Saturday, January 22, 2011

Deb's report: Windsurfer Nationals Day 0 - Sunday 23rd Jan

Forced into inactivity due to a serious leg injury (port/starboard incident with the husband; don’t ask..), I’m here at Sorrento in beautiful Victoria to report on the Windsurfer One Design 2011 National Championships. Right now it’s the day before the regatta and Sorrento is absolutely packed - yesterday was the Portsea Festival, apparently, and the town is swarming with tourists. It’s not quite the sleepy, charming hamlet I remember from 10 years ago. Now it’s wall-to-wall designer boutiques, hip surf shops and aqua-and-white restaurants with glamourous, deeply-tanned waiters. 

Here on the deck of the sailing club there’s a view that would be too cliche if you put it on a postcard. Couta boats bob on their anchors and just now the club fleet of kids’ boats (Minnows and Optimists, mostly, with the occasional Laser and a scow Moth) are heading out into the late-arriving sea breeze. Girls in bikinis frolic in the green-glass water. The club itself (the SSBC: Sorrento Sailing Couta Boat Club) has the unmistakeable patina of large amounts of money, tastefully spent (the present clubhouse, restaurant and bar were rebuilt in 2006). Apparently there are over 4000 members, and much of the money is ploughed back into sailing. In  2005, the SSBC was named “Club of the Year” by yachting Victoria in recognition of its contribution to youth training.

The windsurfing fleet is looking promising, and there are wild tales of an entry list that might top 60 (although we’ll wait till tomorrow to confirm that). Defending champion Chris Thompson faces some stiff competition in the form of Dennis Winstanley (more than 10 times national champion) as well as Robbie Treharne, not to mention Robbie’s up-and-coming kid brother Sam, who is downstairs rigging up his board and getting some serious advice from his dad, Hugh. Who is this guy? Does he really know how to sail?

Forecasts for the regatta are not immensely promising. Tomorrow is set to be windy - a 20-knot easterly, possibly dropping in the afternoon - but after that the weather looks relentlessly light. Watching the yachts, we notice that the tide fairly rips along in places, and so local knowledge may be important in determining the outcome of racing. 

The Junior fleet is looking very hot.  The quality of the kids is proven by their record in other classes.  So far we'll have the recently crowned national girls' Techno champ Anneliese Gilbert, as well as the top girl in the  100+ fleet in the Flying 11 nationals, Nina Long; the runner-up in the Manly Junior nationals, Will Divola; and Sam Treharne who so narrowly lost the overall win at the Techno 293 nationals.   It's been a long time since there was such a hit fleet of junior sailors in any board class. It's so great to see the kids out there practising and enjoying themselves. We hear they've been going out after school, not coming home till it's dark, just like in the good old days.

So far entries are shaping up well and predictions are we may have 50 boards. Stay tuned for tomorrow's news, and here are some photos you might enjoy.

Optis and Minnows head out to the start

Chris practising his freestlyle

Scenic shot from the beach

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