Australian Sharpie Nationals - Sensational series on the Swan River

Boats race for the top mark in the Perth Sharpie Nationals 2014
Peter Kovesi
The Australian Sharpie Nationals were held in Perth’s strong sea breezes out of Mounts Bay Sailing Club. The Australian Sharpie reasserted itself over New Year as one of the country’s top senior dinghy classes, with 44 boats (132 sailors) slugging it out in the series. Of the nine-race series, only one was in light shifting winds, while the two invitation races on Day One saw unforgiving Fremantle Doctor breezes set the tone for the week. Australian Sharpie Sailing Association (WA) President Craig Mann said the class continued to show it had all the ingredients of good racing and a strong social scene to attract new sailors. The age of sailors ranged from 15 through to 65.

'It was a sensational and physical series on the Swan River and Sharpie sailors both local and interstate were absolutely stoked. The competiveness on the water and social scene off the water makes Sharpie sailing so enjoyable, so it was truly a carnival atmosphere, ' Mann said.

There were plans to turn out a number of new boats this winter, further strengthening the national fleet, Mann added.

'The racing in Perth was close, exciting and brought out the best in how the Sharpie design handles challenging sailing conditions. To sail a Sharpie really well across a range of conditions is tough, the fleet racing is superb and that’s why there are so many good sailors who either stay in the class or come back to it again and again after trying other yachting experiences. WA’s Peter Chappell took out top honours in The Lizard, which he has sailed for over a decade, taking his tally of National titles to five. This puts Chappell just two short of all-time title-holder Malcom Higgins of SA, with seven wins. Chappell is one of the State’s best sailors, known for his world-standard performances in 505s and Etchells, also having aboard international match-racer Pete Nicholas and Luke Payne. Second was South Australia’s Dave Higgins in All Scoobed Out. Higgins won the O’Grady Cup for overall consistency in the series.To take WA to the State Team victory, third overall went to Ash Gabrielson in Bullit, while Vern Tidy of East Fremantle confirmed his top-order big-fleet sailing skills by finishing fourth in Blatantly Obvious. Overall Handicap Consistency went also to WAs Trevor Date in Blind Date.

'After several years in which the South Australians have dominated, it was good to see not only the West Australians get back up there amongst it, but also crews from NSW, Victoria, Tasmania and Queensland pushing hard,' Mann said. Brighton and Seacliff’s Mal Higgins– brother of Dave – elected not to compete this series.'A stand-out performance was teenager Lewis Golding from Hobart winning the Tomlinson Trophy for Best Junior Skipper, in Dump Truck. Lewis typifies the future for this class – many young sailors are chasing challenging, team-oriented sailing in a high performance boat that won’t break the bank.' Mann said the only downside to the 2013-14 nationals was not having a female skipper compete: 'We had several women crewing, but next year it would be great to get some female sailors steering their own boats as we’ve had in the past. We’re happy to do what we can to get them out on the water,' he said. Next year’s Sharpie nationals will be held on Botany Bay, Sydney, New South Wales, virtually guaranteeing a strong and highly competitive fleet due to its central location.