Colourful and fast in the Hobie 16 fleet as WA turns on some great conditions.
What a weekend it was in Perth for the 2023 Hobie 16 WA State Championships. The racing was close, fast and exciting and the Hobie 16’s certainly put on a great show with the course taking the full length of the bay in front of the Rockingham foreshore.
There was plenty of colour and many photos taken by the locals as the fleet of Hobie 16’s hoisted sails on the beach. The Cruising Yacht Club, Rockingham (TCYC) is an excellent venue for multihull racing and the club and member volunteers were great hosts.
This was the first time since the 2019 event that teams from outside the state could travel to the championship event and it was exciting for the local sailors to have three teams from Queensland and New South Wales. Current QLD State Champions Peter and Juliet Bates from Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron (RQYS) made the journey as did Brian and Larissa Polkinghorne from Gladstone. Also from RQYS, Andrew Warneke teamed up with Patrick Butler from Vincentia Sailing Club in NSW.
Teams hit the water to race in a southerly wind which would build in strength through the day and rotate to the sea breeze direction. Local stars Darren Smith / Claire Bisgood came out flying with a convincing win in race one. Fellow teams from Nedlands Yacht Club (NYC), father daughter pair Glenn and Rose Fairey had a great race too with a sixth place followed by Sven Paschburg / Natalie Eldridge in seventh.
There were some new faces in the fleet for this year’s event, testing the waters in the Hobie 16. Stephan van Blerk is a regular helm on other multihulls and is the instructor at NYC running the ‘Better Sailing, Catamarans’ course for the club in the Hobie 16. One of his students took part in the event along with his siblings and there were plenty of smiles. Quade crewed for regular Hobie 16 helm who is also a youth, Lachy Owen and they had a lot of fun together even enjoying a capsize in the strong winds on Sunday afternoon. Adriana Jarrett usually crews on an F18 with Stephan and has been eyeing off a ride on a Hobie for a while, she teamed up with Jason Spencer for the championship. Her previous experience on a Hobie was doing cartwheels in over 20 knots of wind but she was keen to have a better go at it.
Instructor Stephan commented “What started out as a joke to get the siblings, Adriana, Quade and Juliet to sail against each other quickly became a reality and they had a great time, the opportunity was there to participate in the Hobie 16 championship and it was too good to pass.” Juliet usually sails an Open Skiff in the club’s Junior fleet and she’s been itching to step on to a catamaran since her older sister began racing one. Their Mum had a great weekend too commenting that the kids had never slept so well, it was a quiet household after racing on Saturday night.
In addition to the overall Open State Championship for all teams, there are also several other divisions dependent on the age of the helmsperson and competitors can only score in the division for the older age bracket that they are eligible for.
With a very consistent scorecard of first and second places, Rod Hodgkin and Lucy Bromell were crowned Great Grand Masters Champions ahead of Kevin Inder-Smith / Johannes Laipple and then Trevor Hughes / Elisabeth Smith. Jo is a visiting student from Germany who usually sails Hobie 16’s at home and he is very excited to be spending a few months in Perth and able to race with some of the top teams in the world.
In the Grand Masters fleet, previous champions Matt Faulkner and Ben Raven had to contend with two top ten worlds teams this time around and placed third overall. Peter and Juliet came in second behind 2023 champions Darren and Claire.
In the Masters division for helms age 45 to 54, another father and daughter pair Phil and Caitlyn Epps from Geraldton came in third with the top two Open pairs placing ahead.
The weekend produced a mix of wind conditions. Over the two days of racing and nine races there were five different race winners. This shows the depth of talent in the fleet. Race winners included Trent Robson / Natalie Hill and Peter and Juliet Bates.
Sunday morning was a challenge for Race Officer Paul Davis and his team who managed two races in an indecisive south easterly wind direction. Teams were challenged by heading left to the shore breeze or trying their luck at the sea breeze direction trying to come in. A typical morning in Rockingham which finally delivered a very fresh sea breeze of over 20 knots for the afternoon session.
Two races were held with gusts reaching 27 knots, the Hobie 16’s looked spectacular charging across the bay. Only 15 boats had the stamina to finish the ninth and final race of the series with Killian Zimmowitch and Adrian Guasta closing the event, still with smiles on their faces after some hard work to get through the race.
It was a tough battle for the top three in the Open division throughout the event, Darren and Claire battled with current Hobie 16 World Champions Cam Owen / Susan Ghent and two time World Champion in the class Gavin Colby who teamed up with young gun Mia Lovelady. There was no opportunity for these pairs to let their guard down though the nine race series, they were hot on each other’s tails the whole time. If any mistakes were made there were many teams waiting close by to take the gain.
After day one Gavin was ahead by one point from the other two who were tied on points, Cam sitting ahead with the scoring tie broken. During day two Gavin and Cam stayed close on points and Darren slipped back a few points behind. For the last session it was anyone’s championship and competitors did not know how many races there would be before the event time limit expired.
Cam and Darren did not get more than a few boat lengths apart for the lead in race eight with Darren crossing the line ahead and Gavin in third. Cam was now two points behind Gavin going into what would be the final race. Gavin was ahead for the first lap with Cam close behind, as they rounded the gate mark together, Cam dropped below for clear air and speed and the two teams were charging upwind in a strong breeze, working hard to get their maximum boat speed.
A small error on Gavin’s boat as a gust hit and Cam took the lead. Phil and Caitlyn Epps had opted for the right hand side of the race course leaving the other two to battle it out on the left, this is often an opportunity to make a gain while two other teams focus on each other. At the windward mark Phil crossed ahead of Cam but was under the layline and had to tack two more times to get around, but he did manage to get ahead of Gavin. Cam led to the finish and Gavin got back into second place, passing Phil on the last short work to the finish line. That was enough for Gavin to defend the title.
Overall Hobie 16 WA State Champions for 2023 were Gavin Colby and Mia Lovelady on 16 points. and they placed first in the Masters division. Cam Owen and Susan Ghent were second on 17 points and second in the Masters. Darren Smith and Claire Bisgood in third place overall with 22 points.
Mia was delighted to win her first event in a multihull class. When asked how she felt after the event she said “sore, but happy! It’s so good to have a fleet like this just racing so closely, it keeps you on your toes the whole time, you’re always looking for your competitors. I think it’s really cool and I’m so glad to have experienced this. So much fun, I will definitely come back and do it again; I loved every minute.”
It was an excellent regatta for the competitors and supporters. There were many volunteers involved in running the event led by Hobie Team WA Race Officer Paul Davis with class regulars Murray Wood and Debbie Melling and a huge pool of members from TCYC. A big thanks to Neil and Sonia Mason from the Club for coordinating the volunteer team.
Follow the Hobie Class Association of WA fleet and view more event images and video on social media @HobieCatsWesternAustralia on Facebook and Instagram.