Sailed on Port Phillip, the Sail Melbourne Olympic and
Invited Classes Regatta boasted 308 competitors. The 25-event regatta,
sailed from 13 yacht clubs around Port Phillip arguably ranks as the
premier off the beach event in Australia – and it is the only one where
competitors can win prize money.
(Above) The Warn sisters and Tneal Kawalla show
you’re never too old.
A happy crew is a winning crew. Melanie Dennison in
the Yngling class.
Lars Kleppich took the lead in men’s sailboarding.
The Australian Yachting Federation used this regatta as an
Australian selection event for the 2004 Olympics, with the exception of
the Laser Class. As the only Grade One ISAF ranking event in the southern
hemisphere, a world-class fleet came to try their luck on a tough sailing
There were no surprise winners, but there were some
nail-biting finishes on the final day.
Sydney Olympian Lars Kleppich used it to “dip his toes”
back into sailing. Former professional windsurfer Jessica Crisp was there
to launch her Athens Olympic campaign and Sarah Blanck raced on Port
Phillip for the first time since winning the coveted world Europe crown.
World number one 470 sailors Nathan Wilmot and Mal Page
continued to show why they hold sailing’s top ranking, triple world
champion Chris Nicholson paraded a new crewmate and world champions
Darren Bundock and John Forbes enhanced their prospects of a gold medal
at the 2004 Olympic Games by clean sweeping the Tornado racing.
Michael Blackburn made his return to the Laser, taking
control from race five with four straight wins, displaying his 2000
Olympic bronze medal form in a tough 47-strong fleet.
But it wasn’t the men and women who will bid for a record
haul of medals in Greece next year who stole the show. It was twin sisters
Patricia and Joyce Warn and their young, teenage apprentice Tneal
Michael Blackburn (top) took
control in Lasers.
470 sailors Jenny Armstrong and Belinda Stowell stormed to victory.
Darren Bundock and John Forbes set sail for Athens in the Tornados.
These feisty sisters, 72-years-young, were the talk of the
boat park at Sandringham Yacht Club. In their matching sailing gear and
up against the two female crews bidding for the one spot in the Yngling
class at next year’s Athens Olympics, the fabulous Warn sisters sailed
into the overall lead on the first day of the regatta.
It was a feat, which captured sporting headlines around the
country and canvassed enormous interest from the local press in Victoria.
While their time in the limelight was short-lived, the agile feats of the
Warn sisters helped present a new side of sailing to the country and to
prove you are never to old to sail.
At the other end of the age scale, Melbourne duo Ben, 22,
and Marcus, 24, Tardrew turned heads with their strong performance in the
49er skiff class. With just over a year’s competition under their belts,
the pair was the second Australian finishers in the 49er class won by
triple world champion Chris Nicholson and his new crewmate Gary Boyd.
Nicholson’s lead-up to Sail Melbourne was unusual to say
the least, with he and Boyd racing together – but not on a 49er. The pair
sailed on the Open 66-footer Grundig in the Sydney to Hobart race with
Nicholson also taking time out from his Olympic campaign to win a third
world 505 crown with older brother Darren in late December.
Sail Melbourne also marked the sailing return of another
old pro with sailboarder Lars Kleppich competing in a major event for the
first time since the Sydney Olympics.
Kleppich is yet to decide whether he will launch a campaign
for the Athens Olympics but still managed to finish as top Australian at
the regatta to take the lead in the Olympic selection series. Olympian
Jessica Crisp has committed to the Athens Olympics and flew in from her
home in the US to take the lead in the women’s sailboarding selection
Bob Steel’s Quest won the IRC trophy and Kevin
Wood’s Ticket of Leave the IMS Trophy, at the Australian
Offshore Keelboat Championships in Melbourne.
Sailed as part of the Sail Melbourne regatta, the series,
organised by the Royal Yacht Club of Victoria under the auspices of the
Australian Yachting Federation, comprised six windward-leeward courses
and a long bay race.
