by Kathryn Iles
At the Flying 11 Nationals, light to moderate breezes have ensured an enjoyable first two days in Port Stephens.
Flying 11 Nationals 2014
The 166 young sailors (83 boats) that have taken the start line represent many different clubs in New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania and even New Zealand. The Port Stephens Sailing and Aquatic Club at Soldiers Point, which is hosting the event, is proud to be represented by two of the boats.
For this series, the class is using a split fleet format. Seeding takes place over a qualifying series to create two evenly matched fleets (green and orange), after which a gold and a silver fleet are created for the final series. So far, there has been hot competition in both fleets.
Tom Grimes and Chelsea Williams, sailing ‘Sirius’ from Belmont 16s, have held a commanding lead overall, achieving first, second and first in their fleet in the first three races. In Race 3, they held the lead from start to finish, while behind them the next five positions changed many times.
Newcomers to the class, Zac and Jake Barnabas, have also turned heads. Fresh from winning the Manly Junior Nationals, the pint-sized brothers borrowed Flying 11 ‘Ocean Kids’, had a couple of days of training, and joined the fleet. While they both crewed in Flying 11s last season, this is their first F11 regatta sailing together – indeed, their first races. Their results have shown their versatility: in the light south-easterly of Race 2, there was daylight between them and second place.
LRO (Legendary Race Officer) Col Chidgey is serving the regatta with his inimitable style. To say he has a face for radio would be cruel, but he certainly has the voice. His gravelly 'GO' over the VHF is unmistakeable to all listeners. It is fortunate that the sailors do not carry radios when he announces his intention to use the Black Flag. Given Col’s no-nonsense approach, it came as something of a surprise on Day 2 to see that he had a soft side – if only temporary. In a quiet moment in the middle of racing, Col’s voice crumpled the airways: 'Dolphins in the middle of the course'. Sailors and supporters alike enjoyed the spectacle.
On shore, innovative equipment has kept the regatta at the cutting edge of technology. Thanks to the expertise of F11 National President Chris Jones and sailing results guru Nick Ward, all skippers wear a waterproof wrist band fitted with an RFID chip. Signing on and off the water has never been so easy, as they zap their bands past an electronic reader. The potential of the bands seems endless – they can be used at multiple regattas, storing all manner of information, and can be set up to be loaded with credit for use at different facilities.
With stronger breezes forecast for the remainder of the week, the coming races promise great interest for all involved.