Skiff Sport Phillip Marine Harken Australian Championships
Blairgowrie Yacht Squadron 5th-9th Jan
Report : Ben Schooling
Photos : Russell Bates
16 entries from Victoria, Western Australia,
Queensland, and one traveler from the UK made up the
fleet for the Aussie MPS Nationals at Blairgowrie Yacht
Squadron at the southern end of Port Phillip, Victoria.
The club had just hosted a 130 strong Sabre Nationals,
so they were superbly organized and well equipped for
supporting the skiffs.
The prevailing off shore southerly sea
breeze over the Mornington Peninsula provided flat water
conditions with crystal clear waters, often less than
6ft deep, made for some surreal sailing where the shadow
of the boat could be seen clearly on the bottom – a
bit disconcerting downwind at 20kts, but a magical experience!
Heat 1 got underway in SE 12-15kts with
the sea breeze still being affected by the previous
days gradient wind creating very shifty conditions which
made for some close racing. At times boats were seen
to be going parallel upwind on opposite tacks resulting
in some quick swims! The breeze picked up to 18-20kts
by heat 3 which made for champagne conditions in the
sunshine and 25 degrees - Musto sailing at its best!
49er star and local lad Will Phillips demonstrated his
adaptable skill set with a 6,1,1 to lead after day 1
from Jon Newman and Jono Neate.
Day 2 and the breeze was 15-20kts across
the beach as the fleet planed out the start but by the
start line 2kms offshore it had all but vanished leaving
a fickle 5-7kts shifting through at least 40 degrees.
After the first start was abandoned the fleet got away
2nd time and split left and right in search of pressure.
Jon Newman made it first round the windward just before
the 20 minute cut off and took off down wind in his
own gust. He held the lead to the end of a shortened
course at the top of the next beat with Ben Schooling
and Chris Sutherland rounding out the top 3. PRO Mischa
Leonard made the wise call to send the fleet ashore
to let the wind stabilize and build in line with the
forecast. Sure enough by 4pm the breeze had swung SE
and built to 20kts plus and the refreshed fleet headed
out for heats 5 & 6. Marcus Hamilton had a good
afternoon with a 2nd & 3rd but it was Jono Neate
who showed his big breeze dominance to take the win
in both heats as gusts of 24kts made for some epic downwind
Saturday was a lay day and the fleet took
a well-earned break to see some sights around the beautiful
Mornington Peninsula. At the club the demo boat was
taken out in a light 8kt Northerly by a couple of potential
Musto converts under the supervision of Jon Newman in
the coach boat. In the evening the club hosted a fantastic
bbq and beach party, which the Musto sailors all enjoyed
over a few Broo’s.
With a big front looming the call was
made to bring the start forward to 11am for heat 7 on
Sunday to try a squeeze in 3 quick races. The fleet
headed out with some trepidation with a forecast of
30+ knots in the pipeline and got underway in 18-20kts.
Hamilton took line honors the first race in fine form
with Neate securing the bullet in heat 8 followed by
Richie Robertson in 2nd loving the big breeze. The wind
increased another notch in heat 9 and by the 2nd run
was gusting +25kts again creating some wild rides and
making gybing a tricky maneuver for even the most experienced
helms. Newman took the race win to set up a final day
showdown between him and Neate for the title with a
similar situation for the bronze position between Hamilton
and Schooling who’d been keeping the scorecard ticking
over. The fleet made it ashore just in time and an hour
later the wind peaked at 39kts as the front went through
- good call by the PRO to bring the start time forward!
The breeze was gusting 22-27kts on the
final morning and so the start was postponed for heat
10 and the fleet held onshore with the forecast predicting
it would abate in the afternoon. With the 16:00 cut
off approaching the PRO made the call to send the fleet
out with just enough time to get two more races and
the crucial 2nd drop into the series. Heat 10 got underway
in 17-20kts and bright sunshine so once again the fleet
were blessed with superb conditions.
In the 3rd place play-off Hamilton made a great start
with a 2nd in heat 10 but a capsize in heat 11 put him
in 9th to Schoolings 4th and 5th. After the 2nd drop
the pair were on equal points but on count back 3rd
place went to Hamilton. Previous National Champion Tim
Hill had a good final day with two 3rds rounding out
the top 5.
The overall title fight was more clear-cut.
Newman posted a 5th and 2nd leaving him 2nd overall
by a comfortable margin, but Jono Neate held his nerve
and again showed great speed and precision to post two
bullets and become the well deserved 2012 Australian
MPS National Champion.
Big thanks to Richard Ekberg and Richie
Robertson for all their organization and to Blairgowrie
Yacht Squadron and PRO Mischa Leonard and his team for
a very well run event. Also thanks to Sport Phillip
Marine and Harken for once again supporting of the class.
With 10 races in 15-25kts, sunshine, flat water and
a friendly club atmosphere the 2012 Nationals was a
fantastic event and well worth travelling round the
world for. I have to give it the highest accolade as
a potential venue for the MPS worlds when they return
to Australia in 2015.