Musto Performance Skiff Sport Phillip Marine Harken Australian Championships 2012 took place at the Blairgowrie Yacht Squadron, Victoria frpm January 5 to 9.
16 entries from Victoria, Western Australia, Queensland, and one traveller from the UK made up the fleet for the Aussie MPS Nationals at Blairgowrie Yacht Squadron at the southern end of Port Phillip, Victoria. The club had just hosted a 130 strong Sabre Nationals so they were superbly organized and well equipped for supporting the skiffs.
The prevailing offshore southerly sea breeze over the Mornington Peninsula provided flat water conditions with crystal clear waters, often less than six foot deep, made for some surreal sailing where the shadow of the boat could be seen clearly on the bottom – a bit disconcerting downwind at 20kts, but a magical experience!
Heat 1 got underway in SE 12-15kts with the sea breeze still being affected by the previous days gradient wind creating very shifty conditions which made for some close racing. At times boats were seen to be going parallel upwind on opposite tacks resulting in some quick swims! The breeze picked up to 18-20kts by heat 3 which made for champagne conditions in the sunshine and 25 degrees - Musto sailing at its best! 49er star and local lad Will Phillips demonstrated his adaptable skill set with a 6,1,1 to lead after day 1 from Jon Newman and Jono Neate.
Day 2 and the breeze was 15-20kts across the beach as the fleet planed out the start but by the start line two kms offshore it had all but vanished leaving a fickle 5-7kts shifting through at least 40 degrees. After the first start was abandoned the fleet got away second time and split left and right in search of pressure. Jon Newman made it first round the windward just before the 20 minute cut off and took off down wind in his own gust. He held the lead to the end of a shortened course at the top of the next beat with Ben Schooling and Chris Sutherland rounding out the top three. PRO Mischa Leonard made the wise call to send the fleet ashore to let the wind stabilize and build in line with the forecast. Sure enough by 4pm the breeze had swung SE and built to 20kts plus and the refreshed fleet headed out for heats 5 and 6. Marcus Hamilton had a good afternoon with a second and third but it was Jono Neate who showed his big breeze dominance to take the win in both heats as gusts of 24kts made for some epic downwind rides.
Saturday was a lay day and the fleet took a well-earned break to see some sights around the beautiful Mornington Peninsula. At the club the demo boat was taken out in a light 8kt Northerly by a couple of potential Musto converts under the supervision of Jon Newman in the coach boat. In the evening the club hosted a fantastic bbq and beach party, which the Musto sailors all enjoyed over a few Broo’s.
With a big front looming the call was made to bring the start forward to 11am for heat 7 on Sunday to try a squeeze in three quick races. The fleet headed out with some trepidation with a forecast of 30+ knots in the pipeline and got underway in 18-20kts. Hamilton took line honors the first race in fine form with Neate securing the bullet in heat 8 followed by Richie Robertson in second loving the big breeze. The wind increased another notch in heat 9 and by the second run was gusting +25kts again creating some wild rides and making gybing a tricky maneuver for even the most experienced helms. Newman took the race win to set up a final day showdown between him and Neate for the title with a similar situation for the bronze position between Hamilton and Schooling who’d been keeping the scorecard ticking over. The fleet made it ashore just in time and an hour later the wind peaked at 39kts as the front went through - good call by the PRO to bring the start time forward!
The breeze was gusting 22-27kts on the final morning and so the start was postponed for heat 10 and the fleet held onshore with the forecast predicting it would abate in the afternoon. With the 16:00 cut off approaching the PRO made the call to send the fleet out with just enough time to get two more races and the crucial second drop into the series. Heat 10 got underway in 17-20kts and bright sunshine so once again the fleet were blessed with superb conditions.
In the third place play-off Hamilton made a great start with a second in heat 10 but a capsize in heat 11 put him in ninth to Schoolings fourth and fifth. After the second drop the pair were on equal points but on count back third place went to Hamilton. Previous National Champion Tim Hill had a good final day with two thirds rounding out the top five.
The overall title fight was more clear-cut. Newman posted a fifth and second leaving him second overall by a comfortable margin, but Jono Neate held his nerve and again showed great speed and precision to post two bullets and become the well deserved 2012 Australian MPS National Champion.
Big thanks to Richard Ekberg and Richie Robertson for all their organization and to Blairgowrie Yacht Squadron and PRO Mischa Leonard and his team for a very well run event. Also thanks to Sport Phillip Marine and Harken for once again supporting of the class. With 10 races in 15-25kts, sunshine, flat water and a friendly club atmosphere the 2012 Nationals was a fantastic event and well worth travelling round the world for. I have to give it the highest accolade as a potential venue for the MPS worlds when they return to Australia in 2015.