The RSX Australian Championship, combined with the BicTechno Friendship Regatta, was held over the June long-weekend on the waters of Port Stephens for a fleet of Australian and international competitors.
Hosted by the Port Stephens Sailing and Aquatic Club 28 competitors raced in magic conditions on flat water with light winds early in the weekend through to gusty breezes topping the early 20s for the last day of the three-day event. Fast and furious in the downwind legs, the competitors revelled in these conditions.
As a prelude to the national championship, Olympic coach Lars Kleppich conducted a one-day training session for the Australian competitors. During the racing Kleppich along with Olympians Anthony Nossiter and Kristen Kosmala, and national RSX class coach Sean O’Brien provided on-water coaching support to their program members. On shore Michael Mills from Performance Sailcraft Australasia, the importer of the RSX boards, looked after the sailors gear requirements and repairs.
Under the guidance of race management team, Jenni and Don Bonnitcha, the overseas competitors were looking for results which would ensure them entry into the ISAF Youth World Championship and the Asian Games.
BicTechno fun for youth
The BicTechno board is the feeder board into the RSX class and has been designed for youth sailors under the age of 17 years. Yachting Australia has chosen the Techno 293 OD as the preferred board for use in its youth windsurfing development program. It is also the board used earlier this year to select the Australian representatives for the 2009 Youth World’s.
Overall winner in the BicTechno class, after nine heats, was Eamon Robertshaw from West Australia. Robertshaw dominated the fleet winning six races. He was the only one to finish the last two races which were held in strong winds. In second place was Jeddy Tan of Singapore. Third place overall and first female was Audrey Yong from Singapore.
Norway’s Jannicke Stalstrom’s exceptional board handling skills were just not enough to keep Australia’s perennial Olympic sailboard representative, Jessica Crisp, out of the top spot as the two leading women fought hard over the nine heats to finish within five points of each other. National Open and Women’s champion Crisp ended up winning five of her heats revelling in the lighter winds of day two, while Stalstrom won three.
'It was pretty funny sailing in this fleet that included the youth sailors as I used to compete overseas with Annaliese Gilbert’s father. All the people I used to windsurf with when I was younger now have kids who are at windsurfing age.
'This is the biggest RSX nationals we have ever had. The courses were great and we had a lot of great racing. I think everyone was sore and tired at the end,' Crisp said.
Competing in the combined RSX 8.5 board fleet, the top placed youth was Singapore’s Leonard Ong, eight points behind his coach Stalstrom.
The Australian Youth team, all from Queensland, also competed in this fleet. Their coach Sean O’Brien, a former Australian pro windsurfer, reported he was happy to see Joanna Sterling improve during the championship her changing gears ability.
Luke Bailey was crowned the Australian Youth Champion after finishing fifth overall.
Bailey and Sterling found the national championship a great chance to race in an international fleet as they prepare themselves for the Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Championship in Brazil starting 9 July 2009.
South Australian High Performance Coach and previous Olympic competitor, Brendan Todd reported 'I am quite positive that they (Bailey and Sterling) have a lot of the skills necessary to do well in the Youth Worlds. They have lacked racing experience in their preparation which made this event very important in their whole program preparation.'
RSX 9.5m Todd battled long absence to win
Brendon Todd was also on the water this year in his first national championship since 1997 and his first time racing the RSX board in Australia.
'This is my first one for over ten years due to my coaching commitments. I have been to the last six World Championships racing in the RSX, but have not raced it at the national level. I was really excited to be competing as it was so refreshing to be in a small group of sailors racing at a great venue. At the end of the event I was feeling very second-hand. I felt I could have put in more preparation,' Todd said.
Todd just held onto his lead throughout the championship to take out the Men’s Open Champion title. Entering the event as a keen windsurfer and looking forward to spending time on the water as a competitor, he showed a calm demeanour and by constantly making the right decisions while under pressure from the 10 board fleet, Todd proved too strong for second place-getter, New Zealander Chris Blake who finished two points behind Todd.
In third place was West Australia’s Tim Gourlay while Queensland’s Joel Tyack was fourth. Both Gourlay and Tyack showed good skills in sailing the hybrid designed RSX in a Formula mode. Tyack raced with the centreboard fully retracted inside the board and using only the fin, constantly planning upwind and downwind.
Gourlay sailed without adjustable downhaul and outhaul control lines. Justin Lord reported 'I don’t know if that is good or bad, probably bad, but it does teach us the old rule to ‘keep it simple stupid’ and to ‘keep your head out of the boat’. Tim always got through the lulls quickly to get the new wind and stay in the best pressure. He also sailed without an uphaul, the rope used to pull the sail out of the water. I saw him drop the sail in the water one windy race only to pull it back up one handed by grabbing the mast.
'It was easy to have the BicTechno and the RSX together on the same course. Most sailors were finishing within the time limit. This is very encouraging for the newcomers considering it would be like getting in the pool with Grant Hackett. Hopefully we can keep these two classes of windsurfer together as much as possible,' Lord said.
Onto the 2009 RSX World Championship
Jessica Crisp and Joel Tyack now head for the RSX World Championship to be held in Weymouth in September.
'I have quite a lot of work to do on my speed. I am not sure if it is my style or my equipment which is getting a bit older. It will be a lot of hard training hours coming up. I have to get out on the board much more than I have lately. I am not very fast in wind. I am good in the lighter conditions which I trained in for Qingdao. All I know about Weymouth is that it is cold, shifty and on flat water,' Crisp said.
'The RSX Worlds is one of the hardest regattas in the world to win. Windsurfing involves all of the fundamental skills of any other sailing class, but with unlimited pumping fitness required the top sailors are comparable to ironmen,' Lord said.
Lord also reports the BicTechno class is now strong in New Zealand, New Caledonia, Singapore, Hong Kong and Thailand while the RSX class is going through a mini boom in Western Australia due to the upcoming 2011 ISAF World Championship
RS-X and Techno 2009 Australian Championships RSX 9.5 Place, Sail Number, Name, Division, Points. 1. Brendan Todd, AUS, M, 13 2. Chris Blake, NZL, M, 15 3. Tim Gourlay, AUS, M, 25 4. Joel Tyack, AUS, M, 35 5. Jonathan Bonnitcha, AUS, M, 37 6. Joshua Choo, SIN, M, 44 7. Justin Lord, AUS, M, 47 8. Lo Jun Hao, SIN, M, 63 9. Andrew Hughes, AUS, M, 64 10. James Levy, AUS, M, 88
RSX 8.5 Place, Sail Number, Name, Division, Points. 1. Jessica Crisp, AUS, W, 11 2. Jannicke Stalstrom, NOR, W, 16 3. Leonard Ong, SIN, Y, 24 4. Sean Pow, SIN, Y, 27 5. Luke Bailey, AUS, Y, 41 6. Krystal Weir, AUS, W, 60 7. Joanna Sterling, AUS, WY, 61 8. Andrew Peters, AUS, Y, 7