Kurnell’s Top Gun ’23 and NSW Hobie Cat State Championships

Over last weekend, the first round of the 2023-24 NSW Hobie Cat State Championships took place at the Kurnell Catamaran Club, running in conjunction with their annual Top Gun Regatta. Article below written by Paddy Butler’s crew Bridget Raftery and images all taken by Alannah Simpson.

Revvin’ up your engine, Listen to her howlin’ roar…
Joining the contingent of cargo ships, jellyfish, and planes overhead on the flat waters of Botany Bay in Dharawal country, a strong fleet of catamarans hit the water over the weekend of the 4th and 5th of November. Kurnell Catamaran Club played host to the first round of the 2023-24 NSW State Championships in conjunction with their annual ‘Top Gun’ Regatta. Ducking and weaving between the Nacras, F16/18s, and foiling A-Classes on starboard were 5 x Hobie 14-Turbos, 11 x Hobie 16s, and 8 x Hobie 18s, with little more than a breath of breeze separating the fierce competitors.

However, the retellings of the port/starboard dramatics will have to wait until we acknowledge the impeccable work of many people who made this event possible.

To the team at Kurnell Cat Club, especially President Antony Edwards, Race Officer Brian Chapman, and the volunteers on the support boats and in the canteen, we’d like to extend our gratitude for continuing this regatta, welcoming back the Hobies after a few year hiatus, and for not letting the rain dampen the spirits on the water.

A huge shout out to Adrienne, Pat and the whole team at Vaikobi for jumping on board as major supporters of the NSW States, all our sailors are beyond stoked to have access to some of the best gear on the market. Alannah Simpson and Lisa Raftery must also be commended for jumping behind the lens on and off the water, capturing the unique moments from the weekend. The NSWHCA Committee have not left a single stone unturned in their efforts to make this year’s event as fun as last year’s (even with a few less bullets on the forecast!). Paddy, Clare, Dave and the rest of the team put in many hours ensuring all arrangements were solidly in place – and that they were.

Finally, to the 43 sailors who took to the water – your participation is what makes events like these possible. NSW competitors from Vincentia, Palm Beach, and Wangi Wangi were thrilled to be joined by our interstate competition – Taylor & Rowdy, and Fletcher & Georgia from VIC; Andrew & Carmen, and Lachy & Bella from QLD; and Cam & Suzzi from WA. Your dedication to our sport (or more correctly Way of Life) is unmatched.

Friday
Throughout the day preceding the event, sailors from across the state and country rolled into the quaint town that is Kurnell. With the rigging lawn perfectly situated across Botany Bay from Sydney Airport, and the CBD looming in the background, the novelty of plane spotting took precedence over getting the rig up. Yet, by the time the Queenslanders and Victorians had finally completed their twelve-hour roadies and hauled their masts up, a sea of boats dominated the area – some more inconveniently placed than others.

Nervous whispers about the forecast flitted about between sailors – with a consistent rain front on the radar, and maximums of 20kts throughout the weekend, all were interested to see how it would pan out.

However, this was momentarily forgotten as catching up on the latest news from our friends lasted well into the night. We celebrated Cam & Suzzi’s achievement as a finalist in Australian Sailing’s Team of the Year Award, and many of the Family spent hours studying previous regattas using TITV’s Cowboy Sailing, providing highly detailed constructive criticisms in the hope they could recreate such feats the next day.

Saturday
A fairly easy start to the morning began with all mains hauled up from 9am, following a directive from the President for all Hobie sailors to present themselves for registration at 9:30am. A 10:30am briefing allowed KCC to warmly welcome us all and to clarify Gav’s concerns over the colours of the marks (spoiler alert: they were yellow). We were reminded to read the sailing instructions BEFORE we left the beach, and with that, it was time to attach the Go-Pros, tighten the bungs, and make our way down to the beach, where an initially mild south-east breeze awaited.

KCC put away four quality races over the course of three hours. The start gun sounded, and the three-minute sequence began for the start of the 14-Turbos and 16s, with the 18s following on the next start.

In the 14-Turbos, racing had never been tighter. Craig Hatton hit the water with the gold jersey following last year’s success. However, Andrew McKenzie had spent plenty of time on home water the preceding few weeks and was determined to cause an upset and swiftly delivered with a bullet in the first race. Gav Luxton traded his initial plans for the H16 for a 14-Turbo but was sure of his ability to hold it out, proven by his bullet in the second race. Michael Taylor brought Sea Turtle out for his third Hobie regatta, intending to prove just how fast he could make her go.

The Hobie 18s delivered, with a grand total of 8 x boats crossing the start line. Rod Waterhouse & Evan Darmanin bagged three firsts, but John & Bronte Forbes were hot on his heels with two seconds and a first. Ollie & Andrew Williams fought hard with two narrow thirds and two seconds, while Jake de Rooy & Mark Dawson set out for consistency. Tracey & Helen paired up for the first time and as the only women’s team in the 18s, decided it was time to show the boys how it’s done.

