by Adam Lucius
Lee Knapton will set his sights on becoming the most successful skipper in 16ft skiff history after piloting Brydens Compensations Lawyers to a comprehensive win in the national titles at Manly.
Brydens crosses the line first to win heat 5 in the Australian 16 ft Skiff Championships at Manly thurs 17 Jan 2013 Picture by Joe Murphy 0409746764 - Australian 16ft Skiff Championships
Knapton steered Brydens into second spot behind Hubble Chemicals (Nathan Wilmot) in Friday's sixth heat to take an unassailable lead on the overall pointscore, claiming his fifth Australian crown in 14 years.
He now sits equal with the legendary Alf Whereat and one behind Dennis Tanko and Jack Cassidy (both six) on the all-time list.
At 35, Knapton is young enough to go past Tanko and Cassidy and set a new benchmark of seven titles and beyond.
'If it happens, it happens,' a modest Knapton said of the record.
'I will have another bash next year and if the record presents itself I will go for it.
'We couldn't have sailed any better this week.'
That's one of the great understatements.
Four wins and two seconds ensured Brydens the crown with a race to spare.
In any other year, Hubble's two firsts and two seconds would have been good enough to win.
Knapton praised crew members Peter Mackie (sheethand) and Ricky Bridge (for'and) for their professionalism and expertise in thriving in the myriad conditions thrown up on Sydney Harbour all week.
'I think we've been more prepared than the rest. Pete puts a good boat together and Bridgey puts a good rig together,' he said.
'It's easy for me to jump on the boat when they've done the hard work.
'There are some good names here - it's a quality fleet - so we're very proud of what we've achieved.
'It's an unreal feeling. This is what we've trained all year for.
'To come home with a race to go, we're really happy with that.'
Things didn't go completely to plan, with Brydens and Hubble both jumping the start and being forced to turn back around.
But once into the stride the two boats took little time in stamping their authority on the race.
Hubble, needing a win to stay alive in the series, opened up a sizeable lead in the fluky conditions and once in front was never headed.
Hubble's winning margin of 3min:27s was the most comprehensive victory of the week, but Brydens' second placing killed off any hope Wilmot had of snatching a maiden Australian 16ft title.
Manly's Sutech (Daniel Turner) was third.
'It was a tricky day. The wind was coming from everywhere,' Wilmot said.
'We had a real good second beat and played the shifts and got the jump on the fleet.
'We were hoping Brydens would stuff up but it wasn't to be.
'They deserve the championship. They've sailed a really good regatta.
'Most nationals we would be up there (in first) but those guys have been too good.'