Was there ever a doubt Team Australia wouldn’t pull off The Italian Job…
On the final day of the Queensland State Championships at the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron, Rod Waterhouse came to MB and myself with a proposal: head to Italy for the Hobie 14 Worlds, clean up the podium, get the job done.
Sounds easy enough?
The Hobie 14 fleet in Australia is exceptional. Truly extraordinary. Thanks to the hard work that Fletch & Georgia have put in for the last 10 years, the array of boats that have been exported from Vincentia, and now brand new boats being regularly sailed from the east to the west. Word has finally spread around the globe as to what is happening in Australia.
Before this World Championship, to everyone around the world the Australian Hobie 14 Class was mere pictures, videos and my words on a screen. The International Hobie Family, let alone sailors from all walks of life, have now seen first hand what we’ve been doing Down Under, and it’s clear to everyone that it’s working.
Team Australia pulled off The Italian Job. And Georgia & Fletcher, Will & Andrew, Zak & Geoff, Gavin, Worsty, Mai, Tim, Dazzy, Cam & Suz (struth, do I keep going?) and our Australian Champion, Bryn Robinson-Mills all weren’t there.
Just imagine if they were, because I can…
Now, most of the Match Reports I usually publish are written in third person. Usually, however, I’ll add in a little bit of plain speakin’ at the end, generally my raw, unfiltered thoughts on the event and how it has impacted not only me, but the Australian Class as a whole. For this Match Report on the 2023 Hobie 14 World Championships, it’s going to me the whole time: Paddy Butler, your newest Hobie 14 World Champion.
Is it just me, or does that sound pretty wicked or what?
So, as I write this Match Report purely as myself, it’s going to be a bit different. You’ll be seeing this World Championships purely from my perspective, both on and off the water. I’ll try, to the best of my ability, to illustrate what it was like on the water, the decisions I made on the race course, what went well, along with what didn’t.
Think of it as Paddy’s guide on how to win a World Championship…
The Game Plan
The Australian Championships consisted of a 53 boat fleet, the largest fleet in Australia since the 20th century. During that regatta, Bryn nailed virtually every start he made, and we all know how that panned out. The one clean start I had, I came away with a bullet.
Wangi Wangi & Port Melbourne were a couple of half decent results for this young fella. With roughly 15-20 boats on each start line, both locations were perfect for getting clear transits off the start. Then it all came down to keeping your nose clean and staying above the boats that go low and fast (as an FYI, my mode is high, fast and one hull flying at all times).
Sailing on the Adriatic with nothing but the hazy horizon off the pin was a different ball game altogether. So, in that situation, run up and down the start line a couple of times before the race, reorientate yourself with your surroundings then go for it; same as above. Stay clean, keep your nose clear, and go for it.
And if all goes bottoms up, tack off and find a clear lane; get in front, stay in front. Keep it simple, folks. You think it’d be that easy, right? Think again…
The Race Track
Much like Port Melbourne, Jervis Bay and anywhere else open to a steady breeze, the race course was fair, predictable and at times, a lot of fun! With each coming day, the breeze would finally fill in around one o’clock. As it did, it would gradually clock around to the right, heading from north to south-east by the afternoon.
However, a steady breeze was one thing. A sea state that matched it was another. The Adriatic was lumpy, bumpy and at times, I genuinely felt a bit giddy sitting on the tramp, bumping up and down in no more than five knots of breeze. Although, each day the chop was different, and we really couldn’t work out why.
As such, it was very much a “take each day as it comes” type situation.
The first race of the series saw a lovely 6-7 knots on the race course, leaving myself & MB to take the first two spots, as France’s Michel Robert came through in third (Rod unfortunately broke his aluminium tiller during the first sequence). Making it out for a lighter second race, Rod finished with a clean third, as MB snuck in before him whilst I snagged my second bullet.
The third race saw an ever-dying breeze, as the race committee finished the fleet at A-mark on the second work (we still had to sail downwind). MB was hot on my tail that race, but not hot enough to out-pinch yours truly. Germany’s André Hauschke came through third in that race, as Thorin ‘Stevie’ Zeilmaker, Rod & Michel all got tangled up behind him.
The final race of the day saw the lightest of the day, with MB cleaning up with an exceptional start. Rod came through with his best race of the day, whilst I snuck in behind them both as if we were out for a wee jaunt, just the three of us, back home.
Taking on the new day, I went out to extend the two point lead I had on the old-boy. It started nicely with two bullets for the fifth and sixth. Boydy also began to find his mark with the old French boat he had on loan, finishing with two top-tens in the fifth & sixth heats.
However, the seventh heat wasn’t as clean. First work, I was due to round the top-mark in another solid position; however, tacking on a tight lay line, that Adriatic Sea I was coming to know and not-so-love, knocked me back to Neverland. Eventually, I rounded the mark around 20th.
From there it was clear what to do, try to make some use of the downwind in a 4-knot breeze, and use the second work to gain ground as many places as I could. At the gates, I rounded to starboard and headed out with a clear lane, whilst the majority of the fleet played bumper-boats as they headed out on port. Eventually, I finished the race in seventh, MB in sixth and Rod with a UFD, Adam Max Mayerle from Brazil claimed his first bullet, as Thorin finally found his groove coming in second.
The third day of racing saw the lightest and bumpiest day on the water so far, resulting in an up and down day for everyone. I managed to get a pair of thirds in the first two heats, as Thorin got a bullet in the first and MB in the second. Deciding to wait for a hot-minute for the breeze to fill in to that desirable 6-8 knots, the race committee got the 11th and 12th heat away. I claimed another two consecutive bullets for myself, closely followed by MB and Rod in both races.
