by Di Pearson
Sailed on Port Phillip Bay in December and January each year, in a variety of classes and including Olympic & Invited classes, along with world and national championships, Sail Melbourne is the event to be at.
Many more entries are expected before the Sail Melbourne Olympic & Invited Classes Regatta starts on January 10th 2005.
The event commenced in 1994 and is at present one of only five annual ISAF (International Sailing Federation) Grade 1 events held annually around the world.
As the first Olympic Classes event of the new Olympiad it will also be a test piece for many up and coming young sailors as they come to grips with sailing at the top level.
To be held at Sandringham Yacht Club once again; the perfect venue for a regatta of this calibre, it has attracted many of the Athens Olympic sailors, along with an influx of Beijing Olympic hopefuls.
Already in excess of 80 entries have been received from a range of countries around the world, including Finland, France, Hong Kong, New Zealand, USA and the United Kingdom.
Participators include Laser Olympic aspirants Michael Bullot (NZL) and Roope Suomalainen (FIN), fresh from their recent second and third places at SIRs in Sydney. Mark Howard (GBR), Andrew Lewis (USA) and Australians Brendan Casey (winner at SIRs), Simon Morgan and Ben Austin will be there too.
Local girl and outstanding Laser Radial Womens world champion, Krystal Weir heads that class, straight from her convincing second overall and Womens win at SIRs. Fellow Australian Richard Bott joins Weir, along with New Zealander’s Jane Macky and Olivia Powrie, both keen for a shot at an Olympic place.
Australian Olympic reps from Athens, Nicky Bethwaite and Karen Gojnich come together again with new crew Helen Impey and will sail against Melbournite Margaret Morgan and her crew.
Back too, fraternal sisters Pat and Joyce Warn. Aged in their early seventies and still racing strongly, the Sydney sisters made Ynglings famous. Up to 12 Ynglings are expected on the start line for the Yngling National Championships being conducted as part of the Olympic Classes event.
In the Mistral sailboard, Australia’s Jonathan Bonnitcha will take on New Zealanders Nick Lichtwark and Antonio Cozzolino and a fleet of seven Hong Kong Mistral sailors, while fellow Kiwis, Steffanie Williams and Louise Wilkinson will take on the Aussies and others in the Mistral Womens.
Australian SIRs 470 winners, Queensland’s Mathew Belcher/Nick Behrens will race second placegetters Elise Rechichi/Tessa Parkinson from West Australia. Both are capable of making it to Beijing in 2008, as is Darren Bundock in the Tornado class, sailing with his new crew, Aaron Worrell.
In the 2.4mR class, which is shaping up to be an all-Australian affair, watch husband and wife Michael and Kathy McLean go head to head. Others include Michael McLean and Pamela Murray.
Other high profile events include the spectacular Hobie 17 and Hobie 18 World Championships with fleets of high performance catamarans racing along the Port Melbourne beach, close enough to shore to grab the attention of spectators.
Already over 110 hundred entries have been received from Hobie sailors around the world. Brothers Greg and Eric Raybon are coming from the USA, Pedro Colon from Puerto Rico, Takehito Nakamaru (JPN), Peter Davies (HK), Armando and Pamela Noriega (MEX).
They will face a large and tough Aussie contingent in Mal Gray, Tim Shuwalow and Darren Bundock, who will sail against his Tornado crew, Aaron Worrall – the pair teaming up for the Tornado for Olympic & Invited Classes.
The Moth World Championship, to be held at Black Rock Yacht Club will include boats using revolutionary hydrofoils allowing them to ‘fly’ up to three feet above the surface of the water. They are just as exhilarating to view as they are to sail as they take off in solid winds.
Again, a big fleet will compete, over 40 entries received to-date from the likes of expatriate Aussie Mark Robinson, now representing Singapore and looking for a top five result, Aussie Les Thorpe who is always a top contender, finished second at the 2003 Worlds.
His Aussie compatriot, Rohan Veal, an exponent of the hydrofoil, finished third at the worlds and is the current Australian champion. He won the 2004 Victorian title, doing so with a perfect score.
Switzerland’s Patrick Ruf, fifth overall at the worlds will also be on the start line, along with Keiya Funahashi (JPN), Joachim Huelsmeyer (GER), Adam May (GBR), local Andrew Sayle (AUS) and the only current female entry, Jenny Muller.
In a terrific display of sailing skill and water speed just metres from the Elwood Beach, the Formula Windsurfing Oceanic Continental Championships will be held at Elwood Sailing Club. It will provide an outstanding precursor to the World Championships in December 2005 and again provide thrills for spectators on shore.
To complete what is really a ‘celebration of sailing’ around Port Phillip, Sail Melbourne will play host twelve other National Championships, from 10 different yacht vlubs as part of the 2005 event.
These are; the Olympic Classes Warm Up Regatta, Australian Heron Championship, Contender National Championship, Australian Minnow Championship, Australian Pacer Championships, Australian S80 Championships, Australian MUMM 30 Championships and the Southern Oceans Multihull Regatta.
Once again, Sail Melbourne will benefit from the State Government of Victoria’s ongoing financial support for the regatta over the next four years.
The Hon. Justin Madden MLC, Minister for Sport and Recreation stated, ‘Sail Melbourne includes a terrific range of events that provides opportunities for the greater Australian sailing fraternity, in particular young sailors. It also helps ensure our sailors become even faster, more professional and better experienced to take on the world.’
Studies also estimate the Sail Melbourne regatta generates an economic impact of approximately $6 million for Victoria each year.
Sailing is a sport undeniably growing in popularity, recent examples being at the Athens Olympic Games where a windsurfer competitor lit the flame, two female sailors put it out and Australian six time Olympian, Colin Beashel, led the team into the stadium carrying the flag!
There is still time to enter Sail Melbourne.
Organisers, Yachting Victoria, encourage all sailors to come and ‘have a go’, particularly for those interested in the Olympic & Invited Classes. Should you just wish to compete against some of the best sailors in the world, learn from the best sailors, or have Olympic aspirations, please go to the Sail Melbourne website where you can enter online.
For all information visit: www.sailmelbourne.com.au