Sail Melbourne was back in all its glory today, with Royal Brighton Yacht Club hustling and bustling to the sounds of sails slapping, rigging clanging and competitors chatting on the penultimate day of racing.
The regatta has been a mainstay of the Australian sailing calendar for almost 30 years now, and after a couple of COVID-impacted years it was like the times of old with 15-20 knots of wind on a scorching 36-degree Melbourne day.
Several classes are set to go down to the final day, including the ILCA 7 class where British Sailing Team pair Micky Beckett and Tokyo Olympian Elliott Hanson are split by seven points atop the standings.
“Today was exceptionally hot,” said Beckett from the respite of the clubhouse shade after racing. “It’s raining now, and it is somehow still too hot. The breeze today was a northerly and it was exceptionally shifty.”
“It was pretty tricky,” added Hanson. “We had to go carefree and sail with the wind we had. We are looking forward to a good final day tomorrow.”
Sail Melbourne has also always been an important checkpoint for Australia’s Olympic class sailors, and Australian Sailing’s High Performance Director Iain Brambell sees this year’s iteration no differently.
“This is the last opportunity as a combined group to come together in competition where the athletes and teams get the chance to refine some of the gaps that we have identified for them before the European season,” said Brambell.
“It also gives the chance for young sailors and coaches across all classes to really mix in with the Olympic athletes in a high performance environment, giving them the opportunity to learn from their more experienced peers and pushing the entire group well beyond where we are now.
“We want to see repeatable success at the international level, and events like this give us a great opportunity to do that with both athletes and coaches.”
Sail Melbourne is doubling as the 2023 Australian Para Sailing Championships and reigning Australian Sailing Para Sailor of the Year Chris Symonds is locked in a heated battle with Alison Weatherly in the Liberty class. Weatherly is currently seven points ahead of Symonds with one day to go.
“My goal for this week is to just do our best and we’ll take what happens,” said Symonds.
“I’ll always do my best. We’ve come to this regatta without too much preparation so it’s been a bit of a challenge, but the takeaway will be that we’ve tried this boat and we know more about how it works now.”
Sail Melbourne is also showcasing Australia’s up-and-coming sailing talent, as identified by Brambell.
“This is a fantastic time in the year where we see all the state institutes and Australian Sailing Futures athletes coming together. Some of the standouts include Sammie Costin in the iQFOiL (straight bullets), Evie Saunders (ninth) continually pushing the top athletes in the ILCA 6 and Tom (Cunich) and Miles (Davey) consistently finishing within the top four on the 49er course.”
2022 Australian Sailing Youth Sailor of the Year, Saunders is enjoying the mix of conditions on offer this week.
“We knew today was going to be a tricky day because of the forecast northerly,” said Saunders. “The first day of racing offered some pretty tough conditions, so I had a few goals for today and I am pretty happy with how I went with them.”
Sail Melbourne is supported by the Victorian Government.
Head of Marketing and Communications, Australian Sailing