by Harry Fisher
Mal Higgins in 'Focus' with Sam Sanderson and Andrew Chisholm has been crowned the 70th Australian Sharpie National Champion after winning Race 7 in incredible fashion in a traditional 'Brighton South Easterly'.
National Champions Mal Higgins, Sam Sanderson and Andrew Chisholm in 'Focus' - 70th Australian Sharpie Nationals
The tough land breeze conditions provided headaches for competitors, but it was the local favourite Higgins who shone through, taking the final race win by a small margin.
Geoff McCloud in 'Warpig' with Sam Flint and Mark Beaumont led for most of Race 7 however were pipped by Higgins towards the end of the race and took second place while West Australian Vern Tidy in 'Blatantly Obvious' with Alan Tidy and Matt Jenkins sailed consistently all race and finished in third.
However it was the overall results that everyone was interested in and Sharpie veteran Robbie Deussen in 'Rage Factor' with Tim Ross and Andy Dyer needed a cracker to gain top spot over Higgins, but unfortunately they didn't have their best race and Deussen slipped to fourth overall.
Sharpie Nationals Debutant Skipper Chris Went in 'AREA Construction' with Tom Manhood and Karl Olsen continued their excellent form in to the final race with an eighth and were fortunate enough to hold on to third overall, a great effort by Chris and his team.
After an excellent Race 7, Geoff McCloud and his crew in 'Warpig' jumped in to second overall, which is Geoff's best result in a Sharpie Nationals, but the talk of the town was local favourite Mal Higgins in his brand new boat 'Focus' who won his sixth Sharpie National Title, his fifth in seven years.
Higgins is consistently writing himself in to the record books, when last year after winning his fifth Sharpie National title at Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron in Brisbane he became the most successful Lightweight Sharpie skipper in history. He has surpassed West Australian Peter Chappell, Victorian Gary McLennan and Queenslander John Cuneo who all have won four Lightweight Sharpie National Titles.
After the Brighton Nationals, Higgins has won his sixth National Title, and if he is able to win one more, he will equal John Cuneo as the most successful Sharpie Sailor in history who along with his sent Lightweight titles, won three Heavyweight Sharpie National Titles more than 50 years ago.
The South Australian Sharpie Association made mention to this outstanding feat at the presentation evening on Saturday January 5th and he received an amazing ovation from those in attendance.
As Higgins approaches his late 40's, as the most successful Lightweight Sharpie skipper in history he is showing no signs of slowing down, and is expected to attend Perth next year for the 71st Sharpie Nationals. Hopefully we see a fierce battle between him and Peter Chappell for the national title, two of the classes greatest products.