Friday was day one of the inaugural Australian Melges 32 National Titles (11-13 March 2011) hosted by the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club on Pittwater.
Racing was held offshore in a light eight to ten knot south/easterly breeze with slight seas. The heat was on for PRO Steve Merrington and his start boat crew in race two with a 3 boats luffing at the back of the committee boat, fortunately the pile up caused no damaged to any boats. Melges 24 2009 National Champion Geoff Masters steering Melges 32 Jolt was quick out of the blocks in Race 4 sailing to the east to pick the first shift. At the end of the day and four races into the series Steve Girdis Funnel Web dominated racing with four bullets. Several of Funnel Web’s crew members had stepped off the plane that morning and quickly made the trip one hour north of Sydney to race off Sydney’s spectacular Palm Beach.
A new entry in the Australian Melges 32 fleet was Angus Reid's Maxstar. Reid took delivery of his yacht from the USA in January with logistics organised by Melges Asia Pacific. He was able to make the trip with his crew to Victoria Race Week then returned to place second in the Sydney Harbour AUDI regatta in preparation for the National Titles.
Saturday and Day 2 of the series, the first official meeting of the Melges 32 owners group was held prior to racing. Passionate and enthusiastic Melges 32 owner Kim Williams was elected Australian Fleet President and items on the agenda included 2011 events such as Hamilton Island, class growth and one design racing.
Back on water the race course was moved for day two inshore to Pittwater in a shifty North Easterly wind keeping the small but extremely competitive Melges 32 fleet searching for shifts and working tactics. Funnel Web dominated the gun until race seven, the last race of day two where he took his worst result of the regatta and came second to Jolt.
Going into the final day of racing on Sunday Girdis Funnel Web had secured an 8.5 point lead over Jolt. The race committee sent the fleet to sea off Palm Beach where there were rolling sets and a North Easterly breeze that built steadily throughout the day to 16 knots. Clear air, no traffic, sun shining, conditions were ideally suited to Melges 32 racing. The spectacle of incredibly close Melges 32 racing off Barrenjoy headland was impressive, the lead changing most beats Kim Williams Rock and Roll and Maxstar enjoying the challenges, Rock and Roll coming home Boat of the Day.
There were tense moments on Funnel Web just after the start of the tenth race when they broke a main halyard swage. Some quick onboard calculations and Funnel Web was able to pull out of the final race and head back to the RPAYC securing the first Melges 32 Australian Champion crown.
Back at the presentation Stephen Girdis thanked events sponsors Gill Australia and North Sails as well as his crew; Andrea Gambacorti, Ray Pearson, Steven Girdis, Ali Southerland, Kelvin Briscall, Richard Machin and Neil Wild. The crew were presented with their Gill gear and trophie.
Stephen Girdis commented at the club ' Pittwater is a beautiful place to race, the club is really well set up for this event and although the fleet was not big it still provided extremely close, exciting racing' when asked about the format of including one day of inshore racing he said ' It was tricky inshore but I really enjoyed the challenges'.
Thanks to Gill Australia and the RPAYC for supporting the 2011 Nationals. Series results 2011 Melges 32 Nationals
1 323 Funnelweb Stephen Girdis
2 150 Jolt Geoff Masters
3 158 Max Star Angus Reid
4 3232 Rock n' Roll Kim Williams