A familiar name sits on top of the 2024 Australian 16ft Skiff Championship pointscore after light and flukey conditions on day two tested the patience and tactical nous of the fleet.
Defending champion Nathan Wilmot, on Imagine Signage, recorded an 11th in Monday’s first race before hitting back with a second in the next race to take a narrow lead at the head of the standings.
With a drop to come, the Manly boat is two points in front of its nearest challenger Southerly (Sarah Lee), from host club St George, with two other Manly boats – Sail Racing (Felix Grech) and Sutech Building Consultants (Michael Koerner) – in third and fourth respectively. CJK Design Management (Darby Jones) is the best placed Belmont boat, holding down fifth spot.
Asked his response to being placed so high after three heats, Wilmot replied with a one word answer: “Shocked”. “I say shocked because we’re still working at it as a team and we’ve been out of synch if I’m being honest. “It’s a different combo with Jack (Hildebrand) in for Mal (Page) and it’s going to take a bit of time for us to get it together and it hasn’t felt great until probably the last beat today (Monday).”
Imagine suffered a shocker in the day’s first race, dropping from second to outside the top 10 after wrongly heading left at the bottom mark following the second beat. The rest of the race, shortened to two laps due to the light five knot north westerly, became a case of damage control. Belmont’s Bella Group Services (Craig Wright) crossed the line first, with Noakes (Lee Knapton) and Fluid Building (David O’Connor) joining them on the podium. Wilmot limped home in 11th but was on the money as the wind doubled in speed for heat three later in the afternoon. He guided Imagine into second, 15 seconds behind race winner Swell Racing (Matt Meaney) of Belmont with Insight Building Services (Rod Carter) third in another shortened two lap race.
Wilmot said: “The breeze actually settled in nicely and it was a pretty good race in the end. “We got a good start and chipped away and played our own race on the second beat. “We are happy with how it turned out.” Tuesday’s schedule features another double header of races, crucial to the hopes of the leading contenders as the regatta heads towards the halfway mark. Manly/St George Sailing Manager and Olympic sailor Graham Biehl, in commentary for Sail Media’s livestream coverage, said: “If you can walk away from (Monday) in the top five knowing you’ve sailed three really solid races in quite different conditions, it can set you up mentally for what is to come for the rest of the regatta.”
Manly’s Fire Stopping (Alex Hart) fronts the handicap standings from Middle Harbour’s Little Blue Dinosaur (Maja Hansson-Mild) and Manly clubmate Botany Access (Zoe Dransfield).
In the 13s, Botany Scaffold with Sophie Hart and Bella Divola had their first Nationals heat win in Race 2 with Heidi Bates and Orlando Sadlik winning Heat 3. The consistent Ebix-Sail Racing (Jemma Hopkins) from Manly completed a hat-trick of second placings on Monday to open up a healthy lead on the overall standings.
Manly boats fill the top six places after three heats.
Words Adam Lucius