SPORT - Souter wins compasscard Australian Women’s Match Racing Championship


Nicky Souter and her crew of Nina Curtis and Nicole Douglass, representing Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club and Australian Sailing Development Squad, won the compasscard Australian Women’s Match Racing Championship on Sydney Harbour, after a countback rule was used to break the tie between first and second.

Racing concluded last Thursday with stage three — the semi finals — starting in a northeast breeze of 12 to 15kts. The semi final match-ups were Nicky Souter vs Samantha Osborne (RNZYS) and Katie Spithill (RPAYC/ASDS) against Lucinda Whitty (RSYS/ASDS). After the completion of one match in each flight, PRO Mark Pryke lengthened the course by 300m.

In the first match of the day, Whitty forced Spithill into a penalty seconds before the start gun, but Spithill managed to open up a 10-second lead at the top mark. Whitty fought back on the run to the leeward mark, picking up a penalty by not allowing Spithill to sail the proper course. It looked to be a clean fight to the finish, before Spithill picked up another penalty as they rounded the leeward mark, both yachts sailing upwind neck and neck. Spithill tried to sail a faultless final downwind leg, aiming to gain a large enough lead to wipe off her outstanding penalty before the finish. However, Whitty took the lead and ran away with the win.

In the second match, Spithill rounded the top mark with a 15-second lead, after a clean start, which continued throughout the race and won by 25 seconds, meaning a third match had to be sailed to determine who would go into the Petit Finals.

In the third match, Whitty won the start and went into a fierce tacking duel with Spithill, the eventual winner. Spithill went wide onto the lay line to try to get clean air and over the top of Whitty. Whitty forced Spithill beyond the lay and Spithill called for "proper course", which forced a penalty on Whitty. As they came down the final leg, Whitty held a slight lead, but it was not enough to enable her penalty turn to be completed. Spithill won the race with Whitty taking her penalty turn after crossing the finishing line.

In the match-up between first placed Souter and second placed Osborne, the latter got the early win in the first match after crossing the start line first and maintaining the lead all the way around the course.

In race two, Osborne once again got the better start, but Souter fought back to take a four-second lead at the leeward mark. Souter continuing to build the lead on the second leg, opened out to a 20-second lead as she headed for home. Osborne went looking for a gust on the northern side of the course, but Souter hung on to take the win with a final wind gust taking her across the finish line by half-a-boat length and into a third and deciding semi final race.

In what was the toughest match of the day,
Osborne once again had the better start after a tight pre-start circling duel. Osborne picked up a penalty at the top mark and while undertaking her penalty turn, received another penalty for not staying outside two-boat lengths when conducting her penalty turn, which did not allow suitable time for Souter to keep clear.

Souter was then to race off against ASDS and RPAYC teammate Katie Spithill in the grand final, with Osborne and Whitty sailing in the Petit Final for third and fourth positions.

At the conclusion of the semi final stages, the wind changed direction which allowed competitors to have a lunch break and the race committee to re-lay the course.

Flight one of the Petit Final was abandoned shortly after the start due to the significant drop in the breeze and the conditions did not improve much for the rest of the afternoon.

PRO Mark Pryke had competitor agreement to an extension of the last start time to 1630hrs which allowed time to try to commence stage four of racing. Due to the lack of breeze, rain and the shifty conditions, racing was abandoned at 1630hrs.

The final results of the compasscard Australian Women’s Match Racing Championships were decided using the Racing Rules of Sailing rule C 11.2 to break the tie between Souter and Spithill and Osborne and Whitty, using final round robin and semi final results.

The victory gave Nicky Souter her sixth national championship win after a tough four days of competition. “We had a pretty tough day today on water, after choosing Samantha Osborne as our opponent in the semi finals. It was a bit of a risk which showed in the results of the first race,” she said.

“I am very happy with my crew performance over the course of the regatta. I commend the race committee for their decision to extend the race time limit to see if we could get in a full flight of races rather than a sudden death race-off. Thanks also to Sean Langman and compasscard for sponsoring the regatta,” concluded Souter.

In responding, Sean Langman, owner of Noakes Group, the parent company of compasscard, said: “I am very proud to sponsor this event and to see the synergy between compasscard, which is a new initiative in the marine industry and Women’s Match
Racing, which has recently been included as an Olympic sport for the 2012 Olympic Games.

“The level of sailing skill displayed on water was outstanding and I look forward to seeing Australian women on top of the podium in London in 2012. It was great action on water and I enjoyed the challenge of commentating onboard the spectator ferry Proclaim, part of the Rosman Ferries group, with some of the competitors from the Championship onboard,” Langman said.

CYCA vice commodore, Howard Piggott said at the prizegiving at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia on Thursday evening: “Each one of you should be proud of the sailing skills you have showed throughout this regatta. We look forward to seeing you again in the next Women’s Match Racing Championship.”

Photo: The winning team (L-R) of Nicky Souter, Nina Curtis and Nicole Douglass representing RPAYC and ASDS in the compasscard Australian Women’s Match Racing Championships. (Photo © CYCA Staff).