Growthbuilt skipper Ryan Wilmot called it the craziest day of skiff sailing he’d ever encountered. And looking at the carnage at the end of Manly 16ft Skiff Club’s first longcourse race of the season on Saturday, it’s hard to argue.
Eighteen boats faced the starter’s gun and only three made it across the finish line. A total of 15 limped back to the beach after being battered, bruised and buried by the damaging 20-knot breeze.
Wilmot only just got across the line with his boat intact. Wisely choosing the little rig to accommodate the fresh conditions, Wilmot and stand-in crew Mike Childs and James Hodgson nursed Growthbuilt all the way.
Problems with the halyard, rudder and a broken gudgeon threatened to end their race, but they held on and prayed.
The winning margin of over eight minutes looks comfortable on paper but it was anything but, especially with Hodgson and Childs making their way back after a long lay-off.
Shebang (Eddie Wray) and Lancelin Pacific (Sarah Lee) finished second and third respectively. “It was bit of a strange day. It was funky,” Wilmot said. “It was the craziest day …probably the weirdest day’s skiff racing I’ve had. “We had plenty on our plate but so did everyone else. It was something just to finish. “We were neck and neck with Botany Access for most of the race but they snapped their rudder at the top mark. “We turned around and couldn’t see another boat so just cruised it in from there.”
But even the final stages weren’t smooth sailing.
“My rudder popped out on the last downwind (leg). The pin popped out bottom gudgeon so I had to capsize and jam it back in to finish the race,” Wilmot said. “I’m surprised we finished. We had a couple of bolts sticking out.
“It was hairy.” Wilmot will take Growthbuilt in for running repairs ahead of an important series of races after the long weekend.
After a competitive but ultimately frustrating 2018/19 season, Wilmot is hungry for silverware this summer. “Our goal is to be better than last year,” he said. “We were fourth in the clubs, states and nationals. It’d be nice to move forward and break into the top three.”