Here’s one hot tip that lapsed my judgement in the last race of the day: first choice at bottom gates is always the closest mark. Don’t sail an extra 150 metres if you don’t have to and let a solid lead disappear. Do the extra tack and cover, it’ll be a lot less stressful!
It was an eerie start to the final dance on the shores of the Adriatic. With a storm forecasted for the early afternoon, and the easterly afternoon breeze already in by the late morning, the day was as unpredictable as the sea state had been all week.
Alas, it was a new day. The final day; the final quarter per sei. Much like Australian Rules Football is broken into four quarters, as was this regatta. So, with my experience playing for the Division 2 Reserve Grade team for the Bay & Basin Bombers back home, I thought: treat this regatta like a game of football.
A day on the water is a quarter of football. Go out Day One, win the day and you’re in front. However, as Day Two comes around, you’re back to zero, it’s nil all. The mindset: go out once again and win the day. Rinse and repeat for the third and the fourth.
Leading into the final dance, I was once again only two points ahead of MB. A lead I’ve maintained the last three days. Why should today be any different?
In a regatta that turned out to be a Match Race between the top two boats, it was a no-brainer who to look out for on the start. As such, whilst I was watching dad like Munyunga (White-Bellied Sea Eagle) eyeing a Marra (fish) on the surface of the water, Rod had his eyes on Thorin, who was also two points on his rear. Nothing was set in stone.
The first race was light, tight and all to play for. Honestly, I thought I got Dad in that first race, but the angle of the finish line was just that difficult to pick when there is half a rudder in it (and I wasn’t going to dispute anything more with the race committee at this point). Rod snuck in a few boat lengths behind me, as Adam Max from Brazil and Gerard Loos, sailing for Spain, came in fifth.
Leaving only a point margin between MB and I (I thought it was three), I knew I had to keep extending that lead if I wanted to go into the last race safe and sound. Turns out we were all out the back, as a huge left shift in the second work of the the 14th heat saw my lead drop to fourth, whilst MB & Rod climbed at least eight places in half a work. I ended up climbing back to fourth which was to be my second drop, Gerard & André claimed the top spots, as MB took on a ninth whilst Rod was forced to carry his seventh.
With the race committee waiting in anticipation for a developing front, the mariners were busily adjusting rake and shroud tension, trying to figure out whether we’d be trapezing for the next race. So, as soon as MB and I loosened the shrouds, the front came through with some pure champagne sailing conditions.
It was like we were back in Port Melbourne, MB, Rod and I (plus Thorin) were rounding the top mark within a few boat lengths of each other; however, it was at the bottom mark when things turned around. MB rounded low and fast as I rounded with a bit more height and jumped out on trapeze. As I looked below to check Dad’s position, I could see the old-boy getting hit by a wave, dropping his mainsheet and going for a swim out the back. Love that for me.
As Quinny would always say: have you said it (“I’m a Goober, I’m a Goober, I’m a Goober”) three times?
Confident that I’d just about solidified The Italian Job, there was a key decision for Dad and I at this stage. Do we go in and get a head start on packing and refreshing our dehydrated bodies, or do we go for a victory lap in the best breeze we’ve seen since we’d arrived on Italian soil. What would’ve you done?
To summarise, the final race of the series: it was my worst start, Rod had an absolute blinder, Thorin was rudder up, sending it and for once not pinching the eyeballs out it, and MB was pretty bloody stoked.
You all know the rest of the story…
Where to next?
For me, I’m up to Airlie Beach and Hamilton Island for Race Week, sailing on Coconuts with Squirter, Matt, Worsty, Jess & Aido. What could possibly go wrong! Not only that, I’m waiting to hear back from the Team Australia Challenge for the Youth & Women’s America’s Cup in Barcelona, 2024. From my understanding the selection panel were pretty stoked to hear of a World Championship under this young fella’s belt.
For the Hobie 14s, it’s only onwards ‘n’ upwards for us in Australia. With the postponement of the Wildcat Regatta in Forster, there is a high chance for a solid fleet in Toukley over the October long-weekend. Following, the Phil Johnston Memorial 14’ Regatta is on once again in Mannering Park two weeks later, so there’ll be a couple weekends already on the central coast. The Hobie 14-Turbos are making a splash in November for the NSW State Championships, running in conjunction with Kurnell Cat Club’s Top Gun Regatta, and the Victorian Catamaran Championships will be in McCrae once again. Check it all out via the events calendar.
And then, of course, we have the Australian Championships in the summer, taking place at the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron.
There are just a couple more acknowledgements I must make before I finally sign off. Thank you to the Vincentia Sailing Club and the Australian Hobie Family for all the support for us boys on our jaunt in Italy. The Australian Hobie 14 fleet, we push each other to be faster and faster each regatta, and it’s only going to get better from here. Thank you to the European Hobie Class Association and Circolo Vela Cesenatico for organising and hosting such a memorably successful event.
Congratulations to Germany’s Tanja Rindt for taking out the Women’s World Championship and finishing in seventh as an open helm. Poland’s Marysia Fornalczyk, who at 15 years old, finished eleventh overall, second in the Women’s and first overall in the Youth Division. This may not have been recognised at the presentation, but here in Australia, we see you, Dominik, Dawid and all the other young people that competed in the 17th Hobie 14 World Championships!
Lastly, thanks Mum for letting Dad and I go to Italy. Next time, hopefully, we won’t have to travel so far.
One thing that many people were commenting on during the Hobie 14 Worlds (other than “you Aussies are too damn fast”), was how big our fleet in Australia is. Showing them first hand the Championship Tour and how many boats we have sailing regularly around Australia, not just during the 50th Australian Championships.
So, in conclusion, I’d like to pose a question to you:
Where should the next Hobie 14 World Championships be?