Following on the success of the 2020 Australian Windfoil Championships held in January, 2020 in Brisbane, plans were well underway for a repeat RQYS hosted event in Jan 2021, leading to an exciting WA based event at South of Perth Yacht Club early in summer 2022. Fast forward to the middle of 2021, and for a lot of Australians travel plans and interstate access wasn't really working out that well. Most especially getting access into the more geographically isolated WA. Unfortunately, plans for 2022 had to be revised, including our own Nationals, and, at a rather late stage, including the Foil Nats inside the renowned Sail Melbourne Regatta became a very real option. And faced with many other uncertainties, a very practical one for both National level racing and organizers too. Melbourne it was.
Positive planning and solid commitment from both participants and organizers saw a very enthusiastic group of all skill levels attend a 5 day training camp ahead of SailMelb official competition. Organised by Australian Sailing's Foiling Coordinator, Arthur Brett, this served a multitude of benefits on and off the water; extra time together yielded better relationships and understanding of the sport, its direction and objectives, as well as sharpening the skills and fitness ahead of the real competition. A very well received - and very well delivered- initiative.
Thanks to the La Nina weather pattern, atypically "Queensland" weather of lighter offshore winds and humid conditions replaced the normal scorching hot Northerlies and blasting SW cold fronts that Melbourne is renowned for, and Royal Brighton Yacht Club turned on a fantastic host location to allow practical water access from within the protected marina area in all wind and sea conditions.
The more sheltered Northern sailing course used the first couple of days didn't really present the best opportunities for windfoil, but once the race area was switched to a slightly more open Southern course, the action definitely stepped up a notch and both course racing on windward-return as well as light wind "beam reach" figure 8 slalom were both very successful and competitive. While not in the same league as PWA high wind foil slalom, the success of the light wind slaloms in SailMelb was noticeable, getting consistent racing completed in close spectator proximity to the shoreline and providing engaging competition on water for the racers in conditions that would be otherwise marginal for traditional windward racing.
Obvious in the slalom races was the continued dominance of the larger riders, even in the lightest of conditions the racing didn't become a light rider monopoly. Yes, it relied on skill and experience to maintain the glide thru the corners, but the leading riders made a great display of how effective, efficient and fun lightwind racing on short, tight circuits can be. Everyone's racing improved as the series progressed, and many commented on how much they had actually enjoyed the slalom side of the racing. Exploring less traditional and finding more options for new racing formats is definitely a positive trend.
Onshore pitstops weren't so practical given the location, and generally would be considered to be an important ingredient of modern windfoil racing, so a couple of foil tools went to the bottom during on-water retunings between races. All in all, some great experiences, some good event refinement takeaways - and some really competitive, close and engaging racing. At all levels of the fleet.
Potential too, looking outside the traditional "light wind" slalom to incorporate future "high wind" downwind slalom racing in a more PWA style in future Nationals events. Exciting times.
While the majority of the fleet competed on Adult or Youth iQFOiL equipment, open equipment competition was also encouraged under the Formula Foil guidelines, with the Sail Melbourne Event being itself an open/unrestricted equipment event, and separate Australian Championship being decided within the overall rankings for iQFOiL in Open, Women's and Youth classifications.
After 5 solid afternoons on the water, in consistent and class suitable rising sea breeze conditions (typically around 10-15 kts on water, some slalom in 7-10 kts), the fleet were exhausted but satisfied, and a sunny open air presentation ceremony concluded the regatta on the steps of the Royal Brighton Clubhouse.
Organizers and participants would especially like to thank Sail Melbourne and Royal Brighton for their hosting and hospitality; our appreciation to the officials, volunteers, coaches, parents and other organizers who all contributed to a very successful event held under overshadowing public health concerns. Many participants traveled in uncertain conditions, away from the safety of their home state to participate; a definite additional challenge beyond the normal sporting ones, and which no doubt kept our fleet numbers lower than otherwise.
Appropriate that we also acknowledge the initial planning efforts made by South of Perth Yacht Club for the original 2022 event scheduled for WA. We are sure that the Perth based event will be a sensational opportunity, and another great showcase for this exciting chapter of our sport.
SailMelbourne 2022 Windfoil Regatta 1. Grae Morris/NSW 2. Caelin Winchcombe/WA 3. Harry Joyner/WA Australian iQFOiL Championship 1. Grae Morris/NSW 2. Caelin Winchcombe/WA 3. Harry Joyner/WA Australian Womens iQFOiL Championship 1. Samantha Costin/QLD 2. Amelia Quinlan/NSW 3. Charlotte Wormald/VIC
Australian Youth Windfoil Championship 1. Philip Cripsey/VIC 2. Jarrod Jones/QLD 3. Matty Goss/VIC