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51st Australian Hobie Cat National Championships at Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron

by Paddy Butler 22 Jan 03:06 PST 28 December 2023 - 5 January 2024

The racing sails have been dropped, washed down, rolled up and put back into storage after what could be considered one of the toughest Australian Championships the Hobie Family has seen for a long time. Across the 10 day extravaganza, the true meaning of "having a bloody good time" couldn't have been more evident; and it's without a wind-shadow of a doubt that the Hobie Class is looking stronger than ever.

Before we get into details of the race course, a massive thank you must firstly go out to our sponsors: Yacht Share, whose support of Hobie Sailing in Queensland is second to none; Cat Covers, whose unbelievable prizes and giveaways will keep the Hobie Family's heads and boats protected from the sun for years to come; Gordon and the whole team at Sunstate Watersports, for their continual presence and support of the Hobie class throughout the Sunshine State; and Gill, for their continued support of the Queensland Association and the greatest hooded towels known to sailor-kind.

Kudos must also go to Rob & Dee for providing Jaygo as the official spectator vessel for both Series. Providing the non-sailors of the Hobie Family with the opportunity to watch the action on the water not only heightens the energy for the athletes' racing, but brings everyone together off the water in a whole new way. Our man behind the camera, Spikey Mikey, is unmatched at capturing the best moments on and off the water for RQTV (check out the full galleries above). Our gratitude also goes to Bridget Raftery, whose time spent on Jaygo was very well utilised, whilst also armed with the GoPro on the shore with Paddy & Sophie as they chatted to all the sailors for Totally Immersed TV.

Finally, our thanks to the Queensland Hobie Cat Association Committee, the entirety of the team at the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron, and our outstanding race officer, Mr. David Brookes. Brooksie and the whole team of volunteers on the water made a miracle out of the 51st Australian Championships in conditions that ranged from zero to 35+ knots. Having waited four years to get this event off the ground, the QHCA Committee, Brooksie and the whole RQYS team's Australian Championships will be placed in a special spot in the Australian Hobie archives.

Series 1 | Day 1

Straight out of the gates, consistency on a difficult race track would prove to be the deciding factor for the National Title. A shifty, north-easterly breeze in the morning proved to be trying as the majority of scorecards fluctuated throughout the fleet. Darren Smith & Claire Bisgood (WA) one the day with a 5, 3, 1, 1 in the four heats, whilst Fletcher & Georgia Warren Myers (VIC) came away with 2, 6, 3, 4. Proving just how difficult the racing was, defending champions Cam Owen & Suzzi Ghent (WA) finished the day with a 3, 22, 41, 3, whilst local legends and current QLD State Champions, Peter & Juliet Bates (QLD), finished with 8, 23, 8, 2.

Coming away with solid scores across the day, Gordon McGillivray & Igor Prado (QLD) took out the first heat of the series, whilst Rob Branch & Jo Keen (QLD) claimed the second heat as their own, with father/daughter team Rob & Haylie Andrews (QLD) followed close behind in their first regatta since the 2016 Hobie 16 Worlds in Dapeng, China. Likewise, Emma Rankin & Haylie Fisher (NSW), Phil & James Kellond-Knight (QLD) and Cam Weddell & Pip Pietromonaco (VIC) all had great scores on the board, leaving them with a fighting chance for the overall title.

The Hobie 18 fleet saw current champions Jake de Rooy & Alannah Simpson (NSW) match racing with Peter Manley & Katie Duggan (ACT), with Pete & Katie finishing with three bullets to Jake & Alannah's one in the fourth heat. Kerry & Andrew Driver (NSW) competing in their first ever regatta in the Hobie 18 Class were going stern-to-bow with the northern river boys Aaron & Peter Goldie (NSW).

Series 1 | Day 2

With similar conditions to the previous day, and an even slower start to morning, the 'hurry up & wait protocol' was enacted by the race committee. The young guns of the Hobie family spent the morning relieving the days of yore, playing Finska on the luscious lawn of RQYS, whilst the more experienced generation conserved their energy in the air-conditioning. However, as the breeze began to fill by the early afternoon, it was action stations as the fleet hit Moreton Bay for three red-hot races.

Backing up two bullets from the previous day, Darren & Claire (WA) took out the fifth heat in the series with Cam & Suz (WA) and Fletch & Georgia (VIC) close behind. With the wind slowly building, Cam & Suz (WA) took out the second race of the day, whilst Peter & Juliet (QLD) won the final heat of the day. The Hobie 18s saw another tight day on the tools, as Peter & Katie (ACT) and Jake & Alannah (NSW) went race for race, leaving a point between the pair after the three races of the day.

