By Mark Spearman
Sail Melbourne had a twenty-boat fleet this year in the Radial men with three different countries competing. For me, it was the final warm up regatta before the Nationals and a contributing regatta for the Youth Grand Prix.
The week started in a moderate shifty south-easterly with a good start to the regatta for both races. Unfortunately the race committee didn’t allow the women Radials to sail with the men, as the women’s Radial contributes to their world ranking, and many of them did not want to have the added complication of men sailing against them.
On Day Two there were gale force winds and big waves – due to the Club’s safety rules we were not allowed to race. The tougher classes had to wait inside all day as they were postponed; whereas the other classes enjoyed some free time in Melbourne. This wasn’t all bad as there were around 70 kite boards out providing entertainment for us sailors stuck on the beach. There were a lot of stacks and tangled kites that day.
Day Three looked to be the same as Day Two, but luckily the wind dropped off a little and most fleets went out. The Western Australian sailors seemed to have an edge in these big waves, big wind conditions and a lot of good results were achieved on Day Three. Lachy Gilham (13 yr old) pulled a third out of the bag in the windiest last race of the day beating some competitors nearly double his age. Same story in the full rigs with Ki-Raphael getting a 6 and a 5 and Swifto Elliot making back-to-back 4s. Matt Wearn blitzted them all with 3 bullets putting himself at the front of a tough full rig fleet. I managed to do the same, seeing as we WA sailors get often the same conditions at Fremantle.
Day Four was a totally different story with light dying south east breeze. We managed two races in 0-5 knots with the day being a left side racetrack. I found Day Four the hardest and with lots of lighter competitors beating me; for me personally light wind is an area which I really need to improve in before the upcoming Nationals. Richard Maher was the star of day in the 4.7 fleet. He won the day with a 4th and a convincing 1st place to put him into second position in the overall standings.
Day Five was another really light day but after getting used to it the day before, I found it easier. All our recent training sessions had been in windy weather so it took a while readjust to light winds. The wind was rather consistent with left paying a little bit and the vital area of the race being the start. After three races, my regatta was over. Other WA sailors Ki-Raphael Sulkowski and Swifto Elliot just missed out on the top ten medal race finishing in 12th and 16th respectively. I managed to win the regatta as a lot of the usual competition had moved up into full rigs specifically for Sail Melbourne; I can’t wait to do the same next year to compete against them. Up and coming Lachy Gilham finished in 12th spot, showing great improvement over the regatta ready to smash Sail Sydney.
The last day was totally different. It was 35 degrees and a strong hot northerly was blowing for the medal races and the resail day for the 4.7 fleet. Richard Maher had an up and down day and finished in 5th overall putting him in a good position to go for a podium finish in the next regatta at Sail Sydney. Matt Wearn won the medal race, overtaking two boats on the overall standings to cement his silver medal performance.
These strong WA placings would not be possible without the support of our parents and Yacht Clubs like Royal Freshwater Bay Sailing Club as well as WAIS.
I’d like to thank Belinda being out there coaching us for every race and Paul Gilham providing support on his rib for any sailor who asked.