(Use the Tactics link to return to main page)
Fraser Read – 1997
Since Skase (aka Jason Slot) had been chased interstate following the 96-97 Wollongong campaign, Frazer Read (Mullet 1), and Justin Wells (Mullet 2), recruited Sam Ibbott (Mullet 3) for the wire. Worrying about the recruitment process left Wellsy with a stomach ulcer and so a lengthy break was decided on.
In our early preparation we recognised a need for team spirit and decided the quickest way to gain this was not by building confidence in each other through sailing, but rather to purchase team shirts. Fraze went straight to the Rip Curl catalogue and chose the loudest, most obnoxious shirt and ordered three in large sizes. Once the mighty Blues were relegated to ninth we decided that football was a stupid game anyway and we could no longer procrastinate - it was time to start sailing.
The good ship Impala.
Ibbo had gone from having ballast of 0.107 tonne on the wire, to a mere 85kg. This resulted in immense pressure on Ibbo to expand to a target weight of 91kg. He took this very seriously eating up to five meals a day (especially whole Chocolate Bavarians at playlunch). Wellsy had to lose some and Fraze was the skipper.
We decided the main had to be recut to allow for the reduction in crew weight, and we even discussed a new sail but decided against it. A new jib and spinnaker were crucial so we ordered one of each for the start of the season. Walker sails recut the main and fine-tuned the jib and spinnaker shapes with Hobart conditions in mind. A particularly windy start to the season gave us an opportunity to blow these sails into shape, and quite quickly blow them right out the other side so we ordered another new jib and spinnaker before the nationals.
Although Ibbo tried to gybe the kite like in a butterbox, early results were quite promising with Impala competing successfully in local races. Fortunately a British Fireball sailor was in town and agreed to help coach the local fleet in the lead up to the nationals. The Impala crew's early success, combined with coaching, meant their training schedule of five bar sessions, and four sails a week had them in good shape---although Fraze almost lost his sense of humour.
Promising placings of 5th (after another swim) and 2nd in the invitation races had Impala ready to start racing for sheep stations. The course placement meant the only local advantage was knowing which spectator craft had coldies for us after the finish. The downside of this was the local support being very generous with their ales, and the Impala crew often requiring assistance to lift the boat after four 'shotguns' each during the sail in.
Heat one was a frustrating affair with wind strength ranging from 20+knots to flat calm, and 360 degrees in direction. This was not to be the case for the remainder of the regatta as the breezes were predominantly steady, although there were exceptions.
Rod Beurteaux from WA was looking pretty good after four wins on the trot and his serious campaign was definitely taking shape, although our consistency had us in a clear second place. Out came the black zinc warpaint in heat four (honestly the chemist had no other colour - Ibbo). Obviously Wellsy's preparation was underdone, as 30 seconds after the gybe mark in a Fresh seabreeze the brace block pulled out of the deck. As we had just gained the lead for the first time in the regatta there was a little tension onboard. Beurteaux ramming us at the bottom mark was a good excuse to release some of this tension and we recovered to finish first and 'keep the dream alive'.
New Years Eve
Never in the proud history of the sharpie association have so many competitors been made feel so welcome by the local lasses. The glamour to drunk ratio was amazing. The only thing more amazing was the fact so many of them picked up.
The $8.00 jug of Bundy tells the story. The mullets were pretty happy the next day was a lay day. As the boat was not the only thing that needed repairing we took stock, only pausing briefly to laugh at big Keith Dunn who has ripped the console out of the 'Dirty Dog Lunchcutter'.
Coming From Behind
Impala had a sniff, of what we are still not quite sure, but heat five smelt like the East. After a close race, and a dying breeze, the Impala made a bold move to the East on the last leg to win by over four minutes and the regatta was pretty open again.
Heat six and the competition was pretty open. After careful consideration we were convincingly off the start and had all the work to do. The twitchy breeze and a container ship helped us move through the fleet and into the leading group. Inexplicably two boats just in front of us broke spinnaker poles at the same moment allowing us through. Impala had a great pace and took a couple more on the final beat to finish second, with Beurteaux finishing 16th . This was enough to give the series to Impala and team mullet with one race to spare. This was just as well cos Ibbo couldn't sail the last race due to a wedding (someone elses), so Dave (Mudguts) Conner - a Sharpie legend from way back filled in for the boys who again had sore heads.
Shortly after the nationals finished Ibbo moved house and had to buy new scales. He was found to have overshot the mark and finished up 94.5kg. Wellsy also grew in stature to 82kg while Fraze was still the skipper. Unfortunately this combination has broken up to pursue the 49er class, with hopes of moving on to the 69er class before too long.
A special mention must go to Alf "Goff" Gough, long time sailing enthusiast and sharpie supporter. Goff has been part of many sharpie campaigns, winning four national titles since 1991. Goff owned Impala and was invaluable in supporting our campaign. Unfortunately Goff passed away this year and will be sadly missed, although his legacy lives on as his boats are still owned by the Gough family and are still allowing younger sailers to compete at the top level.