Perth, Western Australia.

The seven-race series contained a high-class field of 48 boats: two from the UK, seven from New Zealand and the first 39 from the Australian Championship. Yet in spite of the numbers it was obvious from the beginning that it was going to be a three-way battle between three time Australian Champion Gordon Lucas, crewed by Philip Arnold, the just crowned Australian Champions, Perth resident Kiwis Russell Bowler and Peter Walker, and the gifted sixteen year old Jamie Wilmot from New South Wales, crewed by Tony Barnes. Only a minute separated Ace III (Lucas/Arnold), Jazzer (Wilmot/Barnes) and Jennifer Julian II (Bowler/Walker) throughout the first heat, sailed in a five to eighteen knot sou'wester. While Lucas and Wilmot showed greater downwind speed, it was Bowler's ability to pick the shifts that gave him and Walker the edge. With each boat holing the lead at different times, Jennifer Julian's five second win from the fast finishing Jazzer was the closest of the series. Ace III, in spite of having capsized once, was not far behind in third. In Heat two, Russell's genius on the wind saw them break from the pack, pick up a puff near the Perth Flying Squadron, and finish twenty seconds ahead of Lucas' Ace III.

Two wins from two heats and the expats' prospects were looking promising. More outstanding windward work saw Jennifer Julian II gain six places on the final triangle of heat three to finish second. And with Jazzer finishing fifth and Ace III twenty-fourth, it now looked as if the title would be going to the West Australian Kiwis. But three things were to work against them: continuing light airs, the young Sydneysider, and a sudden loss of concentration. In the fourth heat, a five knot sou'wester puffed Jazzer and is lightweight crew into first, but left Jennifer Julian gasping in fourth. Second at the wing mark in heat 5, Bowler and Walker capsized sensationally in the middle of their gybe. Like wounded ducks they lay in the path of 46 Cherubs, their crews all screaming “BUOY ROOM” as they bore down on them in 15 knots of air. It not only scared them witless. By the time they had righted their boat they were last. They improved to nineteenth, but this would have to be the result they dropped when the best six finishes were totalled. It was the wake up call they'd needed; there cold be no more mistakes, not with Jazzer's two wins in the last two heats and an overall lead in the series. Even then the drama wasn't over. Just before taking to the water for heat six they discovered that their top rudder gudgeon was broken. Patching it with lashing and tape, they did their best to forget the problem as the sea breeze built to a vigorous 20 knots. Which was when things began going their way again. Jazzer retired early when Jamie Wilmot suffered a severe attack of asthma. And unlike Jennifer Julian, which had been drawn specifically for these conditions, the extreme straight sections of the Aussie boats were not handling the choppy flat runs well. Several boats, including Ace III, capsized. And with Jennifer Julian again taking the lead on the windward leg, Bowler and Walker breezed in with their biggest winning margin of the series: 1:30. It was now down to the final heat.

Gang warfare was in the air when Bowler and Walker found themselves surrounded by a host of Sydney Cherubs during the pre-start manoeuvres of Heat Seven. The unwelcome attention turned the normally passive helmsman aggressive. Executing a couple of turns he extricated himself, came up on the wind and hit the start line ahead and just upwind of Jazzer. When Walker and Barnes attempted to break away by heading for the wrong side of the river, Bowler and Walker covered. And they kept shadowing the Sydney pair until the latter had effectively sailed themselves out of contention. The Kiwis then broke away and worked their way through the fleet to snatch fourth place. With Jazzer ninth and Ace III eighth, the series was Jennifer Julian's.

© 1999 John Bevan-Smith, published by Reed Books, a division of Reed Publishing (NZ) Ltd, 39 Rawene Road, Auckland New Zealand

Posn Helm/Crew Boat Name Design
1. Russ Bowler/Peter Walker Jennifer Julian Jennifer Julian (Bowler)
2. Jamie Wilmot/Tony Barnes Jazzer Beashel
3. Gordon Lucas

This report is reproduced from “The Shape of Speed”, ISBN 0 7900 0691 X, a biography of Bruce Farr and Russell Bowler, by kind permission of Reed Books (NZ). It is not, so far as I am aware, currently published in the Northern hemisphere, but is readily available from the Reed Books Web site. The book is an interesting and at times controversial read, and I recommend it!

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