The inaugural Australian Institute of Sport sailing regatta was held on Sydney Harbour last weekend, pitting Olympic class athletes, world champions and promising youth sailors against each other in a fleet of one-design Elliott 5.9s.
It proved to be an exceptional training opportunity for all the AYF and AIS sailors involved, placing them out of their comfort zones in unfamiliar boats with unfamiliar crews, and all were complimentary.
Those from single-handed classes quickly had to learn teamwork and tactics. Also, powerfully-built Star crewman David Giles was somewhat outside his weight division aboard the little Elliotts, as well as being unaccustomed to spinnakers, but the big man showed surprising agility and dexterity.
Egos were put aside and even the most experienced campaigners gained valuable lessons from their peers … along with a touch of humility, perhaps, as the young breed stamped their class late in the regatta.
Seven windward/leeward races were held on the Saturday, each producing a different winner. Michael Lancey (Mistral), Neville Wittey (Star) and Matthew Chew (420) shared the day's overall honours with Mark Turnbull (49er), Nick Partridge (49er) and Fiona Herbert (Yngling).
Crew combinations were changed for Sunday's racing and there was also a mixed bag of conditions. Two races were completed in light airs, the first being won convincingly by Turnbull/Partridge with Glenn Ashby (A Class) aboard. But then the teenage combination of Ben Lamb (Laser) and Tom Slingsby (Laser), along with 470 crewman Malcolm Page kicked in to overdrive.
The trio won Race 2 in light airs, then Races 3 and 4 in a building nor'east seabreeze, finally succumbing to Belinda Stowell (470), Josh Grace (Soling) and Nathan Wilmot (470) in the last heat. Lamb said after the event: "I came here to learn stuff off all the good guys so I'm a little surprised."
Second overall on Sunday was another youthful crew comprising Ben Austin (Laser), Steve Brewin (A Class) and Nathan Outteridge (29er), the latter just 15 years old.
The standard of racing was again outstanding, with starts and mark roundings being hotly contested. Australian Yachting Federation umpires kept a keen eye on the fleet, showing red flags to a number of competitors after minor altercations; umpired fleet racing is a relatively new concept, reducing the need for protests and arguably producing fairer results on the water.
Given the success of the format, another regatta is set be held in February 2002.
Saturday 27 October
1 Michael Lancey, Neville Wittey, Matthew Chew, 18pts
2 Mark Turnbull, Nick Partridge, Fiona Herbert, 18pts
3 Mat Belcher, Dan Belcher, Ben Austin, 22pts
4 Glenn Ashby, Nick Skulander, Robbie Lovig, 25pts
5 Jenny Armstrong, Malcolm Page, Kristen Kosmala, 28pts
6 Sarah Blanck, Ben Lamb, Mark Thorpe, 34pts
7 Lisa Charlson, Lisa Rooke, Nathan Wilmot, 34pts
8 Tom Slingsby, Nathan Outteridge, Riana Haldane, 35pts
9 Belinda Stowell, Steve Brewin, Melanie Dennison, 37pts
Sunday 28 October
1 Ben Lamb, Tom Slingsby, Malcolm Page, 5pts
2 Steve Brewin, Ben Austin, Nathan Outteridge, 10pts
3 Belinda Stowell, Josh Grace, Nathan Wilmot, 14pts
4 Robbie Lovig, Lisa Charlson, Matthew Chew, 16pts
5 Glenn Ashby, Mark Turnbull, Nick Partridge, 18pts
6 David Giles, Melanie Dennison, Lisa Rooke, 18pts
7 Jenny Armstrong, Riana Haldane, Kristen Kosmala, 22pts
8 Neville Wittey, Sarah Blanck, Mat Belcher, 23pts
9 Dan Belcher, Mark Thorpe, Fiona Herbert, 27pts