by Kinglsey Pursch (AUS334 Tangles)
The 2010 Taipan and Capricorn National Titles were held from December 27 to January 3 at Paynesville, Victoria. Gippsland Lakes Yacht Club hosted the event and provided exceptional hospitality in the clubhouse and solid race management on the water to make the event so successful. A full race program was delivered over the week with a good range of winds. The racing was kept tight and interesting because although the wind direction was quite stable each day, gusts of wind flowed consistently through the course and there was a range of wind directions on different days throughout the regatta.
It's a real niche-Taipan sailing. Throughout the year I lose focus, stop sailing regularly, get distracted by other aspects of life and sometimes feel frustrated that sailing not a mainstream sport. But then I remember that it's not a mainstream sport because we are part of a privileged minority who have the access and opportunities to participate in sailing. Every year I leave the Nationals hungry for more after learning so much and improving my boat handling throughout the regatta. You'll learn more from one National titles than you will from 6 months of club sailing, which is why I encourage any Taipan owner to attend the event and combine it with your summer holidays.
I prefer to write a general overview rather than a blow-by-blow account of each race and wind direction. For me the event started months before the registration and weigh in on December 27. Phone calls to other competitors to find out who's quick this year and who's attending the Nationals, finding crews for warm up regattas because Lis was attending hens parties and work functions, fiddling with the rigging and other settings in an attempt to maximise our boat speed, and sneaking in a few local training sessions to work on mark roundings and boat handling through tacks and gybes all contributed to our preparation for Paynesville. Not exactly an intense training regime, but we all know how the daily grind gets in the way of sailing.
The excitement builds when everyone starts arriving to unload boats at the clubhouse. People are making last minute repairs and alterations to their boats and competitors are match racing to test their boat speed before registration. There's a slight anxiety about the week ahead including how the results will turn out and speculation over the weather conditions mother nature is going to provide for the series. Of course the nerves and anxiety are controlled by the rum, beer and socialising as old mates catch up and new mates introduce themselves.
As far as National titles go the past few years haven't been a good run for Lis and I since 2006 when we first sailed a Taipan National Titles together. In 2007 I managed to t-bone Peter York in the only windy race of the series at McCrae. In 2008 we drove 2000km with many other Victorians to Manly, QLD and the Taipan Nationals was the first scheduled series in history to fail to sail a race over the entire week due to an unfortunate weather pattern that blew 40 to 50 knots every day. In 2009 our spreader collapsed during race 1 of the series, which left us with a broken (brand new) mast and 2 DNFs to start our campaign. Finally, in 2010 our drought was broken with a good series of racing and no damage bill to report to our insurance company (although we were close when I got over-ambitious on one start and almost cleaned up Mark and Annie Gardiner from Tasmania. To finish 4th in the sloop fleet ahead of some very well regarded sailors was a real achievement for us, and to finish 2 seconds behind the Homan brothers in a 15-18 knot breeze was a personal win for Lis and I, as we proved to ourselves that we can keep up with the boys in a strong winds. My point to all this is that persistence pays off, so don't be disheartened if you raced at Paynesville and your results weren't as good as you hoped for before the series started. And, if you have a Taipan but haven't been to a Nationals before, come to Hervey Bay next year!
Regarding results in the 4.9 sloop class, the Homan brothers Matt and Chris from QLD were outstanding and they comfortably won the series overall, despite having some very close races. The boys showed their class by consistently finishing ahead of the pack. Matt is also the current Australian F18 champion so he is certainly establishing a good trophy collection. Chris (Slater) and Troy Munro placed second overall and possibly even surprised themselves slightly with their consistency having not sailed together since the 2009 Belmont Nationals. It was great to see such lively characters of the class perform so well. Dan and Annaliese Van Kerckhof placed third despite missing the second last day of sailing to attend a wedding. This again shows the class and consistency of Dan and Annaliese because they effectively sailed the series without a drop race.
From my perspective some important points from the sloop fleet racing at the 2010 Paynesville Nationals are:
- The strength of the fleet was obvious when the first 6 places finished within 20 seconds of each other in heat 2. That is close racing!
