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Inclusive Sailing Easter Regatta in Sydney

by MHYC media 2 Apr 13:14 PDT
The Hansa 303 was sailed in one and two-person divisions © Marg Fraser-Martin

An Inclusive Classes Regatta was conducted by Middle Harbour Yacht Club over the Easter weekend attracting sailors from four Australian States and Territories and a team from New Zealand.

The Hansa 303, Liberty and International 2.4mR are all small keelboat classes enjoyed by sailors of all ages and abilities around the world.

Twelve of the 31 sailors who competed in the regatta have some form of disability. Sailors who are blind or have low vision, with deafness or hearing loss, wheelchair users and those with limited mobility - all raced with and against non-disabled sailors for four Open State Championship titles. An acoustic buoy was provided for vision impaired competitors sailing solo in the 2.4mR and Hansa 303 one-person divisions.

The event incorporated the NSW Championships for 2.4mR and Hansa classes and was the inaugural NSW Para Sailing Championship with scores for eligible para sailors extracted from the open results.

While Sydney turned on some beautiful autumn sunshine across the weekend, the north-easterly breeze was slow to arrive on the first two days of racing. On Easter Monday, racing was finally able to get under way on time, enabling all divisions to complete a good number of races for their series.

Peter Russell (ACT) posted five race wins from six starts to claim the NSW 2.4mR Championship. Charles Weatherly (VIC) finished with a two-point margin to daughter Ali Weatherly to win the NSW Hansa Liberty Championship. Chris Symonds and Manuela Klinger (TAS) had a perfect scorecard in the Hansa 303 two-person Championship and Symonds backed this up with five wins from seven starts in the Hansa 303 one-person to secure two NSW Championship titles.

In the NSW Para Sailing Championships, Chris Symonds took out the Hansa 303 one-person and two-person competition, Ali Weatherly (VIC) was best in the Hansa Liberty and Peter Coleman (VIC) claimed the 2.4mR title.

There was a great atmosphere of friendship and cooperation between all the competitors and volunteers at the regatta, but one example of kindness stood out. After two days of racing, vision impaired Kiwi Paulien Chamberlain was hot on the heels of Chris Symonds in the 303 one-person division and striving to keep ahead of Victorian Stephen Griffiths. The breeze was freshest on the final day; 13-14 knots and increasing when this group started racing in the second session. On the first upwind leg, Chamberlain suffered a mast failure and with just one further race to complete the series was destined to tumble down the order with a DNF and DNS to finish. In a generous display of sporting spirit, fellow New Zealander Rhonda Ritchie retired herself from that race so Chamberlain could change into her boat to contest the final heat of the championship. Chamberlain went on to secure her only race win for the series and maintained her second place on a tie-break from Griffiths. Ritchie's gesture was warmly celebrated at the prize-giving ceremony later in the afternoon.

An Inclusive Sailing Forum was also held at MHYC on the Sunday evening following racing, attracting an audience of sailors, officials, administrators and other interested people.

Ali Weatherly outlined the makeup and activities of Australian Sailing's Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Advisory Group, Sarah Ross provided an update on World Sailing's Para Classification Working Party and David Staley described the work of World Sailing's Inclusion Development Working Party. The open forum generated discussion on a range of topics with Hansa Sailing's Chris Mitchell emphasising the importance of inclusive design and Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club Vice Commodore Julia Hornsby highlighting the value of sailing clubs taking a more inclusive approach.

Thanks to the race management and shoreside teams, especially the Sailability Middle Harbour volunteers, the event ran smoothly on the water and at the dock. Gratitude also to photographer Marg Fraser-Martin who was on the water every day to capture the action.

Major inclusive classes events to be held in Australia over the coming year are:

  • October 2024 - Asia-Pacific Hansa Class Championships at Southport Yacht Club QLD.
  • November 2024 - Sail Melbourne and Australian Para Sailing Championships at Royal Brighton Yacht Club VIC.
  • January 2025 - 2.4mR Australian Championships at Gippsland Lakes Yacht Club VIC.
  • March 2025 - Hansa Class World Championships at Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club NSW.

For links to the MHYC Inclusive Classes Regatta results, NSW Para Sailing Championships results, photo galleries and event information, visit the event webpage here

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