Australian Hobie Championships underway

Racing on day 1

With four races on day 1 with the wind building up to 20 knots it was the perfect stat to the Australian Hobie Championships. With the current European Champions sailing on their home city am Owen  and Susan Ghent take the lead. three first places and a second place. Closely followed by Darren Smith and Claire Bisgood with two second places and a first with discarding a ninth. Father and daughter team Phil and Caitlyn Epps are third with two third and two fourth places.

There will be no racing tomorrow as the sailors can relax after the  four races in great sailing conditions and after the New Years Party tonight. Racing will resume on the 2nd January.

Race day 2

Strong winds challenge teams at the Hobie Nationals in WA

 Ideal conditions for the Hobie 16 class today as Perth delivered its well known strong sea breeze to challenge the teams at the Australian Nationals. Two races were sailed in the morning session in 18 to 20 knots and another two in the afternoon session in a solid 20 to 26 knot sea breeze.

 Making good progress on the leaderboard today was Jason Spencer and Colleen Lutz moving up from 7th position up to 4th place overall. Matt Faulkner and Ben Raven move in to the top 10, coming from 11th position up to 8th overall after 8 races. The two teams scoring a 2nd and a 3rd in the final race of the day.

 At half way point in the event now, the podium places remain tight with each of the top teams having a capsize through the day. Darren Smith / Claire Bisgood rolled over during a tack in race 6 after making a quick boat positioning decision below Cam Owen / Susan Ghent as they fought for the lead. They managed to race back to 9th place in that race. Phil and Caitlyn Epps did the same in race 8 after a tack for the windward mark which let Owen and Smith get away, Epps placed 5th. Leading on the last beat in to the finish line, Owen and Ghent were washed off the boat by a large wave and capsized, letting Smith through to take the closely challenged win. Owen recovered quickly to a 4th place in that race.

 Several teams decided to sit out the final race of the day. With a similar forecast for tomorrow, Race Officer John McKechnie has brought the start forward by one hour hoping to get in four races early. At this stage Saturday is forecast to be light to moderate to finish off the series of sixteen races.

Race Day 3

Fremantle southerly wind challenges the Hobie Cat fleet again on day three

Aware of the forecast for a building southerly wind the race management team brought the start time forward for day three of the Australian Hobie Cat Nationals, hosted by Jervoise Bay Sailing Club. This gave them the option to hold four races in one morning session before the wind strength became too much.

Again, Fremantle held up to its reputation, challenging the fleet with strong winds throughout the day but it was not the usual sea breeze. There was rain around in the morning and cooler weather. Competitors raced in a variable and oscillating wind in the morning session, it was good to have new race course strategies for the sailors to consider. Two races were held. On the last lap of race 9, a rain squall hit the fleet and most boats capsized. Phil and Caitlyn Epps from Geraldton managed to stay upright and held their lead for a convincing win. Cam Owen / Susan Ghent capsized when the squall hit but man-aged to fight off Trent Robson / Nat Hill and Darren Smith / Claire Bisgood and hold on to their second place as all sailors were struggling to keep racing.

Young team Lachy Owen and Jett Harvey, both 14 years old, stuck it out in the difficult conditions, having a lot of fun and staying out there for the two morning races. They made a sensible decision to sit out the afternoon session but should be pleased with the progress they have made during the national championship.

Certainly worth a mention, father and son team John and Sam Bateson challenged the podium teams in race ten and placed a commendable 4th in that race.

Teams were sent ashore for a break, the wind strength stayed manageable and sailors and volunteers went out for two more fast and exciting races in a tough afternoon session. Plenty of stories to share on the beach afterwards.

Youth sailors Gaelle Ravenel (16) / Luc Enee from New Caledonia showed excellent sailing skills throughout the day and placed 7th in the last one, race 12, competing in a solid 23 to 27 knots of wind.

With four races left in the schedule, no one in contention for the title can relax just yet. The forecast for Saturday, the final day of racing, is a typical offshore morning breeze followed by a building southerly in the afternoon. Owen / Ghent lead on 13 points followed by Smith / Bisgood with 24. Still in contention is team Epps on 27 points nett then Jason Spencer / Colleen Lutz with 59 points, all after two discard races.

