Oceania Regatta 2015 – Perth, Western Australia
The inaugural Oceania Regatta for the 49er Class was run and won during early January on the beautiful water of the Swan River in Perth, Western Australia. The regatta was held by Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club and racing was conducted for the most part right in front of the club. With modern regattas looking to maximise exposure with good viewing for spectators, RFBYC offered a natural theatre style course with the club overlooking the race course from a high vantage point, without compromising the quality of wind or course.
Sixteen boats competed in the event, eight 49ers and eight FX. The fleet was a mix of local teams, eastern state teams, one New Zealand team and two Singaporean teams. The fleet had only days earlier competed in the Australian Championships off Fremantle in often very windy conditions. The flat water of the Swan River was a welcome relief for all sailors. At the start of the regatta the fleet was again greeted by strong seabreezes. It was a very different race course compared to the Australian titles with much more passing lanes. During racing it was always possible to attack the boat in front while still being mindful of protecting the boat behind. This made the 20 minute courses very tactical with tight racing in both fleets.
For the 49er fleet, the teams to watch were number 7 in the world, David Gilmour and Rhys Mara, newly crowned Australian Champion Joel Turner who had a new crew for Oceania Regatta in James Wierzbowski and the young NZ team of Logan Dunning Beck and Jack Simpson. The local team of Matt Jerwood and Alex Landwehr were also keeping these teams honest throughout the Australian Championships. The guns of the FX fleet would be Tess Lloyd and Catlin Elks, George Stent and Ben Robinson who dominated the heavy winds during the Australian Championships, Nina Long and Corey Hamilton and the Singapore Team of Griselda Khng and Sara Tan.
Day 1 was sailed in a quickly building moderate seabreeze. By the time all teams were heading in the breeze had built up to around 20kts. Gilmour managed to have the better of the day with the 49ers and won both heats over Turner. In the FX it was a battle for top two with Lloyd and Stent taking a 1st and 2nd place each. Day 2 saw the temp rise (even more than normal!) and it would be the first day without a seabreeze for over 45 days. It had been an unbelievable run of strong seabreezes and even the teams who had come to Perth for stronger breeze conditions were glad to see a change in direction and breeze strength. The South Easterly breeze in Perth can be a challenging breeze, shifts of 20 degrees and varying wind strenght make racing tight and boat settings difficult.
The south easterly breezes set in for the next few days and had built in strength each day. With the shifts and difficult variance in breeze strenght it had all teams wishing for the return of the Fremantle Doctor. The beauty of these easterly breezes meant that no one team would dominate results, with 7 teams sharing race wins between race 3 and race 14 across the two fleets. The team of Lloyd and Elks took the most wins for the FX and allowed them to go into the last day with a reasonable points break from Stent and Long. For the 49ers race wins were shared between Gilmore and Dunning Beck with Turner winning race 14. The top two on the leaderboard had built quite a gap from the rest of the fleet which was enjoying a much tighter points battle.
Going into the last Day the NZ team of Dunning Beck had a 3 point lead over Gilmour. For the FX class Lloyd had a comfortable lead from Stent and Long. The young NZ team in the 49er stood up to the challenge and got a win for race 16 increasing their lead from Gilmour. The FX class saw Lloyd take another race win which meant they virtually had one hand already on the title. By the medal race the light seabreeze had built to a steady 12kts and it was perfect skiff racing, a shame we didn’t have more of these gentle seabreezes! Gilmour needed to call on his match racing experience to try and close the gap on the NZ team. At the first top mark for the 49ers the whole fleet was at each other, with very little distance between each boat. Gilmour had managed a good start and first leg with Dunning Beck close on their heals with the rest of the fleet. On the last upwind leg Gilmour kept a tight cover on the NZ team and needed at least one team between them. With the race being so close this was a possibility and Gilmour went into go slow mode to slow down the kiwis and force them to tack as they got squeezed out by one of the other teams battling for the minor places. The top mark saw both classes converge and with Gilmour getting around clean in first place the NZ team were left with the only option to gybe off for clear air and just hope that they might get lucky on the west side of the course. Odds were always against this and Gilmour managed to take the win for the race and for the title against the valiant NZ team. For the FX medal race, Lloyd and Elk’s again showed their class and took the race comfortably. For second place it was very close and eventually it was decided by a count back. The open Australian Champions of Stent and Robinson managed to just sneak ahead of Long and Hamilton.
Overall the regatta went very well. The racing was excellent and we had a variety of breezes which tested teams ability to adapt and handle anything from 5kts to 25kts, from steady breezes to shifty breezes. The regatta also was well supported socially with BBQ’s after races, cricket on the rigging area and generally just a great atmoshpere to enjoy beautiful sailing conditions and great club facilities. The sailors and association would like to thank Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club, it’s staff and volunteers for their support and running of the regatta. The Australian 9er Association looks forward to hosting this event again next year following the Australian Championships. With all regattas on the east coast next season it provides an excellent amount of sailing down under and we look forward to hosting a number of international teams.