Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Sealink Magnetic Island Race Week: F18s attract high profile sailors

Sealink Magnetic Island Race Week, being held from 1st to 6th September, the F18 Australian Championship is attracting international calibre sailors for its national championship.

The championship is the official qualifying event for next year’s F18 World Championship scheduled for July in America and with only about ten slots available to Australian sailors, the pressure will be on to snare one of those slots.

The young team of Jason Waterhouse and Josh McKnight from Sydney, placed 15th in the Worlds earlier this month, will be racing against with father Rod Waterhouse and his crew, Chris Way. Also fresh from the worlds will be Cairns sailor Adam Beattie and Jamie Leitner who finished 21st. Crewing for Warren Guinea will be Dutch women’s match racing team member, Marja Van Helden.

Joining the world championship competitors will be the Sydney team of Katie Pellew-Spithill and husband Grant Pellew. While Grant gets the boat ready, world match racing champion and London Olympics contender, Katie, will be jetting in from America two days before the start of the Magnetic Island having competed in the Grade 1 Match Racing Buddy Melges challenge in Sheboygan.

Both Grant and Katie are experienced in the F18 class and looking forward to again racing as a team. 'I have been sailing F18s for about 11 years. Katie has been racing them, on and off, for about two years. I have an A Class that I steer, but as the F18 is a very physical boat for the crew, it is better to have a strong crew and have the lighter crew member helming. Katie also steers because she is better at it than me. It’s a boat we have fun with and it takes us away from all the other sailing pressures that we have.

'We are hoping to qualify for a world’s slot. We have in fact qualified for the last three years, but haven’t made it to the championship. Depending on the dates of the World Championship and if it doesn’t clash with the Olympics, we might make it this year.'

Class representative and helm of Nacra NQ, Michael Guinea, isn’t surprised by the quality of catamaran sailors travelling to Magnetic Island this year. 'The competition in the class is pretty good which is why I sail them. You go to the world titles and race against this likes of Mitch Booth, Darren Bundock and Carolijn Brouwer – all these names and I am just a club sailor. I have beaten them across the line plenty of times. I don’t think there are many other classes where you can compete on a fairly reasonable budget and be relatively competitive against those guys.'

Guinea expects at least about 25 boats at the Nationals 'with a few more saying not sure and maybe. 'We have a lot of boats in Cairns, Airlie Beach and Townsville.

'Sealink Magnetic Island Race Week, is a well coordinated professionally run regatta and was considered the best place to have the nationals this year.

'The good thing from the north Queensland sailors point of view is that over the last six or seven years they have strongly supported the F18 events at other venues. So this is a bit of thank you from the rest of the fleet to the NQ guys who have done all the miles over the years.'

'The F18 fleet will be an exciting addition to the on-water spectacular as they compete on an adjacent course to the yachts and larger multihulls. Flying around in a series of 16 windward/leeward races with a target total race time of 45 minutes each, the flat water off Magnetic Island should be a perfect venue for these boats. 'These boats are great. In 20 knots of breeze you get them up to 25 knots downwind. The speed is great.'

With such a large fleet of F18 catamarans converging on Magnetic Island, the event organisers have arranged for the fleet to have its own race officer and a large, securely fenced rigging area. Post racing each afternoon the F18 sailors will have the chance to explain to the other Magnetic Island Race Week entrants 'why we sail these great boats. There is always a bit of jovial animosity between the cat and monohull guys,' Guinea said.

Entries close 26 August 2011. For more information, go Sealink Magnetic Island Race Week

by Tracey Johnstone