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John Gratton wins his 1st Sabre Australian Title

by Greg Warner on 10 Jan 2008
John Gratton on his way to his first title - 30th Sabre Australian Championships Greg Warner
John Gratton from Brighton and Seacliff Yacht Club has won the 30th Sabre Australian Championships by four points. John sealed the championship in the final heat with his first individual heat win in the 24 years that he has been sailing a Sabre.

A strong fleet of 73 competitors sailed at Brighton and Seacliff Yacht Club in Adelaide, South Australia. The regatta was held in a mixture of conditions providing competitors which at times trying conditions.

The regatta started out well for the Gratton family when John’s daughter, Bek won the invitation race in light conditions with John following in second place.

Heat 1 was a female trifecta won by Fiona Wilcox from Victoria, followed by Bek Gratton and Fiona’s sister, Kylie from South Australia.

Heat 2 became a repeat of the invitation race with Bek first, followed by John and then Alan Riley from Victoria.

Heat 3 and 4 were sailed back to back after racing had been postponed on New Years Eve due to extremely hot conditions and little to no wind. Heat 3 was sailed in variable conditions with a south easterly offshore breeze. The heat was won by previous national champion Wayne Bates from Victoria, followed by Callum Burns and Christopher Keil.

Many competitors returned to the beach after heat 3 believing that the wind was increasing and that heat 4 would be postponed. The race committee believed that racing was possible and heat 4 started with 19 competitors. Wayne Bates again demonstrated his abilities in strong winds leading from the start followed by Callum and Tim Heaney from Victoria.

Heat 5 saw the emergence of another possible contender for the overall title. Alan Riley, a previous national champion won ahead of Kylie Baker and Christopher Dance from Victoria.

Heat 6 was contested in 10 to 15 knots which saw Tim Heaney lead Wayne Bates and Callum Burns to the finish.

John knew going into the last day that he had a mathematical chance of taking out the title. The winners had been shared among so many competitors that the title would go down to the last race.

In conditions that saw multiple wind shifts and course adjustments, John Gratton won to Kylie Baker and Fiona Wilcox. John had never won an individual heat in the 24 years of sailing in national championships.

John didn't realise he had taken out the title until he returned to the beach when fellow competitors congratulated him on his win. Initially thinking he was being congratulated on winning the heat, it was not until he saw the final results posted that he realised he had finally achieved his goal of a national title.

The close racing reflected in the top 4 boats separated by only 5 points. The final positions were. John Gratton (SA), Alan Riley (VIC), Tim Heaney (VIC), Wayne Bates (VIC), Christopher Bates (VIC).

The great result is a reflection of the many hours that John had spent planning and training for this regatta.
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