Sail Sydney, staged out of Woollahra Sailing Club at Rose Bay, is the start of a long summer of racing for both ends of the sailing spectrum. The event, which starts today, has an entry list of 286 competitors, representing 12 countries.
World number one Laser men’s sailor Sam Meech from New Zealand is one of the high-profile names. He is coming off a break after the World Cup Series in Japan in September where he finished third, one place behind Australia’s Matt Wearn, the world number four ranked Laser sailor.
“The Australian Laser fleet is super strong plus the international competitors means Sail Sydney is a really good way to start the season,” Meech said on the eve of four days of competition on Sydney Harbour. “I love coming to Sydney for the fantastic conditions and hopefully we get a bit of breeze which is good for fitness.
“Rather than travelling to Europe it’s terrific when the strong New Zealand and Australian Laser fleets join together. We have some epic racing.”
Meech says of his Kiwi teammates Tom Saunders in the Laser, Josh Junior and Andrew Maloney in the Finn and Jason Saunders and Gemma Jones in the Nacra 17 are the ones worth keeping an eye on.
The Australian Sailing Team’s Matt Wearn, who also enjoyed some downtime post-Japan, sees Sail Sydney as the event that kickstarts his summer campaign, working through Sail Melbourne from December 12 – 16 and the Laser nationals to the World Cup Series in Miami next February.
“It’s good to see more internationals over here this time, especially some of the Dutch and Kiwi boys,” Wearn commented, adding “It will be red hot competition and it’s always fun sailing on the harbour.”
Olympic classes make-up the first half of the schedule of racing out of Rose Bay from Tuesday December 4 to Friday 7 on various Sydney Harbour course areas, stretching from Darling Point west of the host club in Rose Bay to Manly on the north side.
Some of the sport’s superstars who are vying for Tokyo 2020 selection will be using this year’s regatta to continue their journey towards possible country selection based on a near-impossible quota of one team or sailor per Olympic class – that’s if the country qualifies.
Sail Sydney Principal Race Officer Kevin Wilson says conditions look ideal for the mixed class regatta with no savage 40 knot westerly blasts in the forecast, unlike the changeable Sydney weather of the past two weeks. Based on the long-range outlook, north-easterly breezes building to 10-15 knots by the afternoon are set to bless the entire six-day regatta.
Friday December 7 is the overlap between the end of the Olympic class point scores and the start of the Youth and Open class’ series, when Nacra 15 sailors Ashleigh Swadling from the Gold Coast in Queensland and her crew Nathan Bryant from Sydney’s Northern Beaches will take to the harbour for three days of competition, along with 12 other Invited classes, wrapping up on Sunday December 9.
“I finished the worlds and didn’t have a crew then Nathan messaged me out of the blue,” Swadling said of their unique interstate partnership. “He came to the Gold Coast to trial and after that we drove the Nacra to Sydney, where the coaches and a good-sized fleet are based.
“We are excited about Sail Sydney, our second regatta since we partnered around eight months ago. Our aim for each day is to improve on the little things; we want to sail our best at 100% and see where we are,” added the year 11 student who has a busy time with school and travelling often to train with Bryant and the Australian Sailing Youth Team.
Year 10 student Nathan is the younger brother of Natasha Bryant, the 49erFX skipper from the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club who with her crew Annie Wilmot are ranked 13th in the world in the skiff class and one of Sail Sydney’s medal favourites.
Sail Sydney and Sail Melbourne International are World Sailing 100 points graded Olympic sailing events and as such are ranked as major international events on the World Sailing event calendar. The two events also make up the 49er, 49er FX, 470, Nacra 17 and Finn Oceania Championships.
– Lisa Ratcliff