Father/son team Shane & Tom Peterson (QLD) had another consistent day on the water, heading to shore with three top-10 finishes. Likewise, Cam & Pip (VIC) remained consistent, as Mick Butler, on board with local legend, Charlie Tonks (NSW), came home with two top-5 placings. Finally, finishing the day much happier than he was 24 hours earlier (with many words of encouragement from one Peter Bates), Andrew Keag & Helen Warneke (QLD) came away with a third place finish in the final heat, proving that you're only as good as your last race.

Series 1 | Day 3

Waking up to a stormy day on Moreton Bay, the campers at RQYS were wishing they had gumboots as the likelihood of trench-foot grew higher by the day. Making their way slowly but surely down to the rigging lawn, the southerners, Paddy, Bryn & Bridget, found no rags vertically hoist; however, many masts were dropping due to a high chance of lightning forecasted throughout the day.

With the race committee and volunteers joining the athletes in the cool, dry conditions inside the RQYS clubhouse, the sailors were tasked with amusing themselves with spoons, cards and whatever fun, new games each state could bring to the table. However, as the early afternoon turned to late, a window of opportunity arose to send the fleet out to race.

Peter & Juliet (QLD), Branchy & Jo (QLD), and Andrew Warneke & Carmen Andrews (QLD) were the first off the ramp and on the race course, before the "thunderbolts and lightning" became "very, very frightening" to everyone on the water; resulting in the most competitive race of the series: who could get to shore first.

Series 1 | Day 4

With seven races in the books, and the best forecast for the series, there was no time to muck around on the shore. Mr Brookes had the fleet on the water on time. Although, reaching the race course on time was easier said than done, as the breeze began to fade, leaving the waters inside Green Island looking like glass.

Not bothered in the slightest, the spectators aboard Jaygo relished the opportunity to go for a swim amongst the 'butterflies on water' that were scattered around the startboat. With the 'hurry up and wait' protocol initiated, Andrew & Carmen (QLD) were caught trapping on opposite sides of the boat, Juliet Bates was on the helm training for the Series 2, whilst Paddy Butler & Sophie Bates (NSW/QLD) picked up their Totally Immersed TV Co-Producer, Bridget Raftery, for on-water interviews, live entertainment and a whole lot of mischief right before the south-easterly hit the race course - right on schedule.

No sooner had the breeze arrived that the 5-minute gun sounded, as the likelihood of four races before 1600 hrs was looking more promising by the second. Winning the day by a country mile, Cam & Suz (WA) claimed a bullet in the first heat of the day, and another two in the last two races of the series. Making a break in the second heat, Gordon & Igor (QLD) ran away from the pack, with the Victorians Fletch & Georgia (VIC) and Cam & Pip (VIC) hot on their sterns.

Father/daughter duo, Phil & Caitlin Epps (WA) came away with two top-10 finishes, as did the father/son teams of the Kellond-Knights (QLD) and Petersons (QLD), whilst Anthony & Evelyn (NSW) had another solid day solidifying their place in the overall top-10. Proving that time-on-the-water counts, Aaron & Peter Goldie (NSW) came away with two thirds in the Hobie 18s, Whilst Jake & Alannah (NSW) and Peter & Katie traded out first, seconds and a drop each.

Series 1 | Final Results

As the rags were pulled down, boats were loaded onto the trailers and the athletes returned to their greenrooms for hair and make-up, it was time to head to the Clubhouse for the annual New Years Eve Presentation. With salsa dancing, fireworks and Keagy & Helen lined up to collect some overdue fines, the stage was set for a night to remember.

Unknowingly aware that heading in a race early would decide the overall placings, Jake de Rooy & Alannah Simpson (NSW) handed the National Championship over to Peter Manly & Katie Duggan (ACT) after a hard fought battle on Moreton Bay, solidifying the victory by only one point. Having never jumped on a Hobie 18 in their life, Kerrie & Andrew Driver (NSW) sailed with styler on their 'new' purchase, whilst Adam & Peter Goldie's (NSW) experience grew tenfold in their first event for the year.

Cam Weddell & Pip Pietromonaco (VIC) came away with fifth on 49 points, as the local legends Peter & Juliet Bates (QLD) finished in fourth on 40 points. Fighting their way up on the podium, Cam Owen & Suzzi Ghent (WA) finished on 37 points, taking out the Masters title on count-back over Fletcher & Georgia Warren-Myers (VIC). The legendary Victorians finished second overall in their most consistent performance to date, dropping two sixth place finishes to have a total of 29 points on their scorecard. Finally, on 25 points and racing in one of their most stunning regattas to date, Darren Smith & Claire Bisgood (WA) claimed the Open & Grand Masters title without a shadow of a doubt.