With IRC now the popular choice across the board, 40 yachts
entered with only six yachts sailing under IMS.
Quest, a Nelson Marek 46, representing the
Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, has this past year won the inaugural
Sydney-Newcastle Race, Sydney-Mooloolaba, Hamilton Island Race Week and
was the former IMS champion.
In December, Steel’s long-held dream came true with his
overall win in the Sydney-Hobart race under IMS. It is an outstanding
strike rate for any yacht. His next wish, he says, is to win the CYCA’s
Blue Water Point Score.
“This has been a phenomenal year for me, it’s fantastic,
what a roll we’re on, we’re just all really pleased, now we are the IRC
champions, we’ll take it as we can get it,” Steel said of the yacht,
which sails just as well in flat water light breezes as it does in the
choppier, windier conditions of Port Phillip.
“We have an alright boat that’s sailed consistently well, I
have a great crew, Greeny (Mike Green) steering, Sean Kirkjian calling
tactics, Daniel Birch, Col Anderson, Jacko (Jack Goluzd), Peter
Messenger, Stuart Bon and Simon Reffold,” he added.
Hollywood Boulevard (CYCA) finished second
overall, producing some good results to also grab third overall in IMS.
The Farr 52, however, finished 17 points behind Quest, but went on to
clean-sweep IRC at the Bundaberg Festival of Sail with five wins and a
Robert Hick’s ‘little boat with a lot of heart’, Toecutter
(RYCV), the owner-designed Hick 31, not perturbed in the mixed conditions
gave her larger rivals a run for their money and finished in third place
on count back from Lou Abrahams’ Sydney 38, Another Challenge
A well-respected Abrahams must be pondering his luck of
late, relegated to second place on count back after tying for first with Ticket
of Leave in IMS, and recently slipping to third overall in the
Sydney-Hobart on the home stretch in diminishing breezes.
Stephen Ainsworth must have contemplated what could have
been. His fifth overall did not reflect the fact that he was at all times
Steel’s biggest threat for the IRC crown.
Ainsworth, skippering his Swan 48 Loki (CYCA),
actually won four races, including the first two windward and return
races in 18-22 knot winds on lumpy seas and looked unbeatable.
The following day, in 10-knot breezes on flat seas, she dropped
to ninth place in the early race. This was the race in which Quest scored
her only win of the series. By afternoon, in an increasing 15 knots on
choppy seas, Loki was back in the winner’s circle, Quest
Next came the 57 nautical mile Bay race, Magnavox,
a Volvo 60 co-owned and steered by Peter Sorenson (MHYC) taking line
honours from Hollywood Boulevard in a building 12-25 knot wind
on choppy seas.
Gary Smith’s Swarbrick 9.7, Tusk (RPYC), the lone
West Australian entry, won the race and in doing so, helped third placed
Quest maintain her series lead over second placed Loki by one point.
Light fickle airs in race six the next day were Ainsworth’s
undoing. A 32nd place to Quest’s fifth, saw Loki go from rooster
to feather duster in a series that did not allow for a race drop.
It was all over by the final race seven, even though Loki
took podium position, Hollywood Boulevard second and Quest
third in a gusty 15-22 knots.
Chairman of Sail Melbourne and Immediate Past Commodore of
Sandringham Yacht Club, Kevin Wood, and owner of the IMS winner,
Ticket of Leave, was exceptionally pleased with his win.
Wood had previously placed second at numerous regattas
during the past 18 months with his Beneteau 40.7 and a major success had
He summed up this way, “yes, we’ve finished second at many
regattas including Hamilton Island Race Week and others, so this is very
pleasing for me and my crew, who have worked very hard. They did a great
Chris Dare’s Ninety Seven (SYC), the Sydney-Hobart
line honours winner of 1993, was the only casualty of the championships.
The yacht broke her mast on the first day in sharp, short seas.