Please select your home edition
Edition
Bakewell-White Yacht Design

Festival of Sails to be A1 fun for A-Class sailors

by Danielle McKay on 17 Jan 2013
Simon McKeon in action © .
World sailing speed record setter Simon McKeon has an insatiable need for speed, and he’ll be getting his fix at the Festival of Sails this year.

The former Australian of the Year will be competing in the hotly contested Gill A-Class Catamaran Southern Championships that will include five top 50 competitors from the 2012 world titles.


It will be the first major event for the Australian A-Class fleet since returning from the worlds in Florida Keys, America in October.

McKeon admits it’s been a less than ideal lead up, after foul weather in the wake of Hurricane Sandy delayed the return of the boats, with many sailors only having a chance to hit the water in recent days.

'We’ve hardly sailed our boats over the past five months because of those world championships,' McKeon said.

'It took a long time to get there and get back. I’m really looking forward to getting to Geelong, but I’ll have some cobwebs to blow off that’s for sure.'

There will be plenty at stake when the A-class sailors contest their Southern Championships during the Festival of Sails, from January 24 to 28 - the perfect warm-up ahead of the class nationals in Darwin mid-year.

The lure of the prime flat seas and fair breezes on Corio Bay has competitors salivating for next week’s series start of windward/leeward and course racing on Thursday 24th.

McKeon in particular has his sights on Graeme Parker, who finished ahead in the standings at the worlds in Florida. Parker finished ninth and McKeon finished 11th and next week the pair will finally meet again, this time on local waters.

'Graeme is one of the most experienced A-Class sailors you’ll find anywhere, and he’s just been on fire these last two or three years, annoying someone like me,’’ McKeon said.

'Geelong’s close to his home waters, he’s a Colac boy, and I think he knows the western side of the bay pretty well.'

While McKeon will be keeping a close eye on Parker from A Class Above, he’s isn’t forgetting the up and comers.

'In terms of pure boat speed it’ll be the younger guys like Stephen Brayshaw or Demon Parker,' he tipped.

'Then we’ve got a real hot-shot out of Darwin, Christpher Batenburg, and then you have David McKenzie, the list just goes on and on.'

With the 34th America’s Cup preparations heating up, multihulls are riding high on a wave of popularity.

While the A-Class is almost half a century old, it remains at the cusp of sailing technology.

Testament to the class is the fact that it’s the boat of choice for many America’s Cup sailors in their down time. In the 2012 national titles four sailors from Oracle Team USA competed, including Australia’s James Spithill.

McKeon reckons there are many parallels between the development of the A-Class, and the AC45 and AC72.


'A lot of the guys involved in the America’s Cup are spending time on the A-Class,’’ McKeon said. 'Their focus has to be on the America’s Cup, but when they’ve got time for themselves, they’re often spending time in the A-Class.

'The boat continues to be faster, and continues to be more refined. The research and development at the moment is a lot like the America’s Cup, it’s about what’s going on under the water.

Just like the AC45 and AC72, it’s all about hydrofoils.

'We do have restrictions on the type of hydrofoils that can be put on the main class, but the newer generation boats have these curbed centerboards that are creating a certain amount of lift,’’ he said.

'Before that it was the hull shape, and before that it was the square top sails. Right now it’s about the underwater foils, and that’s exciting.'

There is little wonder that McKeon can be found racing the fastest single-handed small catamaran in the world.

The investment banker and his sailing partner Tim Daddo set the world speed record in 1993 with Yellow Pages Endeavour, and held it for 11 years. They reclaimed it in 2009 when Macquarie Innovation became the first sailboat to sustain more than 50 knots, peaking at 54 kts, 100 kilometers an hour.

Australia’s Paul Larsen currently holds the world speed record of 65.45 knots with his Vestas Sailrocket 2. It’s a challenging benchmark that McKeon admits will be very difficult to beat.

'Paul Larsen has taken it to another realm, it’s fabulous what he’s achieved,’’ McKeon said.


'For our part we have to take a very deep breath and say, realistically what’s now required to do that? I can tell you, we’re not rushing back at the moment.

'Full credit to him (Larsen), he’s set a new world record, but by such a margin that I think everyone’s taking a deep breath.'

For now, McKeon says he’s satisfying his need for speed elsewhere. 'I’ll be getting it at Geelong, that’s for sure.'

Entries for this month’s Festival of Sails have climbed past 300 with Friday the final day to lodge an entry.

More than 100,000 people are drawn to the annual festival, which boasts the largest keelboat fleet in the Southern Hemisphere.