Series 2 | Day 1

It was a stormy start to the second series after a much needed respite on new year's day. With the live wind readings pushing the high twenties, and much of the RQYS grounds overridden with water, it was a long morning of 'hurry up and wait' for the athletes on shore. However, after much deliberation from the race officials, the final decision was made to send the Hobie 14s out to brace the brute force of mother nature on their own.

With the wind ranging between 20-25 knots, and the sea state on par, Paddy Butler (NSW) was leading the pack until the second top mark rounding, where Andrew McKenzie (NSW), Mick Butler (NSW), Darren Smith (WA), along with another seven boats, snuck past the current World Champion after a bumbling attempt and cleaning up his main sheet.

Having joined the array of choc-tops already scattered throughout the Hobie 14 fleet, Paddy (NSW) snuck in front of Butler Sr. (NSW) and McKenzie (NSW) to finish behind the current National Champion, Bryn Robinson-Mills (NSW) to claim the second race as his own. With the average wind now in the 25-30 knot range; consequently, it was to follow the leader back to shore. For some, it was a time for a well-earned beverage and rest, for most, it was on your hands and knees scrubbing out the Moreton Bay sludge...

Series 2 | Day 2

With the choc-tops all clean and the fleet well rested, a lighter, more steady breeze greeted the mariners of Moreton Bay. Starting on time, Fletcher Warren-Myers (VIC) was out for redemption, claiming the first race of the day. With Dazzy Smith (WA) sneaking in a bullet in the second heat after a blinder of a start on the pin end, Fletcher (VIC) came back to win the third heat, whilst Bryn (NSW) ripped ahead to win the final heat of the day, after a highly consistent session never leaving the top-4.

Favouring the conditions of the day, Georgia Warren-Myers (VIC) finished the day in style with a pair of thirds. Likewise, Brad Quartermaine (WA) proved all the practice in the west has paid off, finishing with a 4, 3, 6, 4 on his scorecard, whilst Mick (NSW) and Rod (NSW), who both remained as reliable as ever, were OCSed in the second heat of the day alongside an overzealous Gavin Luxton (NSW).

Mercilessly starting the regatta in style, Bella Zanesco & Helen Warneke (QLD) ended their day with a picket fence; stunning on all accounts. Julie Keenan (QLD), racing with the current World Champion Suzzi Ghent (WA), finished their day confidently with a 2, 2, 3, 6 in the bank. On the helm for the first time in 20 years, and sailing with her daughter, Juliet & Sophie Bates (QLD) nonetheless found their rhythm swiftly, finishing the third heat in second place, whilst reigning Youth Champions, Lachy Owen & Elisabeth Smith (WA) finished their day with a second.

Series 2 | Day 3

With a more mellow day forecast for Moreton Bay, the vast majority of boats were out racing. Kerry Waterhouse (NSW), sailing on Sparks (on loan from her daughter, Bridget), made solid use of the lighter conditions. Fashionably late after dealing with flooding on the Gold Coast, Bloody Leon Whitworth's (QLD) boom marked its arrival on the race course on Leon's forehead after an exuberant entry into his top-mark rounding.

After a blinding start at the pin-end of the line, Rod Waterhouse (NSW) cleaned up the first race, with Zak Rowdon (VIC) & Georgia Warren-Myers (VIC) hot on his stern. Consolidating his overall position, Darren Smith (WA) took out the next two heats as Zak (VIC) and Bryn (NSW) remained consistent, whilst Paddy (NSW) started to show improvement with a second and a bullet in the last two heats of the day.

Starting on a high note, Carmen & Haylie Andrews (QLD) snuck in a bullet for the first heat of the day, whilst Bella & Helen (QLD) came through with the next two races. Juliet & Sophie Bates (QLD) had an excellent start to the day with two seconds, whilst Julie & Suz (QLD/WA) swept in, finishing the last two heats in second. Finally, finishing the day on the highest of highs, local young-gun Bella Wilson (QLD) and Pittwater local, Rosie Cookson (NSW) came away with a bullet in the final heat; an excellent effort for their third day on the water as a team.

Teaming up for the first time, local hotshots Shane Peterson & Pete Dubbelaar (QLD) were match racing on the F18-rigged Wildcat against the westerners Phil & Caitlyn Epps (WA), with Shane & his rockstar crew in a comfortable lead heading into the final day of racing.

Series 2 | Day 4

Finishing the eight days of racing in style, Quandamooka country provided our mariners with a solid south-easterly breeze that was nothing short of pure cowboy sailing. The Wildcats went hard for the first two heats of the day; however, a unanimous decision between Shane & Pete (QLD) and Phil & Caitlyn (WA) led to an early finish for the F18.

