by David Price
The prestigious Zhik 2013-2014 Australian 9er Championships regatta will comprise the two 2016 Rio Olympic skiff classes, the men’s 49er and the women’s 49erFX, together with the ISAF Youth Skiff 29er class. The event is being held from 28 December to 3 January and hosted by the Royal Brighton Yacht Club.
ISAF Gold AUS 49erFX Medallists Olivia Price and Eliza Solly
As the 2016 Olympic 'Road To Rio' sailing campaigns ramp up another notch, following this season’s first ISAF World Cup in Melbourne earlier this month, the event will see Australia’s top Olympic and youth skiff sailors competing in a sixteen race series on Port Phillip Bay. It’s going to be a beauty - the long range forecast features plenty of wind and seaway over the week of competition. Many of these top campaigners will then head back overseas in the new year for further international competition in the USA and Europe.
This year’s Zhik Australian 9er Championships has attracted almost 80 teams from WA, VIC, NSW, QLD and TAS, and a number of top international teams from NZL. Adding to the event interestingly are plenty of brothers and sisters all having a shot at each other this year.
On the back of her latest 49erFX gold medal world cup performance two weeks ago will be London 2012 Olympic Women’s Match Racing skipper and silver medallist Olivia Price with her new crew Eliza Solly lining up against fellow Australian Sailing Team member Caitlin Elks now crewing with local ace skipper Tess Lloyd.
Also in the 49er FX class will be 2008 Olympic gold 470 medallist Tessa Parkinson sailing with 2006 ISAF Youth Sailing 420 Women’s World Champion Chelsea Hall and our latest 2013 ISAF Youth Sailing 420 Women’s World Champion Ella Clark crewing with Haylee Outteridge, our London 2012 Olympic gold 49er medallist younger sister.
Along with the impressive women’s Olympic campaigners pedigree in the new 49er FX class will be Olivia’s younger brother and 2013 ISAF Youth Sailing Team members Harry Price and Angus Williams debuting in the open class as an all-male team.
These two 2013 29er class graduates will be showcasing the Yachting Australia and Australian 9er pathway program, graduating from the youth classes (in this case the 29er) through to the two Olympic classes utilising the innovative FX rig which lends itself to skilling up sailors far quicker and more efficiently, allowing up to 70% more time on water than using the 49er rig in the past.
In fact, the FX rig is so popular in its first year that the FX class worldwide are increasingly attracting more mixed and male teams at the 49er/FX events bar the ISAF World Cups where only Olympic campaigners are permitted entry.
Debut 49erFX Pathway Team - Happ As Larry - Harry Price and Angus Williams
The Olympic men’s 49er class will see multi-World 29er Class Champion Steve Thomas sailing with his 2008 World 29er Champion crew Jasper Warren up against a formidable world class fleet including local team skipper Will Phillips and Rhys Mara, competing against his brother Sam Phillips with skipper David Gilmour, one son of famous AC sailor and multi-world champion match race skipper Peter Gilmour.
Impressive Debut AUS 49er Team Joel Turner and Lewis Brake
One of the most competitive Australian 49er teams will be 2012 ISAF Youth Sailing Team member and skipper Joel Turner with fellow Queenslander and 2012 29er graduate Lewis Brake, this team impressing the world on their debut appearance at the 2013 Europeans making it into the coveted Gold Fleet together with Will and Rhys. NZL’s debut 49er young guns team of Logan Beck and Jack Simpson the current #2 world ranked 29er crew will be out there too stamping their mark on this regatta, only their second event together since Jack graduating from the 29er class successes this season in Europe.
International 49er Fleet Competing This Week
The largest fleet by far at this year’s Zhik Australian 9er Championships will be the Int. 29er Class, the fleet now predominately being sailed by youth sailors after the introduction last year of the 49er FX rig.
World Beating AUS 29er Vanguard
Australia boasts arguable the best fleet of youth skiff sailors in the world, and with the current 29er world ranked fourth Kurt Hansen with Harry Morton, fifth Charlie Wyatt with 2012 ISAF Youth Team’s Scott Siganto and sixth Jim Colley with Sean Connor the vanguard of Australians competing against world ranked #2 NZL 29er skipper Markus Somerville and Isaac McHardie, current ISAF Youth Sailing World Champion SL16 skipper, this fleet will be absolutely riveting to follow throughout the week.
As you can see the Zhik 2013-2014 Australian 9er Championships is just dripping in talent with some of the world’s best Olympic and youth skiff sailors in town, all on show in what undeniably will be a very exciting robust and challenging series.
World 4th Ranked AUS 29er Team Kurt Hansen and Harry Morton