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Australian 16ft Skiff Sprint Series final at Belmont

by Adam Lucius 6 Feb 22:49 PST 4 February 2023

They say lightning doesn't strike twice. But try telling that to the Australian 16ft skiff fraternity.

Less than a month after Typhoon came back from the dead to pip the luckless St George entrant Noakes (Dave O'Connor) for the Australian 16ft Championship, the two boats went head-to-head in a dramatic "extra-time" final at the Australian sprint series at Belmont on Saturday. And again it was Wilmot and Typhoon who came out on top.

It came after an exhausting and thrilling day of racing, with 54 starters whittled down to a top 10 shoot-out, semi-finals and finals. Typhoon and Noakes were locked on points when the spray settled so it went to a points countback. On countback, the boats still couldn't be separated so it came down to a one-on-one sail-off - two laps of the course in a winner-takes-all decider. Cue even more drama.

Typhoon led around the last mark by about 50m but Noakes wasn't done with yet. It hunted Wilmot downwind and forced a penalty on their rival, forcing Typhoon into a 360 degree turn before both boats set their spinnakers for the finish line. Noakes appeared to have its nose in front but Typhoon, sailing slightly lower, fought back to greet the finishing gun about a boat length ahead.

"It's a really good rivalry we've got going with the Noakes. They're a great boat and a great bunch of blokes," Wilmot said. "It was an exhausting day - we sailed 10 races in all - and we probably would have settled for a toss of the coin at the end, but they sent us back for the sail-off and we managed to get the job done. "It's been a good few weeks for everyone involved."

The thrilling and fitting finale at Belmont was watched by Typhoon team owner Craig Nicholls from a mobile phone in the loungeroom of Manly 16ft Skiff Club president Rolf Cohen back in Sydney. "We've gone from having nothing to having the Typhoon name on the Australian 16ft title and now the Australian sprint series," a euphoric Nicholls said. "It's been an incredible few weeks and a testament to the sailing ability and dedication of everyone in the team." When Nicholls says team, he means it in its truest sense.

Typhoon has a WhatsApp group containing some of the best skiff sailors in the world, with Nicholls and Olympic gold medalist Malcolm Page ensuring the boat is fully staffed each weekend around the commitments of the various participants. At Belmont, Brett Davis stepped back in to resume his spot from Barnabas and Simon Hoffman replaced the unavailable Page. It was a near seamless transition.

Capping off a memorable weekend, Typhoon backed up to take out Sunday's Belmont Bay Championship. It was particularly special win for Davis and Hoffman, who both hail from the region.

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