Proving comfortable in the bigger breeze, Bella & Helen (QLD) took home three bullets at the end of the day, as Lachy & Elisabeth (WA) found their boat speed in the second last heat of the series with a blinder of a race. At ease in the heavier breeze, Carmen & Haylie (QLD) found themselves at the top of the pack in the last two heats, whilst Jordan Barney & Maddie Wendt's (QLD) boat handling was developing comfortably with two thirds on the last day.

As an absolute standout of the day, Andrew Boyd's (TBC) boat-speed off the start line was unmatched, finishing the day with a 15, 4, 1, 2. However, it was a mixed bag day for most. Mick Butler (NSW) had a strong day with 1, 1, 2, 8; as did Fletcher Warren-Myers (VIC) with 4, 2, 3, dropping a 7; and Bryn Robinson-Mills (NSW) bagging a 2, 3, 4 and a drop of an 8. However, it was Rod Waterhouse's (NSW) port start that closed the day, with a spectacular win to cap off the 14-race series.

Series 2 | Overall Results

Finishing their regatta with an almost perfect score, Shane Peterson & Pete Dubbelaar (QLD) took home the title as Hobie F18 National Champions, ahead of Phil & Caitlin Epps (WA) after a hard fought series. With the prospect of more Hobie F18 events down the line, we're excited to see where the fleet goes next.

In a career defining performance, Bella Zanesco & Helen Warneke (QLD) took home the Women's Championship with a picket fence on 10 points; with 10 bullets and dropping a third and a fourth. In the closest finish we've seen throughout the entirety of the 2023 Championship Tour, Julie Keenan & Suzzi Ghent (QLD/WA) finished in second on 29 points. Only a single point behind in third place, Juliet & Sophie Bates (QLD) finished in third, as Carmen & Haylie Andrews (QLD) snuck into fourth on only 31 points.

The Hobie 16 Youth division was a hard-fought battle on Moreton Bay, with Lachy Owen & Elisabeth Smith (WA) once again reigning supreme in the heavy winds, securing their Championship in a row. As a brand new team on the water, and fully sponsored by Murray Peterson himself, locals Jordan Barney & Maddie Wendt (QLD) finished the regatta in second. Only five points behind, Bella Wilson & Rosie Cookson (QLD/NSW) found their form truly as a combined Women & Youth team, competing for the first time. We are beyond excited to see where all these legends go next.

With Paddy, MB & Rod all hot to trot after their outing the Italy, Paddy's statement in Italy that Australia's Hobie 14 sailors are "the best fleet in the damn world" could not be more accurate. Andrew Boyd (TBC), back on location, cracked the top-10 on 98 points, one point in front of Zak Rowdon (VIC). Three points in front of Boydy, Georgia Warren-Myers (VIC) who took out the Women's Championships for a third year running.

Another two points in front, Brad Quarteraine's (WA) rigorous training schedule in the west proved to pay off, whilst Andrew McKenzie (NSW) remained in the top of the pack, finishing with a scorecard of 74 points. Finally, displaying what it takes to earn the Bottom's Up fair and square, Paddy Butler (NSW) hit the shore in sixth place after four days on Moreton Bay.

Solidifying his place in the top-5, and his place as the Hobie 14 Great Grand Master for the very first time, Rod Waterhouse (NSW) put on a clinic over the four days of racing. With third place coming down to the final race, Darren Smith (WA) took home the bronze medal over Mick Butler (NSW), beating the world number two on count-back on 51 points; however, MB was lucky enough to gain the Grand Masters title by three points over Dazzy.

With his eyes on the prize, and having not raced the 14 since Jervis Bay 12 months prior, Fletcher Warren-Myers (VIC) remained ever-consistent on the race track, finishing with the silver medal and the Masters Championship once again. Finally, backing up an Nationals is no mere feat; however, the 18-year-old high school graduate, the well-seasoned and ten times as game Young-Gun, Bryn Robinson-Mills (NSW) backed up Jervis Bay in stellar fashion. And all we can do now is sit back and wait to see what happens in McCrae a year from now...

The 52nd Australian Championships will be held at McCrae Yacht Club on Port Phillip Bay, Victoria. Dates & Schedule TBC.

Events Calendar for the 2024 Australian Tour:

  • NSW State Championships: 9-10 February | Toukley Sailing Club
  • VIC State Championships: 9-11, March | Anglesea Motor Yacht Club
  • WA State Championships: 29-31, March | Geographe Bay Yacht Club
  • QLD State Championships: TBC | Humpybong Yacht Club
  • NSW State Championships: 6-8, December | Lake Jindabyne Sailing Club

If you would like a regatta included, please contact your State Association.

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