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Coastal bar conditions force a pause of Mooloolaba Australasian Etchells Championship

by Tracey Johnstone / Mooloolaba Yacht Club 13 May 13:40 BST
Etchells Australasian Championship 2021 © Nic Douglass @sailorgirlhq

In its 25th year the Mooloolaba Australasian Etchells Championship has hit a hurdle causing the event to be postponed in 2022.

The national regatta was due to be held from June 9 to 12.

International Etchells Australia representative Jan Muysken is confident though that the event will go ahead next year. It's a signature event for the class and for Australian sailing he enthused.

"It's been the best attended event for well over 20 years by both the Australian Etchells class and the internationals with typically 50 boats attending," Mr Muysken added.

"We look forward to participating in 2023 when we are through the El Niño, past Covid and back to some form of normality."

All is not lost for the class. "Just for 2022, the Southport Yacht Club will step in and host the Australasians concurrently with the Gold Coast Championships which are on May 28 to 29," Mr Muysken said.

The coastal bar which the competitors must cross before heading out to the racecourse off Mooloolaba Beach has been deemed unsafe by the event organiser advised Mooloolaba Yacht Club commodore Tanya Kelly.

Added to this challenge is the expected continuing severe weather conditions which the MYC doesn't expect to abate in time to provide safe racing conditions for the yachts.

"Due to the dangers of getting the yachts in and out of the harbour on low tide, there is the risk of damage to the yachts and injury to the crews," Ms Kelly said.

It's a disappointing outcome for the MYC who for 24 years has welcomed Olympic, America's Cup and World Championship sailors to the Coast to contest the one-design class in 30-foot keelboats, enthralling Coast visitors with its picturesque action just off the Mooloolaba Beach. Fleets of 40 or more yachts have annually contested the event which is well-known as a pinnacle Australian sailing event.

The MYC have joined forces with Queensland Government MP and local member Fiona Simpson who has formed a working group representing all interested parties, to achieve a loud voice to the Government around what needs to be achieved with the coastal bar now and in the long-term.

Ms Simpson is calling on the Government to immediately contract a significantly larger dredge to clear the sand shoals at the harbour entrance. It won't help the Etchells event this year, but it will assist greatly now, giving safer access to the busy harbour for passing yachts along with the harbour's recreational and commercial vessels.

"There is also the permanent solution which address safety and the environmental challenges around the harbour entrance," Ms Simpson added. "They (Queensland Government) need to engage with stakeholders and put in place a plan to go ahead."

With the Government taking an interventionist approach now Ms Simpson doesn't see any reason for the Etchells Australasian Championship not to go ahead next year. "This is a fight we have got to win; this port is too important," Ms Simpson said of the harbour entrance that needs to be made safe and reliable.

She is encouraging all boaties of all size and type to raise their voice on the Mooloolaba Harbour entrance by signing her petition here.

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