The 2012 Access Class New South Wales Championships were held over the weekend of January 28 & 29 at Middle Harbour Yacht Club, attracting 31 sailors from four States.
With the Club preparing to host the Combined Access Class World & International Championships in April, this was an important warm-up event for both the Australian competitors and the organisers.
A coaching clinic with past Access 303 World Champion Michael Leydon was held on the Friday, enabling more than 20 sailors to update their update their racing strategy and tactics, and get on the water to practice technique the day before competition.
The race management team from Manly Yacht Club completed a full program of 6 races for each division over a mix of trapezoid and windward-leeward courses. Breezes were East to North-East, moderate on the Saturday and freshening for the finale on Sunday.
Organisers were disappointed with the low entry numbers in the 2.3 division this year but Gerard Meli (Callala Bay) showed his ability to sail the boat quickly. Gerard will race in a strong fleet at the World Championships on Middle Harbour in April, including two past World Champions and the European Champion.
The Access 303 Single Person division attracted 13 entries with Stephen Churm (Rushcutters Bay) recording an almost perfect scorecard to post a clear win by four points from Bob Hamilton (Pittwater). Mark Durnan (Nowra) was third, another seven points behind.
Close racing was expected in the Access 303 Two Person division and the sailors did not disappoint. Race wins were shared around, but Alyse Saxby and Bob Hamilton (Pittwater) posted enough top three placings to claim a 2 point victory over Lachlan and Tony Clear (Middle Harbour). The Queensland pair of Belinda Hill and Sonja Gilmour (Southport) were four points further adrift.
On his first regatta in the Access Liberty, experienced local sailor Greg Hyde (Clontarf) showed that he could control the start line and find the breeze and boat speed to dominate a regatta. Hyde posted 6 straight wins to claim the trophy leaving Victorian David Staley (Docklands) and Queenslander Barry Coates (Southport) to fight it out for the minor placings. Coates and Staley have both been sailing the Liberty for many years and are looking forward to Hyde’s ongoing involvement in the class.
'Greg is very familiar with the conditions on Middle Harbour, but he just sailed faster and better than the rest of us', said Coates. 'Having someone of Greg’s calibre sailing in the Liberty fleet will help lift the standard of competition to a new level'.
According to Tony Clear, Vice-President Championships for the Australian Access Class Association, the weekend was a real success.
'The sailors really enjoyed the racing and the magnificent venue, along with the benefits of participating in a formal coaching program', he said.
'This event also enabled the Class Association and Middle Harbour Yacht Club to identify any aspects that could be improved for the World Championships. Physical access around the venue is crucial as many of the competitors in the Access Classes are wheelchair users or have limited mobility, so we were pleased to witness the official opening of the new lift recently installed in the clubhouse', said Mr Clear.
The lift, funded by member donations and a grant from the NSW Government, was formally opened by Commodore Julie Hodder on Sunday morning.
For information about the Macquarie Group Foundation 2012 Access Class World & International Championships, visit the event website