Dave O’Connor admits he’s still not completely over the national title he “lost” in extraordinary circumstances almost a year ago. In fact, he reckons there’s a chance he’ll never fully recover.
“I probably put on a brave face at the end of it. A couple of weeks after I found myself thinking “what happened there?’,” he admitted. “It plays through your mind a lot. You kind of go ‘if only this had happened or that had happened then it may have turned out differently’.
“Probably the worst part is people always remind you and you relive it all over again.”
Sorry to do this to you, Dave, but we’ll need to do a little recap at this point. O’Connor was skipper aboard St George entrant Noakes, which was cruising in the final race of the nationals off Manly and set to deliver the southern Sydney club its first Aussie title in 25 years. But with a quarter of the race remaining, a broken rudder pin ended Noakes’ campaign and allowed Manly’s Typhoon (Nathan Wilmot) to move through the field and seal a top 10 finish, leapfrogging O’Connor into first place on the overall standings.
The Noakes skipper was speechless back on shore, with crewmate Ricky Bridge explaining: “I’m not sure how it happened – it’s the one that got away but what do you do? You’ve just got to deal with it.” O’Connor is still dealing with it but wants to turn a negative into a positive after accepting a tempting offer from the Fluid Building team. With team owner – and multiple national champion – Clint Bowen easing back on his 16s commitments, Byron Bay-based O’Connor has slotted in as skipper with Fang Warren and Phil Harmer as crew. The aim is to win the national championship at St George in January and, judging by their performance in last Saturday’s double club championship heats at Manly, it’s a realistic goal. Fluid posted two runner-up places in the back-to-back races, held in a 12-15 knot nor’ easter. It has O’Connor, who flies to Sydney from Ballina to sail, believing redemption is on the cards.
“I am pretty stoic and realistic…there are worst things that can happen to you than losing it like we did last year,” he said. “But it has made me hungry to win another one Australian title. That’s definitely on the agenda. “We put a new rig in the boat and Phil’s made some new sails, so for our first real hit-out it was very pleasing. “If you can be in the mix at Manly then it gives you confidence we’ll be able to do something down at St George (in the nationals).”
Wilmot, aboard Imagine Signage, again looks the skipper to beat after a first and fourth placing in heats four and five of the club championship. He’s opened up a four-point lead on the overall standings with three heats remaining. Defending club champion Moonen Yachts (Daniel Turner) holds a narrow advantage on the handicap pointscore.
Words: Adam Lucius