- There's a positive vibe at the moment with new blood entering the class and the guns of the class returning to the fleet after racing F18s or A classes, or taking a break from sailing over the past few years. Although their return means us mid fleet hacks struggle to keep up, the guys always pass on their advice and it ensures we are all learning and getting faster.
- It was fantastic to have competitors from Darwin, South Australia and Tasmania. Travelling such long distances shows a massive commitment and we hope these interstate fleets stay involved in the Taipan Association
- As mentioned by Dan VK at the presentation dinner, the mix of male/female, father/daughter, brothers and husband/wife teams illustrated the amazing way sailing can provide a combination of meaningful family fun mixed with physically active sporting competition. There are very few sports where a person can compete with their family at a National level.
I'm going to stray off topic now. Politically, sailing is a strange sport. Most sports have a united approach but compete against other sports for participation. Within sailing we have competition between classes and even unfortunately within our own class. Should classes such as Capricorns, invited F18s and Vipers be sailing under the banner of the Taipan Association? The major argument for their inclusion is that the best measure of a successful class is large numbers of boats on the water. The major argument against their inclusion is that invited and introduced classes might in fact compete against the Taipan and convert Taipan sailors onto other classes. My personal opinion is that we have nothing to worry about because the Taipan is still a fantastic balance that offers high performance sailing, competitive racing and a good social atmosphere for a relatively low cost. A few years ago there were fears that our class should distance ourselves from the F18 movement because they were (arguably) in direct competition against the Taipan. In reality, we attracted only 2 capricorns to the 2010 National Titles at Paynesville, and the Taipan 4.9 numbers have rebounded back quite well against a trend of decreasing fleet sizes and an economic recession. My opinion is that we should not be scared of competition from other classes, but rather we should be aggressive in aligning ourselves with other classes including both dinghies and catamarans so that our boats are on show to other fleets. Distancing ourselves from other classes only makes it more difficult for us to attract future Taipan owners.
Since I was asked to write about the Nationals from a sloop-rigged perspective I'll offer a couple more thoughts. The appeal of the Taipan Nationals is sailing in a competitive fleet on an exciting boat, catching up with friends who have become some of our best friends in life, and meeting new people from all over Australia. The appeal to me of sailing sloop rigged is sharing the wonderful sailing experience with other people and giving them the opportunity to participate in the sport. It also provides a focus for maintaining a healthy body weight and keeping fit throughout the year because we want to keep our combined crew weight between 120 and 145kg. It's amazing how many starts you can visualise during a 5km! A lot of the regular 4.9 sloop sailors were introduced to the class by crewing on Taipan 4.9s. Introducing someone to the sport by training up a crew is rewarding in the long run, incorporates an aspect of teamwork to your sailing and boosts participation in the sport.
Once again I have found myself motivated and craving more sailing after a great week at the Taipan National Titles, looking forward to Hervey Bay in 2011 and any other sailing throughout 2010.
by Les Porter (AUS333 The Freeze)
Twenty-five cat-rigged taipan 4.9's contested the 2009/2010 National championships at Gippsland Lakes Yacht Club (GLYC) at Paynesville, Victoria. Racing commenced with the Invitation race on the 27th December and continued until January 3rd with two heats sailed each day on the beautiful Lake Victoria. All races used a windward - return course and were held in vary wind strengths and direction.
GLYC ran a flawless series and much of the credit must go to Commodore James Frenchville and race officer Stuart Loft (Lofty) along with a host of volunteers. No one could have asked for a more obliging and cooperative club to host a regatta. Special thanks to James who on New Years Day (lay day) went to work at his shed to repair "Splinter" so that Taison and Jayden who had travelled from Rivoli bay SA, could continue in the series.
The closeness of competition in the cat class was highlighted by the fact that the major places in the series were not determined until the final race. Going into the last race, places one through to five had not been finalised. Fortunately the racing on the last day was held in near perfect conditions of 12 - 15 knots of breeze out of the southwest.
Competition was close all the way through the fleet with individual boats very happy to dice for placings no matter where they were in the fleet. It was great to welcome a number of very enthusiastic newcomers to the fleet as well as a number of experienced sailors from other classes each adding to the class in there own unique way.