The Hobie 16s, as the largest fleet with 11 boats, was set to be a display of the immense talent possessed by our sailors. At the top, Cam & Suz and MB & Hazel came away with a bullet each, while Fletcher & Georgia snagged two. Lachy & Bella, fresh off the 5am flight from Brisbane onto a brand-new boat, were sending it alongside fellow Queenslanders Andrew & Carmen. Bryn & Adrian decided to show up against fellow parent/child duo Dave & Megan, while Rowdy brought along Taylor for her first Hobie regatta ever, and truly show her what the Aussies have to offer.

Scott & Rose’s consistency throughout the day was barely outmatched by the first-time pairing of Wangi’s Ellie & Vincentia’s Zoe, showing us that it’s always worth having a proper crack. Similarly, Paddy & Bridge decided it was about time to put all their practices to work racing together in the big leagues.

After the hour-long first race, the wise decision was made to shift and shorten the course to adapt to the varying conditions that emerged. By the third race, everyone had made it out onto the wire, and this was where the showing-off began. The game was very tactical – one buggered tack or the decision to go up one side of the course could make or break your result. The trapezoid course utilised by the 14-Turbos and the 16s delivered a downwind leg that was anyone’s game, and the windward/leeward course for the 18s meant consistency was key. A hotly contested start line was made difficult by the mist that clouded the transit and the rain that paid us a visit, but luckily every boat managed to start on time – not too early and not too late!

Sunday
With the sailing instructions reading ‘no warning signal before 0900’, the fleet made an early start down to the club. However, Dharawal country had other plans, bringing a consistent rain front through that dampened the wind and some spirits. With the AP flying, the smell of coffee and bacon & egg rolls descended upon the clubhouse as anticipation built for what should be a thrilling day. Lo and behold, it wasn’t too much later that the AP was dropped and sailors scrambled to pull the sails up and chuck on damp gear to hit the water.

And hit the water we did! Upon arriving out at the race course, a bigger sou-easterly than the day before greeted us, clocking in at an average of 17kts. Gusts up to 24kts tested the sailor’s ability to work the mainsheet and dump the traveller in time, but all the Hobies managed to stay with the mast pointing the right way.

The 14-Turbos decided to share the love, with Gav, Craig, and Andrew each managing a first, second, and third each over the three races. Watching the trio go head-to-head from start to finish, with the winner only determined once the finish line has been crossed is certainly indicative of the talent of this fleet. Michael Taylor proved his resolve to achieve his personal best, sticking out the third race even after having to return to shore, showing that determination to have fun and go for a spin with your mates on the water is all that really matters.

The 18s saw some incredibly tight competition at the front of the pack, with Rod & Evan and John & Bronte finishing on nine points each; however, Rod & Evan claimed the title on count-back with four bullets to John & Bronte’s three. Battling it out for the bronze medal, Ollie & Andrew jumped ahead of Jake & Mark with another victory on count-back, finishing with two second place finishes.

Subbing in for his better half, Dave Fisher teamed up with Helen Mills for the second day, finishing the day with two fourths and a fifth, ultimately leaving them in fifth place of the better-late-than-never entrants Ian & Janica Markovitch. Justin & Kaitlyn Forester, competing in their inaugural Hobie State Titles finished the weekend with pure joy, whilst George & Archie Pethard were left wanting more from the Hobie 18.

The 16s were dominated by Cam & Suz, ascertaining they’re still the ones to chase around the course after they crossed the line for the first three times in a row. Not to be entirely out-shadowed, Fletch & Georgia kept them on their toes by scoring three seconds. MB & Hazel worked hard to maintain their position in third, with a third, fourth, and drop of a seventh.

Bryn & Adrian, with a best result of fourth, beat Lachy & Bella in each race but just couldn’t quite catch them in the total points where they finished fifth and fourth respectively. Rowdy & Taylor’s slightly lower total points unfortunately weren’t enough after the drops, getting sixth by one point, but their vivacious manoeuvres across the course mean they’re a team to watch. Andrew and Carmen had a blinder of a second day, nabbing a third and fourth, proving their capacity to make excellent judgements under pressure.

Paddy & Bridge moseyed about the course, having a bit of fun and enjoying the thrill of fighting with the starboard rudder, ultimately finishing in ninth. Scott and Rose retired early, but not before gaining a respectable sixth in the first race. Ellie and Zoe, as the only women’s duo, went hard and stayed stubborn, even after Ellie went to hang out with the jellyfish in a tack.

Additionally, the full gallery and all the results are online via the event webpage: https://nsw.hobiecat.asn.au/event/2023-24-nsw-hobie-state-championships-round-1-kurnell/

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