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Ocean Elements 2018

iSail Whitsundays International Contender World and Australian Championships Preview

by Jane Moffat 3 Jan 20:41 GMT 16-25 January 2018
Mark Bulka from the 2016 Worlds in Santa Cruz © Santa Cruz Yacht Club

Ask double World Champion Mark Bulka who's going to win the 2018 iSail Whitsundays International Contender Worlds at his home yacht club McCrae, and he pauses for thought and considers the list of entrants. He's got the home town advantage, and two International Contender world titles to his name, but with five other World Champions competing it's not clear cut.

McCrae Yacht Club on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria will host the 2018 iSail Whitsundays International Contender World and Australian Championships starting on 15 January. Currently 87 entries from eight countries make this the largest International Contender World Championship to be held in the Southern hemisphere, and with six World Champions along with numerous top five finishers, the competition on the water will be fierce.

What has happened to make the championships so popular? Bulka puts it down to a couple of factors, a vibrant and supportive class association, availability and cost of boats, class rules have kept prices reasonable, and they are fun and fast to sail.

From sailing a Laser and rounding the bottom mark thinking 'argghh I've got to sail that far upwind'. Bulka now wishes the windward legs were longer. "The Contender is much more fun upwind, there's good sailing on every leg."

Of the World Champions competing what are their preferred conditions? Bulka along with Jono Neate (AUS) and Jason Beebe (AUS) are comfortable in most conditions, the all rounders. If conditions are at the top of the wind range, then Simon Mussell (UK) will be in his element, and at the other end of the scale, light airs will likely see Antonio Lambertini (ITA) prevail.

Andrea Bonezzi (ITA) is a seven time Contender World Champion, and 'a great thinker' commented Bulka. Being a 'thinkers boat' is another reason why Bulka likes the Contender. "Sailing a Contender needs skill and tactics not just strength and power, it's a gear changing boat, you need to think and strategise, you can't just sit and not tweak the boat".

Outside of the six World Champions, who else will Bulka need to keep an eye on? "Scott Cunningham (AUS) is a good natural sailor and could easily make a top five finish, he's been pushing me during our training sessions", commented Bulka. "Matt Mulder (AUS) is another one to watch he's good in a breeze". What we can be sure of is with that many world champions on the water and others hot on their heels the daily race results will make for interesting reading.

Championship information and results via www.mccraeyc.com.au