Race By Race Report
Good early form shown by "Zoom Zoom" (Roger Claydon) saw him take the early and maintain a healthy gap on his rivals until the finish. Newcomer to the cat class "Barry" (Chris Boag) displayed excellent early speed. "Alphabet Soup" (Andrew Collins) sailing with the older pin head main looked good for a major result until he forgot to sign off and subsequently DSQ.
Placings: 1. Zoom Zoom, 2. Barry, 3. Fire (Warwick Lyon)
Heat 1. Monday 29th December, 8knots ESE.
Lightweight flyers "Flyweight" (Brad Hein) and "Alphabet Soup" gave the heavier sailors a lesson on how to sail in a light oscillating breeze. Good boat speed was also shown by up and coming "Will Power" (James Christenson) and "Vizey" (Andrew Vize).
Placings: 1. Flyweight, 2. Alphabet Soup, 3. Will Power
Heat 2. Monday 29th December, 11knots ESE.
Choosing the favoured side of the course proved to invaluable in heat 2. "Vizey" and "The Freeze" (Les Porter) picked the right side and moved out to a healthy lead which they held until the gun. "Alphabet Soup" showed great downhill speed and battled with "Barry" for the placings.
Placings: 1. The Freeze, 2. Vizey, 3. Alphabet Soup
Heat 3. Tuesday 30th December, 15knots E.
Old hand "Bewitched" (Dennis Baker) showed a clean pair of heels to win heat 3. Many sailors had difficulty handling the stronger conditions. "The Freeze", "Uforia" (Steve Floyd) and "Kooka" (Laurie Hinchcliffe) sailed well to fill the top four spots.
Placings: 1. Bewitched, 2. The Freeze, 3. Uforia.
Heat 5. Wednesday 31st December, 3-12 knots Variable at times.
From the start conditions proved to be challenging with the breeze oscillating through approximately 20 degrees and varying in strength. At times sailors could be seen out on trapeze and out of control no less than 50 metres from others virtually becalmed. "Vizey" read the conditions well and appeared to be favoured by the Wind Gods, admitting later that he got his breaks from a combination of luck and polarized sunglasses enabling him to pick the subtle changes in wave/wind action. The top five boats all closed up on the last downhill run to the finish with "Alphabet Soup" picking up 4 places.
Heat 6. Wednesday 31st December, 12 knots Variable at times.
After spending what seemed like hours bobbing up and down waiting for the breeze to steady and with a short intermission on shore, heat 6 started in a good breeze. The start proved challenging for some including the eventual heat winner with 3 boats recalled. "Vizey" again sailed well with "Catsized" (Marty Jones), "Flyweight", "Will Power" and "Fire" all showing good speed and fighting out the major placings.
Placings: 1. Vizey, 2. "Will Power", 3. Fire.
Heat 7. Friday 2nd January - Abandoned 50degree wind shift.
Heat 8. Friday 2nd January 16knots WSW
Strong wind specialists "Kooka" and "Bewitched" took an early lead from "Vizey" and the "The Freeze" with "Felix" nipping at their heels. Surprisingly lightweight flyer "Flyweight" was mixing it with the heavy wind sailors.
Placings: 1. Bewitched, 2. The Freeze, 3. Kooka
Heat 9. Saturday 3rd January 15knots WSW
In the near perfect conditions, "Barry", "Will Power", "Bewitched, "Kooka" and "The Freeze", straight from the start set a blistering pace. " The fleet appeared to be split between the left and right hand side of the course. Close racing between the first five boats saw "The Freeze" pull away slightly from "Barry" and the fast finishing "Will Power".
Placings: 1. The Freeze, 2.Will Power, 3. Barry.
Heat 10. Saturday 3rd January 12knots WSW
This race proved to be a repeat of race 9 with "The Freeze" again battling out the places with "Barry", "Will Power" and "Kooka".
Placings: 1. The Freeze, 2.Will Power, 3. Barry.
Final Series Placings
1. The Freeze, 2. Vizey, 3. Barry, 4. Bewitched, 5. Flyweight