In the Grand Masters series, Matt Faulkner / Ben Raven lead a tie with Brad Quartermaine / Tayla Woodhead, both on 18 points nett. Phil Smyth / Mark Preedy are in third place with 32 points from Rod Hodgkin / Lucy Bromell on 34 points.

Last Day

A typical summers day in Perth to crown the new Hobie Cat Champions

 It was a typical summer weather pattern in Perth for the final day of racing at the Australian Hobie Cat Nationals. A variable offshore breeze with flat water greeted the sailors for the morning session. The north facing bay in front of Jervoise Bay Sailing Club looked inviting and competitors were relieved at a break from the strong southerly winds and choppy seas.

 Sailors from Germany, Denmark and New Caledonia contesting the event had been thoroughly enjoying the racing. Andy Dinsdale from Germany commented, “the event is fabulous, the place is really awesome to sail, flat water heaps of wind, different conditions and a bit of everything for everyone” he also commended the race management team and the sailing club for doing so well to organise the nationals. Sailing with his sister Lisa, they feel very lucky to have made the journey to Perth for the regatta.

 With four races scheduled to complete a full series of sixteen, Cam Owen and Susan Ghent led on 13 points discarding a 2nd and a 4th from Darren Smith and Claire Bisgood on 24 points nett dropping two 9th places. Well within reach of the lead, Phil and Caitlyn Epps were discarding a 4th and 5th place and had 27 points nett. The three teams had been training together though the year to compete in the Hobie 16 Worlds last November and this effort was showing in their consistently good results. They had a break on 4th placed team Jason Spencer and Colleen Lutz, it would be game on for the top three teams to win the title.

 Scores were tight in the Grand Masters division too, Matt Faulkner / Ben Raven were tied on 18 points nett with Brad Quartermaine / Tayla Woodhead. Close for the 3rd place was Phil Smyth / Mark Preedy only two points ahead of Rod Hodgkin / Lucy Bromell.

 The offshore breeze was very challenging, many big gains and losses in the oscillating wind. Sailors needed to pay attention to where the next breeze might come from and there were significant changes in wind speed too. Owen was managing his risk, keeping in touch with Smith and Epps, race 13 would be a discard for all three teams. Lance Wood / Lucinda Crisp were pleased to take the win, Spencer in 2nd and Dinsdale in 3rd.

 Fremantle delivered its building sea breeze for a fabulous session of three races in the afternoon, an excellent way to end a great week of sailing in the beautiful waters off Woodman Point. Fast and exciting racing for the Hobie Cat fleet, they looked spectacular in the bay.

 Owen / Ghent were in good form for the last three races placing 1,1,3 and so was Smith / Bisgood with a 2, 2, 1. Overall in the Open Championship, Cam Owen and Susan Ghent defended their Australian title, Ghent now ahead with 6 championship wins on the nationals board. Darren Smith and Claire Bisgood in second place overall and Phil and Caitlyn Epps in third. Voted the amateur champions by their peers, it was great to see Jason Spencer and Colleen Lutz sailing so well through the event and coming in 4th ahead of Danish sailor Nicklas Heide with Grady Redway from Geraldton.

 The top four were also in the Masters division, Faulkner / Raven coming in 5th in that series.

 Tied on nett points overall, Matt Faulkner and Ben Raven won the last two races to take the Grand Masters title over Brad Quartermaine and Tayla Woodhead. Phil Smyth and Mark Preedy in third overall were so happy to be sailing together again after racing as a team so many years ago.

 Phil Smyth was awarded Hobie Legend status at the presentation ceremony. The 74 year old joins some true Hobie Legends on the class honour board. Class President Phil Epps interviewed Smyth, competitors and supporters were treated to some excellent Hobie stories, a great insight in to the amazing history that Phil Smyth has with the Hobie class. Watch the video on Facebook @HobieCatsWesternAustralia.

 While the evening was about celebrating all of the competitors and volunteers and sharing salty tales from a fun week on the water, thoughts were with the communities around the country affected by fires. The sailors were especially thinking of the Hobie community in Jervis Bay NSW, on the other side of the country were they had terrible times in 2002 destroying the Hobie Factory. A bucket was passed around and a generous donation has gone towards the cause.


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