National Champions crowned at Splash Festival

The 2016 Australian 9er, 420 and I14 National Championships drew to a close yesterday, as the SPLASH Festival hits the halfway point. Woollahra Sailing Club hosted 220 sailors, across five classes, from the 1st to 8th of January with a disrupted racing schedule due to disruptive weather patterns.

Each class experienced difficult conditions throughout the week, including torrential rain and excessive winds, which forced the cancellation of racing on the penultimate day. This put pressure on the PROs, Peter Moor (Charlie Course) and Robert Lowndes (Delta Course) to ensure racing went ahead on the last day. Both PROs elected to bring the start time forward leaving the whole day open for potential racing.

Like a Hollywood cliché, the sun came out for the final day of racing, as sailors were treated to typical summer conditions. A morning Westerly breeze faded around 10.30am, as both courses postponed racing. With the I14s without a completed series and a below average amount of races for the 49ers and 420s, an increasing East-South Easterly wind filtered down the harbour saving racing and Sydney’s reputation. It was one of the most steady and consistent days of the week, providing sailors an opportunity to stretch their legs as the afternoon wore on.

Interestingly, in every class, the winners from the first day maintained their positions throughout the week before being crowned winners at the completion of the racing schedule. Further to that, each of the regatta leaders (eventual winners) suffered their worst form on the last day. With such large point leads the slip in form didn’t effect their positions, but instead allowed learning opportunities ahead of further regattas this year.

The 49er class were the first to return to the club after racing and the lighter airs had caught a few sailors off guard, ‘we didn’t have a great day, it was a lot lighter and we were pretty worried about how the day was turning out’ said David Gilmour, the newly crowned Australian 49er Champion.

‘As a new crew there are definently areas we need to work on, and this is one of them,’ he said about his team work with new crew, Lewis Brake of Queensland,

‘We’re taking away a lot from this event… we’re stoked to take the win but we do have work to do, the boys gave us a scare today.’

Joel Turner and Tom Signato took two bullets throughout the week and sailed consistently against a strong fleet, taking second place. Local, Harry Price and crewmate, Harry Morton proved their potential taking the bronze medal.

The 49erFX Olympic Qualification is ongoing and if this week’s performance is anything to go by, the selection committee have a tough decision to make. The early dominance of Olivia Price and Eliza Solly set them up for their eventual regatta win. However, the second placed crew of Tess Lloyd and Caitlin Elks made their presence clear when they recorded three wins from three races on the fourth day of racing. In third, were youth competitors, Hayden Brown and Mackenzie Bird who will eventually switch to the more powerful men’s 49er Olympic class boat, which share a common hull with the 49erFX class.

Earlier in the week, John Cooley and Simon Hoffman suggested they would were here to win- no less. The pair sailed their most impressive regatta to date, only dropping two races throughout the week, leaving them on an overall score of 22, having remained undefeated until the last day of the event. They posted their worst scores of the week (solid results by ‘normal’ standards) before taking the last race win of the regatta.

In second place were 13-year-old Tom Crockett and his crew, Tom Grimes who sailed a fantastic regatta – only one placing outside of the 10 due to an OCS in Race 13. Natasha Bryant and Annie Wilmot placed third overall, thirty points clear of the fourth placed team, which earned them first place in the all-girl division. The placing allows Bryant and Wilmot, the ‘Smiling Assassins’, a jump-start on the Australian Youth Team Selection point score, which regatta winners Cooley and Hoffman also achieved. 

Over on Delta course, the 420s saw multiple race winners throughout the week, but it was the consistency of Simon Grogan and Nicholas Sharman that allowed them to outshine their competitors. Grogan and Sharman dually representing Mornington and Sandringham Yacht Clubs’ are looking towards Australian Youth Team Selection and as this week’s race wins saw leads spanning several minutes, there is potential for them to be at the top of the podium again.

In second place were 2015 Sail Sydney Champions, Josh Berry and Henry Haslett who weren’t able to re-produce the form they showed in December. Victoria continued to set the benchmark, with Nick Joel and Hugo Llewelyn taking third place. Not only were Sophie McIntosh and Emily Summerell the best-placed NSW team in fourth place, but also the first-placed all-girl team. Taking away plenty of perpetual trophies and the lead in the Australian Youth Sailing Team selection point score.

The I14s were certainly the most relaxed class of the week, enjoying the regatta atmosphere and racing, regardless of the weather. David Hayter and Trent Neighbour lead from the start aboard AUS 666, overcoming the defending Champions Brad Devine and Ian Furlong. Hayter and Neighbour’s confidence began to build after two wins on the first day, which set them up nicely for the week of racing. Western Australians’ Devine and Furlong had to settle for second place, with Chris Vaughn and Matt Balmer head back to Victoria, with bronze medals.

The first of the SPLASH Festival events drew to a close last night, as prizes were awarded at an ‘all-in’ presentation. Woollahra Sailing Club and the SPLASH Festival staff organised a ‘Night on the Green’, with a DJ, buffet dinner and relaxed evening on the club grounds. It was fantastic to see all of the sailors celebrate together, regardless of the class they race, the camaraderie is fitting with the spirit of sailing – inclusivity and respect above all.

The SPLASH Festival continues with the Australian Youth Championships invitation race tomorrow, the 10th of January 2016. The opening day will be followed by four days of competition, where sailors compete for their respective class Championships, but the event is also an important qualifier for the Australian Youth Sailing Team.

The team is selected based on performances across multiple events, including the AYC, Australian class championships and Queensland Youth Week. The sailors who earn selection to the Australian Youth Sailing Team go on to represent Australia at the World Sailing Youth World Championships (formerly ISAF). Next year’s edition will be held in Oman.

– Alex South

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