by Jane Moffat
The competitor list for the 9er Nationals is looking a bit like a battle of who’s got the most titles! Hosted by McCrae Yacht Club on the Mornington Peninsula the three fleets have some of the best skiff sailors around, not to mention Optimist World Champion, 420 World Champion and 470 Olympic Gold medallist.
29ers hit the water on the first day of the Nationals at McCrae YC - 9er National Championships
2012 Olympic 49er Gold medallist and 49er World Champion Iain Jensen has teamed up with Will Phillips and they have to be the pre regatta favourites. Following their win at Sail Melbourne at the beginning of December Steven Thomas and Rhys Mara will be looking to beat Phillips and Jensen as well as fending off Jasper Warren and Luke Parkinson who placed second at Sail Melbourne. Past 29er National Champion James Sly is sailing with Will Phillips and chasing a top three finish so the top of the fleet will be highly competitive.
Local McCrae Yacht Club members and brothers Scott and David Cunningham having been putting time in on the water recently and with a home town advantage will be wanting a good finish.
The 49erFX fleet is title filled with 2008 Olympic 470 Gold medallist and multiple world champion Tessa Parkinson sailing with Kate Lathouras. 2012 Olympic silver medallist Olivia Price is teaming up with Alanna Clancy and having finished just behind Parkinson and Lathouras at Sail Melbourne will be wanting to go one better. Haylee Outteridge and Alison Dale also want to improve on their performance at Sail Melbourne. All three of these teams are chasing the Australian Olympic spot for Rio 2016 and whilst still a long way away for most people the elite athletes are already planning their campaigns.
Excellent planning has provided Singapore with some big wins and Kimberly Lim has the titles to prove it. Teaming up with Sara Tan in the 49erFX, Lim the 2011 Optimist World Champion and 2012 420 World Champion will give the Australian teams some stiff competition. No doubt Lim is planning her route to Gold in 2016.
With Lim making the move up the classes from an Optimist to 49erFX the 29er fleet is beginning to show the fruits of the Australian Optimist program. There are four ex Australian Optimist Sailing Team members; three of those have competed in Optimist World Championships in the last two years.
Victorians will of course be watching Tess Lloyd on her return to the race course after her accident last year. Now sailing with Eliza Solly together they make a fiercely competitive team. Make no mistake Lloyd and Solly are out to win the regatta but face some stiff competition from Australian Youth Sailing Team members Tom Siganto and Joel Turner, fellow Queenslanders Charlie Wyatt and Lewis Brake; as well as the New South Wales teams of Henry and Grant Makin and Jim Colley and Shaun Connor. Brakes previous skipper Josh Franklin has teamed up with Alex Gough, 420 Bronze medallist at the 2011 ISAF Youth Sailing World Championships. Whilst they have now aged out of the youth division their presence makes the competition at the top of the 29er fleet very tough.
Day One: With the 29er’s heading out onto the race course just before 3pm in a 23 knot south westerly, the Melbourne cool change picked up even more and with the wind hitting 27 knots racing was abandoned for the day and sailors headed back to the beach.
The 9er National Championships run 27 December – 2 January.
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