The upper edge of a low-pressure front sitting off the south coast of Tasmania served up big winds and a bouncy sea state across Port Phillip on day two of Sail Melbourne 2023.
The annual event, hosted by Royal Brighton Yacht Club, continues to draw leading local and international sailors and today they were given a taste of Port Phillip at its finest. The conditions were no problem for some of the big international names, with two-time Olympian Maria Erdi from Hungary equal-first in the ILCA 6 class and British sailors occupying three of the top four places in the ILCA 7s.
Tied with Erdi atop the ILCA 6 standings is Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club athlete Zoe Thomson, who had a huge day with a win and a second place from their two races.
“Today we had glamour conditions with 15 to 20 knots and plenty of surfable waves,” said Thomson.
“It wasn’t just a send it left kind of day, it was pretty shifty. We had some really tight battles with the Aussie girls and the Europeans who have come to train with us, so it was a really good day out of Port Phillip.”
It was tough going for most classes, particularly the skiffs with the 49er and 49erFX fleets both suffering retirements and breakages in their one race before being sent ashore for the day.
Principal Race Officer Stephen Aulich made the call after consulting the coaches and some of the athletes.
“Today was going to be a tough day,” said Aulich. “The seas built slowly throughout the afternoon and the wind increased, with gusts of 24 knots by the late afternoon.
“The sea state was a good two to two and a half meters and some of the seas were getting quite sharp, so the decision was made then to bring the skiffs ashore without suffering any more breakages.”
One person who did enjoy the conditions was Neil Patterson, who rode the breeze and the waves to a race win and a share of the lead with one day of racing left in the 2.4 meter class.
“It was a lot of fun,” started Patterson. “A classic south-westerly kind of day on Port Phillip Bay. Big swell, big breeze, super-fast downwind. Just a lot of fun.”
Sail Melbourne is doubling as the 2023 Australian Para Sailing Championships, and Patterson is looking to defend the maiden National Championship he won here last year.
“I am feeling confident, but it is very close between me and Peter (Coleman), so I think there is going to be some very close racing to decide it tomorrow.”
Nia Jerwood and Conor Nicholas continued their dominance of the Mixed 470 class, adding two bullets to the pair they picked up in yesterday’s races.
Jerwood put today’s success down to their success behind the start line.
“The first start we did we had a few people try to line up for a port tack so we made sure we were coming at them pretty fast on starboard and were able to roll over those. The second start we had a really good battle with Sophie (Jackson) and Angus (Higgins) off the line, they almost got us but we just managed to get through a lull slightly better than them and get the roll on.”
Sail Melbourne is now in its 28th year, and sailing royalty was on hand today with America’s Cup winning Skipper John Bertrand casting his eye over the talent competing at this year’s regatta.
“Sail Melbourne has a terrific history in terms of a prelude to the Olympic Games and of course we don’t have far to go before the Paris Olympics,” said Bertrand from the boat park today.
Bertrand, who won Bronze in the Finn class at the Montreal Games, is keeping a particularly close eye on Tokyo 2020 ILCA 7 gold medallist, Matt Wearn.
“My relationship with Matty Wearn goes back some way. He was going to compete with me at the recent Etchells Nationals, but between the ILCA 7 Nationals and Sail Melbourne it was going to be a bit much so he made the right decision to skip that and prioritise being here.”
There was a glint in his eye when asked about the bond between the two Olympians.
“I love the man, he’s just a beautiful human being. I am keeping a close eye on Matt.”
The Tasar class rounded out their regatta today, with husband-and-wife team of Paul and Bronwyn Ridgway from Sandringham Yacht Club taking out this year’s title.
“It was willing,” said Paul of today’s conditions. “At times it was at maximum for racing, then at other times it dropped down to 15 knots so we got a mixture of breezes.”
Like the skiffs, the Tasars also only got one race in as the winds and the sea state saw them sent back to shore.
Racing resumes for the rest of the classes at 1pm AEDT tomorrow.
Sail Melbourne is supported by the Victorian Government.
Head of Marketing and Communications, Australian Sailing