The weather from the start of racing was interesting and varied to say the least. The invitation race was cancelled due to a strong northerly and gale warning. The first race of the series on Thursday 29 December took place in remarkable conditions with constant wind changes in direction and pressure; the heavens opened, boats filled with rain and the local suburbs were flooded. To add to the confusion, in the 65 boat fleet there were four black flag starts and 18 boats suffered maximum points for this misdemeanour.
The planned second race of the day was moved to the following day, giving three races in medium strength sea breezes. Following some strong advice by race officials, the subsequent starts were orderly, mainly under a U flag.
Day three saw a frustrating beginning when boats returned to shore due to the lack of breeze, but the planned two race sequence got underway some two hours later. The completion of six races so far allowed one race to be dropped. This made some significant changes in the overall placings since several of the top sailors were able to drop their black flag points.
With three races of the nine race series to complete, the top positions in the 65 boat fleet were still well open. In his first season in Sabres, youthful Black Rock Yacht Club sailor, James McLennan, led with a consistent first, two seconds and a third placing. Then followed South Australian, Mark Soulsby, Western Australian Scott Olsen, and James’ father, Gary McLennan in fourth place. Jon Holroyd of Victoria lay in fifth place and made up the three previous national champions in the top five positions. Many in the top 15 places were national champions in other classes.
The next day comprised two races sailed in a stronger sea breeze, with big seas providing plenty of thrills and some spills testing both boats and crews. This saw James McLennan edged out of his regatta leadership position, by double seconds from Western Australian, Scott Olsen. A first and second place by Victorian Jon Holroyd put him in third position.
The final days racing was sailed in a 12 knot SW breeze and led to a thrilling finish.
Staring at 1pm in a building breeze, the race was taken out by Jon Holroyd. This gave Jon a one point lead for the series over Scott Olsen in second place with James McLennan in third and Gary in fourth. Then followed two South Australians, Ben Knoop and past national champion, Mark Soulsby.
Indicative of the close racing, first places in individual races were shared by five of the top seven finishers.
The strong contingent of 12 female skippers was tied on points by Black Rock’s Susannah Gillam and Fiona McCulloch, with Susannah edging ahead on countback.
Although the current 65 boats does not match the 130 that sailed in the nationals at the Blairgowrie beach destination in 2011, the quality throughout the 2016/17 series was extremely high and competition for positions was intense. Sailors enjoyed the close racing and big fleet buzz.
Next year the nationals will be contested on Perth’s Swan River, hosted by Perth Dinghy Club. More information can be seen by clicking here.