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Happy Australia Day

by John Curnow, Editor, Sail-World AUS 26 Jan 21:00 GMT
Matt Wearn - Sail Melbourne International Regatta © Beau Outteridge

Yes, it is good to use the word "happy" in the same sentence as "Australia", given the summer that has occurred thus far. It is by no means over yet, and the tragic loss of the C130 Hercules crew from the USA highlights the global nature of the calamity that has unfolded before our eyes. So all the best wishes possible to everyone in our Great Southern Land and beyond, our thanks to all those who have worked so tirelessly, and condolences to those who have suffered.

Sailing now, and Port Phillip is pretty much always known for offering a smorgasbord of conditions, and the sheer number of events the Bay has conducted thus far in a plethora of classes has virtually turned it all somewhat kaleidoscopic.

Matt Wearn won the Laser Oceania Championship and was second overall in the Laser Standard at Sail Melbourne. Reflecting on it, Wearn said, "It was a pretty physically testing week of racing with big breezes almost every day. I maybe started out a little slow, so to speak, but was happy with how I was improving throughout the races. It would have been good to get the full series in just for practice purposes. It's great to have another solid result leading in to the World Championship - still plenty of work to be done over the next few weeks."

Jake Lilley won the Finn class at Sail Melbourne. Talking about his newly-found status quo, Lilley commented, "Glass ceiling definitely broken. It's been a good month of racing. Time now to push on with the hard work behind the scenes. The racing was fantastic. I knew it would be a tight battle, the other internationals are simply world class. It was basically a week of medal race practices, short courses, small fleet, and a fight for millimetres."

Well before Jack Lord said "Book 'em, Danno", there was the other Five-Oh

The 505s were an Invitational Class at Sail Melbourne, and conducted their Australian Championship. 33 boats and their crews attended, with the regatta won by the USA's Mike Holt and Rob Woelfel, who are the reigning World Champions.

Mike Holt was originally from the UK. As Holt puts it, "I went to California 24 years ago to do a 505 worlds in '92, at Santa Cruz, met a girl, married her and stayed. Her name is Annette Holt. This is the fifth year in row now that we have been coming Down Under to do the Australian Championship - we're fortunate enough to have been given a boat each time."

"A lot of Aussies come to Europe and the USA to do our racing, so it seems only fair that we come here. Rob and I come from Lake Tahoe, and it is very cold at home now, so by coming here we get an early start on the sailing season."

As for winning the Worlds in Poland last year, Holt commented, "As good as it gets to win the Worlds. Very enjoyable, and a dream to come true. Actually it is a step beyond that. 13 years ago we could not put a series together, now we can do so on a regular basis."

Coming back to the regatta at hand, and Holt added, "This was our first time on Port Phillip, and it has been fantastic. The waves get short and steep, but we enjoyed wonderful racing, and the Royal Brighton Yacht Club did a great job. The top guys are right there, with the challenge being finding boats to borrow. Previously Danish and British crews have also come to this championship, and we should get half a dozen crews from the Northern Hemisphere."

Keeping a global focus, Holt continued with, "The 505 European circuit has Australian, South African, Canadian and US boats all there. The only way for a class to survive in the modern world is to bring the competitors to the boats/regattas and have genuine global participation. We will be Torekov, Sweden from August 13-22 for the 2020 World Championship, but the next event for us is the first leg of the Euro Cup in Cannes from 10-12 April."

"The 505s is the best high performance racing sailing there is. I have sailed 18 footers, 49ers and Melges 24, and just love the Five-Oh because of the quality of racing, and the competition. It is just the best," said Holt in closing.

Thee were five father/son or daughter teams competing at Brighton. Malcolm and Angus Higgins from South Australia were the best placed, finishing in sixth overall. There were also Daniel and Daryl Roos from Canberra, Chris and Ian Gregg from Queensland, with 17-year-old Chris on the tiller, and then Brian and Riley Pike from NSW.

The sole father/daughter combo was Brian and Brooke Jones. She is 18 and also steers. Brian Jones commented, "We only started sailing together this season three or four months ago. Brooke came from International Cadets, whereas I have been in the 505 for seven or eight years. It is going well, and we are both still smiling and talking."

"To finish every race was our goal, and 25 knots with big waves was a tough way to start the regatta. We popped the spinnaker in every race, bar one. Our plan is to keep on going," said Jones, who finished in 27th place this time.

Robin Deussen and David Snoad from the Brighton and Seacliff Yacht Club in SA finished in second place, five points astern of the winners, and the first Australian crew. Duessen commented, "We're really happy. We went and did the Worlds last year (Poland) and came onefourth. David has been really sick for the last little while since we decided to do this, so it has been great to be able to get into it once more."

"He had not sailed a 505 before. It all came about when we had a few drinks after a funeral for a good bloke and sailor, Mike Fisher (Harry's dad) three years ago, and David asked if I would like to sail with him."

"The Americans have done wonderful things with the set up of these boats and have shared that with us, which is why we have got so close to them. The improvements are incremental now - once you get to certain level it is a percentage game, so you have to eat away at it - easy to say, harder to do on the racetrack."

"There are only a few crews in South Australia, so we'll just have to sail what we can. We are learning more and more each time we sail the 505, and will be in Sweden in August for the Worlds. I can say that I beat Mike Holt at the 2007 Brighton and Seacliff 505 Worlds sailing with Jordan Spencer. I also need to add that David and I did not beat them in one race out of the nine in Poland last year."

As for the class itself, Duessen added, "It is a top bunch of sailors involved in this class, but with fair racing and we'll let people cross (port/starboard) if we think we are on the right line. I love the Five-oh, as it is the best all round boat. I sailed the Flying Dutchman in the '88 Olympic trials, but the best all-round boat is the 505. If someone says they are no good, they have never sailed one. They are intricate, with a lot going on, but the Americans have dumbed it down a bit to help us all out."

And the Honours goes to?

Right oh - there is plenty of information on the website for you to review when you can, below. Please avail yourself of it. Well done to our great pal, the inimitable Richard Bennett, who is now a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) after today's Honour List. Nice one, matey!!!

Now if your class or association is generating material, we can help you spread your word just by emailing us. Got this newsletter from a friend? Would you like your own copy next week? Just follow the instructions on our newsletter page. Whilst there, you can also register for other editions, like Powerboat-World.

Finally, keep a weather eye on Sail-World. We are here to bring you the whole story from all over the world...

John Curnow
Editor, Sail-World AUS

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