It was widely predicted the fight for the 13ft Australian Championship would go down to the final minutes of the final day and so it proved as CyberTechGroup pulled off a stunning come-from-behind victory.
Level pegging on the series pointscore with defending champion and Manly clubmate Ebix-Sail Racing (Jemma and James Hopkins) heading into the last day, CTG skipper Theo Franklin and crewmate Coby Napper had to produce something special. And they did in a pulsating race before a large fleet of spectators and supporters off St George Sailing Club.
The two boats swapped the lead several times on the first two laps before CTG eased ahead on the third lap and increased its lead on the final leg to cross the line more than two minutes in front of Ebix-Sailing. It gave them a slender but all important one-point advantage over the Hopkins siblings on the overall standings. Harken (Heidi Bates and Orlando Sadlik) finished the regatta third with Plonk Café (Avril Richardson and Warwick Taylor) fourth.
There was an encouraging mix of clubs among the major placegetters, with Manly taking out the top three slots followed by Middle Harbour (Plonk Café), Sail Media (Ben Milham & Daryl Milham) from Manly and Hornsby Ku-ring-gai’s Black Cat (Angus Stewart and Thomas Meacock).
“It’s very exciting. We are stoked to come away with the win,” 17-year-old Franklin said. “We came in with nothing to lose as Ebix were defending champions and the boat to beat. “We just tried to stay as consistent as we could and it worked out well. “The rivalry between us and Ebix is all good natured and they were the first to congratulate us at the end.”
CTG did it the hard way after winning the first heat, finishing 17th and sixth in the next two races to cast some doubt over their campaign. But they did not look back from there. Three consecutive seconds were followed by back-to-back wins, a national crown and a couple of celebratory soft drinks.
Napper plans to move into the 16ft division next season while Franklin will do another season crewing in the 13s. Manly also saluted in the handicap division, with Cheeky (Zach Wyatt and Ollie Barrett) holding off QED (David Tulk and Alex Baldi) and Black Cat.
Next year’s Australian Championships sees a return to Queensland for the first time since 2018/19, with Maryborough Sailing Club taking on hosting duties.