David Gilmour and his team finished the job they could not complete last year, to bring home the Warren Jones International Youth Match Racing Regatta Trophy, defeating fellow Club Member Tristan Brown in the finals, three wins to one.
As he did last year, Gilmour finished comfortably on top of the leader board after the double round robin series of races, losing just one match in the process. Brown and Chris Steele from the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron finished four points behind, with most of the remainder of the fleet bunched fairly tightly.
The two “Freshie” teams had the pick of their opponents for the quarter finals. Predictably, David Gilmour selected the eighth placed skipper, South of Perth Yacht Club’s newcomer Luke Morrison, while Tristan Brown selected Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club’s Tim Coltman. Both proceeded to the semi-finals with a three – nil drubbing of their respective opponents.
At the semi-final stage on Friday morning however, things began to unravel. A south easterly breeze, similar to the previous day but lighter, greeted the fleet. A short delay due to an unreported damaged mainsail had everyone on edge, and in the very first match, while Tristan Brown took out a one- nil lead over Steve Thomas; Chris Steele won his first match against David Gilmour, a tight affair with just 8 seconds in it at the end.
In match two, Tristan Brown again had the drop on Steve Thomas to go to two – nil, but David Gilmour had to use all his guile and experience to sneak over the finish line just one second ahead of his New Zealand rival to level the scores.
John Rosser, the principal race officer, was kept right on his toes as the winds eased further and continued to shift, but with no sign of any change to the south or south west. The course was shortened and flight three began. An aggressive Steve Thomas, now with nothing to lose, came out fighting in the prestart, got away well and inflicted the first defeat on Tristan Brown by just 9 seconds.
In the other semi-final, Steele took off to the left of the course, which had proved a winner for Tristan Brown earlier, while David Gilmour was forced to go right, with little speed and little pressure. It was agonising to watch, as another tack in those circumstances would have left him well behind, yet clearly the New Zealand boat was pulling away with better pressure. David stuck to his guns, trying to maintain boat speed until a shift came to allow them to tack back to the centre. When it did, Steele had also tacked towards the middle, and this time it was his turn to watch as pressure faded while the Gilmour boat powered on. At their meeting, Gilmour had recovered all his losses, enforced his starboard tack rights and sailed over the top of Steele, never relinquishing his grip on the match from that point on.
At that point, there was insufficient breeze to continue racing, and in stifling, hot conditions, John Rosser sent the fleet ashore to enjoy lunch and wait. And wait….. And wait.
As the clock continued its relentless march, the breeze stayed away and anxious officials started to debate the options available to them. It became clear that there was now insufficient time to complete the semi-finals AND run a full “first to three” final, so the decision was made to declare the result of the semi-finals on the basis of the races completed up to that time, a decision that certainly did not please either Steve Thomas or Chris Steele. Even David Gilmour, in his speech at the end of the day, acknowledged that they might have had an element of luck in the way the semi-finals worked out, even commiserating with Chris Steele.
Finally the breeze came in, light still, and from the south west. In the petit final, Chris Steele notched the first win against Steve Thomas, and in the final, David Gilmour went one up in his encounter with Tristan Brown. Steve Thomas took the second flight of the petit final to level the scores and take the series a third flight to decide who would be “first to two”. David Gilmour took his scoreline to two – nil with a comfortable win in his second match with Tristan Brown.
When Chris Steele snuffed out Steve Thomas’ challenge in their third race to clinch third place in the regatta, all interest focussed on whether Tristan Brown could come back from two matches down. Brown started well, locking out Gilmour as they headed to the extreme left of the course. On reaching the marked exclusion zone, Gilmour called for water, Brown was a little slow in his response and minor contact occurred. The umpires penalised Brown, who retained a narrow lead at this point.
Tristan Brown now had two alternatives. He could employ the risky strategy of forcing Gilmour beyond the top mark in an attempt to gain sufficient room to clear the penalty, or he could concentrate solely on speed, and try to generate a big enough gap to clear the penalty on the finish line before Gilmour could get to him. They chose the second option and extended their lead to around five boat lengths – about the minimum needed in this situation if the penalty turn is perfectly executed. Brown’s crew responded beautifully to the challenge, turning the big yacht smoothly around the pin buoy on the finish line and recrossing, now clear of their penalty, just as Gilmour came charging in. Gilmour, now without right of way, was too close and his spinnaker literally fell across the rigging of Brown’s yacht, so now Gilmour was not only beaten over the line, but had to clear a penalty before being considered finished.
The flotilla of spectator boats went mad, with ship’s horns and loud whistles greeting the prospect of another close race. Alas, it was not to be. David Gilmour won the start and sailed an immaculate fourth flight, going away, to claim his first Warren Jones crown.
Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club’s match racing program must be the envy of every yacht Club in the southern hemisphere. While David Gilmour and Tristan Brown slugged out the final, David’s brother Sam might well have been in the mix, losing his quarter final after being two – nil up in the first two races. Full credit must go to the Club management, who continue to show great faith in their junior sailors, and to the match racing coach, Keith Swinton, who has been responsible for bringing out the best in these talented young sailors.