Joining the contingent of cargo ships, jellyfish, and planes overhead on the flat waters of Botany Bay in Dharawal country, a strong fleet of catamarans hit the water over the weekend of the 4th and 5th of November. Kurnell Catamaran Club played host to the first round of the 2023-24 NSW State Championships in conjunction with their annual ‘Top Gun’ Regatta. Ducking and weaving between the Nacras, F16/18s, and foiling A-Classes on starboard were 5 x Hobie 14-Turbos, 11 x Hobie 16s, and 8 x Hobie 18s, with little more than a breath of breeze separating the fierce competitors. In that contingent, a number of the Vincentia Sailing Club’s die-hard competitors hit the start line on Botany Bay to race in the wet weather conditions presented by Dharawal country.
Throughout the day preceding the event, sailors from across the state and country rolled into the quaint town that is Kurnell. With the rigging lawn perfectly situated across Botany Bay from Sydney Airport, and the CBD looming in the background, the novelty of plane spotting took precedence over getting the rig up. Yet, by the time the Queenslanders and Victorians had finally completed their twelve-hour roadies and hauled their masts up, a sea of boats dominated the area – some more inconveniently placed than others.
Nervous whispers about the forecast flitted about between sailors – with a consistent rain front on the radar, and maximums of 20kts throughout the weekend, all were interested to see how it would pan out.
A fairly easy start to the morning began with all mains hauled up from 9am, following a directive from the President for all Hobie sailors to present themselves for registration at 9:30am. A 10:30am briefing allowed KCC to warmly welcome us all and to clarify Gav’s concerns over the colours of the marks (spoiler alert: they were yellow). We were reminded to read the sailing instructions BEFORE we left the beach, and with that, it was time to attach the Go-Pros, tighten the bungs, and make our way down to the beach, where an initially mild south-east breeze awaited.
KCC put away four quality races over the course of three hours. The start gun sounded, and the three-minute sequence began for the start of the 14-Turbos and 16s, with the 18s following on the next start.
In the 14-Turbos, racing had never been tighter. Craig Hatton hit the water with the gold jersey following last year’s success. However, Andrew McKenzie had spent plenty of time on home water the preceding few weeks and was determined to cause an upset and swiftly delivered with a bullet in the first race. Gav Luxton traded his initial plans for the H16 for a 14-Turbo but was sure of his ability to hold it out, proven by his bullet in the second race.
The Hobie 18s delivered, with a grand total of 8 x boats crossing the start line. Our fearless leader Jake de Rooy, sailing with Mark Dawson, set out for consistency. Tracey & Helen paired up for the first time and as the only women’s team in the 18s, decided it was time to show the boys how it’s done.
The Hobie 16s, as the largest fleet with 11 boats, was set to be a display of the immense talent possessed by our sailors. MB & Hazel came away with a bullet and some consistent results, leaving them in third overall. Bryn & Adrian decided to show up against fellow parent/child duo Dave & Megan, Meanwhile the first-time pairing of Wangi’s Ellie & Vincentia’s Zoe, showed us that it’s always worth having a proper crack. Similarly, Paddy & Bridge decided it was about time to put all their practices to work racing together in the big leagues.
After the hour-long first race, the wise decision was made to shift and shorten the course to adapt to the varying conditions that emerged. By the third race, everyone had made it out onto the wire, and this was where the showing-off began. The game was very tactical – one buggered tack or the decision to go up one side of the course could make or break your result.
The trapezoid course utilised by the 14-Turbos and the 16s delivered a downwind leg that was anyone’s game, and the windward/leeward course for the 18s meant consistency was key. A hotly contested start line was made difficult by the mist that clouded the transit and the rain that paid us a visit, but luckily every boat managed to start on time – not too early and not too late!
With the sailing instructions reading ‘no warning signal before 0900’, the fleet made an early start down to the club. However, Dharawal country had other plans, bringing a consistent rain front through that dampened the wind and some spirits. With the AP flying, the smell of coffee and bacon & egg rolls descended upon the clubhouse as anticipation built for what should be a thrilling day. Lo and behold, it wasn’t too much later that the AP was dropped and sailors scrambled to pull the sails up and chuck on damp gear to hit the water.
And hit the water we did! Upon arriving out at the race course, a bigger sou-easterly than the day before greeted us, clocking in at an average of 17kts. Gusts up to 24kts tested the sailor’s ability to work the mainsheet and dump the traveller in time, but all the Hobies managed to stay with the mast pointing the right way.
The 14-Turbos decided to share the love, with Gav, Craig, and Andrew each managing a first, second, and third each over the three races. Watching the trio go head-to-head from start to finish, with the winner only determined once the finish line has been crossed is certainly indicative of the talent of this fleet.
The 18s saw some incredibly tight competition at the front of the pack. Jake & Mark sailed consistently, finishing fourth on count-back. Subbing in for his better half, Dave Fisher teamed up with Helen for the second day, finishing the day with two fourths and a fifth, ultimately leaving them in fifth place.
The 16s were dominated by Cam & Suz, ascertaining they’re still the ones to chase around the course after they crossed the line for the first three times in a row. Not to be entirely out-shadowed, Fletch & Georgia kept them on their toes by scoring three seconds. MB & Hazel worked hard to maintain their position in third, with a third, fourth, and drop of a seventh.
Bryn & Adrian, with a best result of fourth, beat Lachy & Bella in each race but just couldn’t quite catch them in the total points where they finished fifth and fourth respectively. Andrew and Carmen had a blinder of a second day, nabbing a third and fourth, proving their capacity to make excellent judgements under pressure. Paddy & Bridge moseyed about the course, having a bit of fun and enjoying the thrill of fighting with the starboard rudder, ultimately finishing in ninth. Ellie and Zoe, as the only women’s duo, went hard and stayed stubborn, even after Ellie went to hang out with the jellyfish in a tack.
After a rapid pack-up, the boats were strapped tight to the trailers just as the airhorn sounded to summon us to the presentation.