Musto Skiff


Report by Tim Hill
Photos by Sunny Feng

The Australian MUSTO Skiff Championship saw Jon Newman return to his ruthless best, claiming a perfect score after dropping two 2nd places to completely dominate a small, high quality fleet of 15 boats, the majority of which were sailors returning from the recently completed World Championship at Lake Garda.

Jon was prevented from winning 2 heats by runner up Thor Schoenhoff and 3rd placed Tim Hill, both tied behind Jon on 17 points.  Jon’s brother Paul was in 4th place, while newcomer Matty Houvenagel came in 5th after just 5 weeks in his first MUSTOskiff regatta.

Regatta wind conditions were varied with a light to moderate southerly breezes over a rough chop on Friday, followed by fresh to strong winds and enormous waves of big Saturday, to a light fading breeze on Sunday.

Day 1 commenced with Jon winning race 1, picking his way up the right hand side of the beat with the Garda pre-worlds regatta winner Richie Robertson.  Jon started the regatta with a bullet, Richie second and Denis Jones from Perth 3rd.

Race 2 followed with Thor and Tim doing their best to spoil Jon’s party by sparring most of the way around the course with Jon lurking just behind, pouncing on the last gybe to take second place from Tim with Thor taking the gun by the finest of margins.

Race 3 saw Jon re-impose himself on the fleet, taking the win from Thor, with elder brother Paul in 3rd position.

The day closed with Jon in a comfortable lead, with Tim tied in 2nd on points with Matty, commencing his 6th week of intensive MUSTOskiff sailing – watch out for him in the very near future.

The breeze blew all night and Saturday dawned with a cool south westerly hitting the beach and kicking up a nasty chop.  Race 4 was postponed for half an hour to allow sailors time to ready themselves for a difficult launch and demanding conditions.

The sailing was intimidating and difficult and Jon once again showed the fleet a clean pair of heels, winning by a handsome margin as lesser men explored the finer points of gybing, pitchpoling, broaching and nose diving.  Thor benefited 4 boats swimming together at the first run gybe point (after pitchpoling on his hoist at the top of the run) to skip into a solid second as the pack recovered.  Jon held his lead to the end, Thor second while Tim benefited from Richie’s unlucky swim on the line to grab 3rd.

Race 5 commenced as the sun peeped out and filled in behind the gradient breeze, flattening the chop into a large, regular wave at times around 6-8 feet tall.  Jon dominated again, leading around the work and to the gate as the course change was signalled towards the left as the breeze backed.  As Jon approached what he thought was the new windward mark, he turned and set his kite while the chasing pack led by Tim and Richie realized he’d found the wrong mark.  General confusion ensued and it became obvious the race committee, like everybody else in the fleet, had misjudged Jon’s speed and hadn’t managed to lay the new mark in time and the was race abandoned.

Race 5 resail followed the same pattern with Jon winning, closely pursued by older brother Paul with Wayne Bates sailing well in the rough conditions to take 3rd.

The fleet returned to the beach bruised and sore with one more day to sail and 4 races planned for Sunday.

Sunday dawned with low cloud and the promise of sunshine and a sea breeze.  The boats left the beach on time in a light southerly gradient that refused to fill in consistently, swinging from left to right with changes in pressure at either end of the course.

Race 6 commenced in conditions tailor made for Jon and his strategy of sailing up the centre of the course
​ with speed​
and he reeled in yet another bullet by chasing down Chris Piele, who
 the right hand swing early on the first beat to round first with a big lead.  Chris held second place until the final run when Tim and Thor chased him down to pass on the line, finishing second and third.

Race 7 saw the same result (again) but was marked by Daisy’s popular arrival in light to moderate conditions to the top mark in first place.  He correctly judged the right side of the course, knocked and crossed the fleet in to tack short of the left hand layline, lifted in pressure towards the mark and tacked again onto starboard to reach the buoy in first place to whoops, cheers and whistles.  The pack wasted no time in rolling him downwind with Paul, Jon, Tim and Richie trading places up the second beat.  Paul led around the top mark for the last time with Jon in hot pursuit and Richie in 3rd.  Jon knocked his brother off on the last gybe to the finish, while Richie remained in 3rd.

Race 8 was delayed as a fitful sea breeze did its best to waft across the course and was started in very light, marginal trapezing conditions.  Holes were commonplace as sailors zig zagged their way up the beat, eventually seeing Jon arrive first to the top mark followed by Tim and Paul.  He led to the gate but let Tim through on the second work.  Tim picked up some pressure ​at the top of  the run to take the win, Jon in second and Matty in his best finish of the regatta in third.

With 6 wins in 8 races, Jon reinforced his ability to consistently ​find  the best lanes and drive his boat across
​a  range ​ of conditions​ into ​a​ winning position.  At the other end of the MUSTO learning curve, Matty Houvenagal showed the fleet what reward 5 weeks’ intense training and enthusiastic perseverance can bring by sailing into 5th place overall at his first attempt at a MUSTOskiff regatta.

​Jon Newman was the last person to pick up the boat with such apparent ease and we're looking forward, with some trepidation, to Matty's continued improvement in the class.​

Final results –

1 Jon Newman 6pts
2 Thor Schoenhoff 17pts
3 Tim Hill 17pts
4 Paul Newman 24pts
5 Matty Houvenagal 27pts


Full results >>>


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