One of the many benefits with the Tasar class is that it has regular world championships scheduled in interesting and exotic locations around the world. This year the Worlds are being sailed in Busselton, Western Australia, with a fleet of over 120 Tasars.
Included in this fleet is a large Victorian contingent, with a number of younger and talented sailors who will be taking on the best from the rest of the world. The Tasar Association of Victoria (TAV) thought it would be interesting to sit down with a couple of these sailors and see how they were finding the experience.
Chelsea Haynes (CH) (18 years old) – Even though the youngest of this group, Chelsea has been sailing for many years and has been the Youth Champion at the 2013 Australian Youth Championships (Hobie 16) and Youth Champion at the F16 Australian Championships. This won’t be her first world championship as she has represented Australia at the Youth Worlds in Portugal this year. Chelsea was looking for a new experience and is sailing with James Sly.
James Sly (JS) (21 years old) – James is from a strong sailing family, and salt water must run through his veins. People who know James would know him more for his skiff sailing, where he has sailed 29ers and 49ers for almost a decade. James has dominated in a lot of regattas, and one of his best results is a 2nd at a Europeans Championship competing against over 150 boats. James has stolen his parents' Tasar and has teamed up with Chelsea Haynes.
Caitlin Davies (CD) (24 years old) – Caitlin was brought up sailing on Westernport Bay at Somers Yacht Club and still sails there regularly. She is one of their more successful sailors and has won the SYC club championships a couple of times and successfully represented Australia in both the Tasar and the Laser Radial. Caitlin has bought an older Tasar with Sean Bly.
Sean Bly (SB) (28) – Sean has been a leading light in the very tough Olympic Laser class. He has won 3 Laser Victorian state titles, represented Australia on a number of occasions at World Championships and has won the prestigious Victorian Youth Sailor of the year award in 2005.
Megan Ridgway (MR) (26) – Like the Sly surname, Ridgway is also synonymous with Tasars in Victoria, with her parents Paul and Bronwyn, winning the World Championships in 2011. Megan has dropped into Tasars a couple of times, winning the World Junior Helm title in 2005, and finished 6th as a crew twice at the World Championship. This year Megan has teamed up with her World Championship winning mother as her crew.
Why did you decide to sail a Tasar?
CH – “I thought it would be interesting to sail a monohull as almost all of my previous sailing has been on catamarans.”
JS – “I was looking for more active racing and the opportunity to sail with and against other boats each time we go sailing. This wasn’t really possible in the 49er due to the low numbers.”
CD – “Was starting to not enjoy sailing and decided it was time to try a double handed boat again, got asked to skipper a Tasar for the navy team and then crew at the worlds and there started my Tasar sailing.”
SB – “Competitive Laser sailing is essentially a full-time job to be at the top end of the fleet. After getting a full time job, I wasn't able to put the time to continue growing in the class, and I had essentially stopped sailing. My girlfriend had started sailing Tasars, and was keen to buy one, and get me back onto the water. After sailing on a boat with me, she may regret that decision!!”
MR – “There was a spare one in the garage.”
What do you like about the Tasar?
CH – “The racing is extremely tactical and there is a competitive group of sailors that reliably sail most events meaning that there is always a good fleet to race.”
JS – “I really enjoy the close and competitive racing we have with everyone. We get this every weekend and it’s always great fun! Everyone has also been incredibly helpful to us, providing tips and pointers, helping Chelsea and me get up to speed for the worlds.”
CD – “Love the racing and competitiveness, love the people and how friendly and helpful everyone is, love the social aspect. Can’t say i love the boat all the time – that damn rotator and whisker pole!”
SB – “So far I'm really loving the challenge of learning and adapting to a new class, and the fleet in Victoria is as good a benchmark as anywhere in the world. The other great thing is that the Tasar draws people from all sailing backgrounds, meaning that there is a wealth of experience and knowledge in the class, and everyone has been so welcoming and supportive. And I'm sailing with the most awesome crew ever* (*my crew may have had some input into this….)”
MR – “The competition. I've tried other classes, but there is such a friendly, encouraging and sharing culture that makes sailing a tasar very rewarding and highly competitive. Plus (and I wouldn't say this about too many other things!) I get to do it with my parents.”
Is there anything that has surprised you about the Tasar?
CH – “How painful hiking for the entirety of a long upwind leg can be!”
JS – “I was surprised about how much there actually is to do in the Tasar. I used to sail Tasars with dad when I was young but I don’t have any real memory of what was required so it was certainly a bit of a shock trying to figure out what needed to be done when and what the best order to do it all in is.”
CD – “I first thought the tasar was an 'old man's boat' or something someone jumps into after they finish off with competitive sailing – boy was i wrong! I was completely surprised at the technicality of what seemed like such a simple boat and how many different ways you can sail them and go the same speed.”
SB – “One of the main surprises is that there is no single way to sail a Tasar fast. You ask the top five boats, and they will all have different setups and techniques. I thought this would be a challenge at first, but everyone is happy to share what they do, especially if its over a cold drink at the end of the day.”
MR – “I'm surprised I still see a lot of the faces that I saw all those years ago when I first jumped in a Tasar with Dad. It's literally half of my life time ago since then, lots of people have come and gone from my life, and I've come and gone from the class, but every time I come back I still see the familiar faces I know from when I was a kid, and lots of new faces to boost the class numbers and the competition.”
Do you have any plans to sail a Tasar after the World Championships?
JS – “Not sure at the moment, haven’t thought that far ahead! I am enjoying everything about the Tasar at the moment so will wait and see what happens! I think dad and mum will want their boat back after worlds though…”
CD – “Hopefully I will be able to continue to do Tasar regattas (big or small), and sail at my home club at Somers in preparation for the next world championships :).”
SB – “Cait and I will continue to sail locally at our club, but no doubt you will see us at regattas around the place, including the State titles.”
MR – As long as that spare Tasar in the garage doesn't go anywhere.
Other than Tasars, what other sailing plans do you have?
CH – “At the moment I'm just keeping my options open and sailing a variety of different classes.”
JS – “Not too sure at the moment, I am hoping to widen my skill range a little and try different classes in an attempt to improve my sailing in general.”
CD – “After coming out of lasers I have decided no matter what regatta I go to, what event I sail at I want to have fun on the water. Next year I will be starting a career as a paramedic and so time will be limited for sailing but hopefully I will still be able to get out on the water and compete in as many regattas and club races as possible.”
SB – “Apart from figuring out how to tack and avoiding mutiny? No big plans yet, so you'll just have to watch this space…”
MR – “Not sure. I feel like I'm just starting to scrape the surface of what sailing has to offer (the more I learn, the more I realise how much I don't know!) so I am definitely planning on keeping it up. In what capacity? I guess that will depend on what life throws at me.”
The World Championship is being held in conjunction with the Australian Championship from the 2nd to the 9th January at Busselton, Western Australia. Full details of the regatta can be found at http://www.tasar2015.com and more details on the Tasar can be found at www.tasar.org. The TAV certainly wishes these young sailors the best of luck (along with all Victorians sailing in the regatta) and hopefully we will see them bring some trophies home.
– Chris Payne