Higgins and Chappell face off in Sharpie titles, Perth

Peter Chappell’s The Lizard in full flight. Has won two of his four Nationals in this boat - can he pull off another one?
Peter Kovesi/Photofluid.
WA veteran Peter Chappell is tipped to tough it out with South Australia’s David Higgins in the 71st Australian Sharpie National Championships in Perth, starting this Saturday.

A four-time national title-winner in The Lizard, Chappell will have on board fellow top sailors in sheethand Pete Nicholas and forward hand Luke Payne.

Both boats are in top form and Perth and Adelaide Sharpie sailors are known for confidently handling strong breezes, with the Fremantle Doctor expected to be present throughout the week.

Around 45 boats are expected to contest the 6-day series out of Mounts Bay Sailing Club, with the biggest contingents from Perth and Adelaide.

Higgins (All Scoobed Out) placed second in 2011 and is the brother of six-time National Champion, Mal Higgins, who is not competing this year.

Other chances for the title include East Fremantle Sailing Club’s Vern Tidy (Blatantly Obvious) who’s placed third in the Nationals on two previous occasions, and South Australians Chris Went (Area Constructions) and Nick Deussen (Finger Jam).

The Sharpie, which evolved from the Olympic 12m Sharpie and Heavyweight Sharpie, remains one of Australia’s strongest performance dinghy classes, with a history of producing champion sailors. Former national champions have included Rolly Tasker, John Bertrand, John Cuneo and Sir James Hardy.

The hard-chined planing hulls now carry bigger spinnakers and the class recently introduced carbon-fibre booms and spinnaker poles. At nearly 6.1m in length with one on trapeze, Sharpies not only are fast to windward, but are renowned for exhilarating kite reaches.