It was like an all stars youth sailing reunion. The young guns lived up to their own hype at last Saturday’s inaugural Melges Young Guns Regatta on Pittwater where conditions ranged from a confused sou-wester of 12 to 20kts with Pittwater’s typical bullets flying from all directions slowly going left later in the day to present a full on southerly of 25kts+ to bring it on home.
What a fantastic day it was; the only thing that could have been better for the fifty odd young gun sailors aged 17-30yrs blustering around the dock with their Melges 24s and 36s for the day would have been a bit more sun from Huey.
Melges Asia Pacific and a handful of youth supporting owners generously provided the necessary hardware FOC (free of charge) to the sailors just dripping in talent from NSW, Queensland and Victoria. The glittering fleet consisted the likes of the Australian Women’s Match Racing Team Nicky Souter, Nina Curtis and Olivia Price, current AUS WMR champion crew Natalie Greentree, past Farr40 World Champion crew and 16ft skiff sailor Daniel Turner, AUS World Youth Team’s Annalise Gilbert, 49er State Champions Peter Kendall and Bryce Walters, YNSW’s Development Manager and Balance centrepin stalwart crew Andrew 'Cribby' Cribb, World Championship 29er Sailor Ash Rooklyn and that’s just to name a few!
The young organisers Penny and James Kendall ran through the day’s proceedings at the sailor’s bar of the RPAYC then jumped on board their allotted 'new' boats and headed out to the race area. RO and Melges donator Ian Greentree with RPAYC’s Vice Commodore Rob Curtis set up shop just off Avalon Sailing Club whilst the eight crews trialled the boats in a spasmodic breeze that gave the fleets a full range of conditions to experience before lining up for the first start of the five race series just after 11am.
The two Melges 36s Funnelweb and Rock n Roll had their own separate starts and just reveled in the strong breeze in a thrilling match race style contest toward the top mark in a tremendous spectacle of tacking duels and cover manoeuvres from their excited young crews. Part of the deal with the event was that a mentor adult would be on board the 32s to provide assistance on these testosterone pumped vessels if required, with the owner of both the Melges 32s Kim William and Farr 40 World Champion sailor Bob Wilmot grinning from ear to ear overseeing the fine work carried out by their respective charges.
Meanwhile, the six Melges 24s were chomping at the bit back at the line and started five minutes after the bigger boats in a confident display, all settling down to a longish beat over to the first line of moorings off the ASC clubhouse.
The first race finished after two laps with Rock n Roll overcoming the challenge from Funnelweb in the Melges 32s while Ash Rooklyn and crew on Bandit outdid Nicky Souter and crew on Matilda followed by Sean O’Rourke’s crew on Accru in the Melges 24s.
With the rules stipulating that races 2 and 5 require a female to helm, all boats now had new skippers and crew configurations. Despite the fresh mix no quarter was given in either fleet’s start and crew work was again of the highest order. Of course, the butterflies in the stomachs had disappeared and racing became somewhat closer with Rock n Roll’s crew again able to keep out Funnelweb who appeared to be a little light in comparison to the Qld led crew on Rock n Roll.
The Melges 24s first all girl skipper race left WMR Champ Nicky Souter to grab the win followed in by Bandit skippered by 29er sailor Anna Kendall with her sister and race organiser Penny Kendall skippering No Comment claiming the third spot.
By this time, the youth supporters/sailing stalwarts’ spectator boat felt comfortable upping anchor from behind the start line and so headed to a greater vantage point right in the middle of the course and dropped anchor. Fresh supplies of cases of beer and the firing up of the BBQ got underway and by the time of the start of the third race, the strong aroma of garlic prawns cooking began to permeate the nostrils of the Young Guns downwind. A quick ferrying of freshly cooked prawns were delivered to the start boat by the photographers/runners vessel, albeit right in the middle of the start sequence of race 3. As one of the rules of the regatta was that – 'it must be fun' – there were bemused looks from the Young Guns but not for that matter the committee boat who managed to start the fleets with no trouble flying the flags, sounding the horns as well as feasting upon the hot garlic prawns all at the same time.
Back up the course on the spectator boat the second round of BBQ’d garlic prawns were being prepared as the fleet made their way to the top of the course, the wafting smoke of the BBQ fare offering up a navigation tool for those who were not distracted and overcome with hunger pangs downwind. One of the crews approaching the anchored vessel cheekily called for them to get out of the way, only to be told that they were cooking prawns and so could not possibly comply. The day just simply kept getting better and better for sailors and spectators alike.
By the final race, Rock n Roll had simply overpowered the other Melges 32 with their weight advantage and took the series with four bullets only allowing Funnelweb’s crew to snare race 4.
It was certainly a lot closer competition in the Melges 24s with a point separating Matilda over Bandit leading into race 5, the breeze a feisty 20-25kts+ from dead south. The previous four races had given all crews a thorough grounding of the dynamic play these Melges had to offer, and with the strong winds stable from one direction it was gloves off in the final race of the day. The Melges 24s were literally leaping out of the water downwind and the smiles could not have been broader on the young crews’ faces as they pummeled each other throughout the two laps to the finish.
The fifth race was eventually wrestled from the competition by Nicky Souter and the girls with their secret weapon John Dee on Matilda from Ash Rooklyn (wearing a skirt for race 5) and crew on Bandit followed by Sasha Ryan skippering Accru taking third place.
All crews heading back to the RPAYC to lift the boats out of the water were delivered appropriate refreshments in keeping with the – 'it must be fun' – statute and they all agreed the event was a huge success beyond their expectations.
The final rule of the regatta mandated that the crews travel to Avalon Sailing Club for the after party and presentation where Holey Dollar Rum sponsor Stuart Gilbert weighed in with his contribution to the event and proceedings, a most welcomed gesture by the Young Guns and all their supporters.
The scores were collated and the inaugural winners of the Melges Young Guns Regatta went to Rock n Roll in the Melges 32s and Matilda in the Melges 24s, these crews being presented with Gill and Holey Dollar Rum product and the two Young Guns perpetual shields.
The fantastic support and guidance from Heath and Tracey of Melges Asia Pacific and the Melges owners themselves who donated their boats to all the young sailors was gratefully acknowledged by the youth organisers. A simple regatta with simple rules and the only way it could possibly have been done was by means of their magnanimous support allowing our youth to compete.
The party continued on until the wheels fell off just before midnight. Everyone is eagerly anticipating next year’s Young Guns and have already registered their interest to the organisers. Full Results:
1. Rock n Roll - 1,1,1,2,1-6pts
2. Funnelweb - 2,2,2,1,2-9pts
1. Matilda - 2,1,2,1,1-7pts
2. Bandit - 1,2,1,3,2-9pts
3. Accru - 3,4,6,2,3-18pts
4. No Comment - 4,3,4,4,5-20pts
5. Arribba Arribba - 6,5,3,5,6-25pts
6. Amigos - 5,6,5,6,4-26pts
Facebook was just buzzing all Sunday night with many new profile photos posted by the crews from the hundreds of photographs which can be accessed via the Melges Asia Pacific page www.facebook.com/MelgesAsiaPacific