top mark then I had a chance and that was the same today. Going into the tenth and final race, I knew I had to stay within two points to be sure of the Championships and I actually did something I thought I'd never been able to do. I sat in dirty air for half a leg to stay close to Andrea figuring I just had to stay in contact, so I could attack later and that worked. I took him downwind. In contrast Christoph tacked away into clear air but on the unfavoured side.'
Neate was generally considered by the Contender fleet to be the sailor most likely to have a chance to beat the seven times world champion.
Christoph Homeier had led the series overnight but today was not his best day. 'I had a poor start in race nine, but I fought back up to third, then my halyard gave way and down I went again.
'In the last race I was third, sucking gas from Andrea and Jono. My third on the podium was secure. I had to do something extreme, I did and I was buried and so my drop (12th) came in. I was too conservative on my starts overall. I learned a lot here for the future and it was great sailing. Jono deserves to be champion - he was the best sailor here
Andrea Bonezzi was very gracious in defeat, after congratulating both Neate and Homeier he said 'I am happy with how I sailed, the conditions were good for me today. I had no breakages.
'I am happy that he (Jono) won when I was sailing my best. He is the Champion because he sailed the best.'
Today's winner Simon Mussell commented ' I left some of my best to the last day, perhaps it was the three leaders watching each other more than trying to win. The top three guys were definitely sailing at a higher level than the rest of us; they deserved their podium placings.'
Results - click here