Related Articles

Shape of next Volvo Ocean Race revealed at Southern Spars - Part 1
Southern Spars has been confirmed as the supplier of spars for the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race. In mid-April, Race Director, Jack Lloyd and Stopover Manager Richard Mason outlined the changes expected for the 40,000nm Race during a tour of Southern Spars 10,000sq metre specialist spar construction facility. A total of up to seven boats is expected to enter, but time is running out for the construction of any new boats.
Posted on 3 May
Sailing in the Olympics beyond 2016 - A double Olympic medalist's view
Bruce Kendall takes a look at what he believes Sailing needs to do to survive beyond the 2016 Olympics. Gold and Bronze medalist and multiple world boardsailing/windsurfer champion, Bruce Kendall takes a look at what he believes Sailing needs to do to survive beyond the 2016 Olympics. A key driver is the signalled intention by the International Olympic Committee to select a basket of events that will be contested.
Posted on 29 Apr
From Olympic flag to Olympic Gold and maybe another
The Sydney Olympics was a Sailing double 470 Gold event for Australia. Having won the 420 World Championship in 2000, the feeder class to the 470, while still at school in Australia young Matt Belcher was given the honour of carrying the Olympic flag during the closing ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
Posted on 28 Apr
The Road to Rio now 99 days short
The Road to Rio 2016 still has a few curves, bumps and potholes for teams battling to win. The Road to Rio 2016 still has a few curves, bumps and potholes for teams battling to win in Hyeres, at some World championship events and Weymouth World Cup but for many crews: 'It's 106 miles to Chicago we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark and we're wearing sunglasses.' Whoops wrong movie.
Posted on 28 Apr
America's Cup - Oracle Racing win in Court but with collateral damage
Oracle Racing have had another claim against them by a former crew member dismissed. Oracle Racing have had another claim against them by a former crew member dismissed. Mitchell focussed largely on the circumstances of the matter and introduced into the public arena some interesting documents to support his claims.
Posted on 23 Apr
Thou doth protest too much, me thinks
And no, we’re not off to analyse Hamlet right away. There’ll be no surtitles popping up on the top of your screen And no, we’re not off to analyse Hamlet right away. There’ll be no surtitles popping up on the top of your screen about now. At any rate, it is simply an adaptation of Lady Gertrude’s original line. We merely seek to use it as a way to demonstrate that when there is a lot of brouhaha going on, the smoke screen ultimately ends up as a lovely, colourful flag as to the real intent behind it.
Posted on 18 Apr
An interview with Jake Beattie about the 2016 Race to Alaska
In 2014, Jake Beattie and a few friends envisioned the Race to Alaska. Now, it’s time this wild race’s second edition. In 2014, Jake Beattie-the executive director of the Northwest Maritime Center in Port Townsend, Washington, and a few friends hatched the bold idea of a human-powered race to Ketchikan, Alaska, took flight. They decided that their human-powered race would start in Port Townsend, Washington and run to Ketchikan, by way of the inside passage between Vancouver Island and British Columbia.
Posted on 14 Apr
Children of the Internet, Rio and Hong Kong
I have four daughters, the youngest, who in her mid 20's is a true child of the Internet. I have four daughters, the youngest, who in her mid 20's is a true child of the Internet. The kind of conversations I have with her run along these lines.... In the olden days we did not have television until I left school and they had a thing called print magazines, that reported events between two weeks and four months after they happened. And her sceptical response... Hoh! Daddy, Hoh!
Posted on 14 Apr
Go fast girls - 49er FX sailors Paris Henken and Helena Scutt
Paris Henken and Helena Scutt will be representing the USA at the Rio 2016 Olympics, which will be their first Olympiad. American’s Paris Henken (20) and Helena Scutt (23) recently won a berth to represent the USA at the Rio 2016 Olympics in the high-performance 49er FX skiff, a goal that the team has been working on for almost three years. While this is their first Games, writing them off as Olympic newbies would require ignoring their recent results and their strong teamwork.
Posted on 13 Apr
World Sailing Cup V3 - A Dead Rat in a Shoe or Spring Daffodils?
While a host of major sailing events go from strength to strength, the Sailing World Cup has very major issues. Last night my Irish better half was sitting beside me on the sofa watching an Australian version of the popular TV Cooking Program My Kitchen Rules on a tablet with her headphones while I was watching Diehard II for the seventeenth time (it’s a boy thing) on TV. She suddenly spluttered and laughed, took off her headphones and motioned for me to mute Diehard. (Seriously!!)
Posted on 9 Apr
Schaefer 2016 660x82Bakewell-White Yacht DesignBarz Optics - San Juan Worlds Best Eyewear