A squadron of F18s will do battle on Lake Macquarie, near Newcastle, over the Australia Day long weekend, as the top guns of catamaran sailing contest the 2013 Australian Formula 18 National Championships.
With revolutionary wave-piercing hulls, twin trapezes, a high aspect square-top mainsail, asymmetric spinnaker, plus carbon-fibre centreboards and rudders, the flying F18s can reach speeds of over 25 knots (46 km/h), making them one of the world’s fastest racing classes.
There’s close tacking and gybing duels aplenty as the windward/leeward courses are relatively tight and each race takes approximately 45 minutes for the first boat to finish.
Race organisers are expecting around 35 entries for the national titles, which are being hosted by Mannering Park Amateur Sailing Club. Included are international competitors from Oman, Italy and New Zealand, along with interstate crews from Western Australia, Queensland, Victoria and the Northern Territory.
Josh McKnight, fresh from a podium finish at the recent Australian Moth Championships, will climb back aboard an F18 to defend the Australian title he won as a for’ardhand … this time he’ll be on the tiller. Jason Waterhouse returns with a new crew, as will America’s Cup sailor Adam Beashel and two-time A-Class catamaran world champion Steve Brewin.
As with F1 racing cars, the international regulations encourage rival manufacturers and designers to compete under a 'box rule' governing dimensions like length, width, weight and sail area. It adds spice to the racing while ensuring a ready second-hand market.
Among the production classes represented will be the Hobie Wildcat, Nacra Infusion, along with the Australian designed C2, Windrush and a few Capricorns.
According to national class president Kyle Amadio, no one manufacturer dominates – it comes down to the skill of the sailors rather than the size of the cheque book.
'They’re built to a box rule and also a price. You can pick up a good, two-year-old F18 for around $20,000, while new boats cost from $26,000 to $32,000,' Amadio said. 'We have sailors as young as 13 and quite a few mixed crews.'
Former Australian rugby league legend John Cootes is sponsoring the nationals through his furniture company, John Cootes Furniture Warehouse. Now aged in his 70s, John still sails an A-Class cat and occasionally steers an F18.
Appealing to the family-friendly lifestyle and class camaraderie, both NSW and Queensland run a Traveller series where competitors drive to different locations during the season to pit themselves against new boats.
For more details see Australian F18 Association
Friday January 25: Registration from 5pm to 8pm
Saturday January 26: Competitors meeting at 10am | Race warning signal not before 11am
Sunday January 27: Race warning signal not before 10.00
Monday January 28: Race warning signal not before 10am | Presentation
by Mark Rothfield
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6:11 AM Fri 25 Jan 2013GMT
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