Sail, socalise and dine in the heart of Darwin
38th Australian Minnow Championships
That was EPIC! Five days in early January saw the 38th Australian Minnow Championships held at Blairgowrie Yacht Squadron on the Mornington Peninsula.8 Darwin sailors made the trip with their families, and getting there was a big part of the fun – some got there by car the long way, some by the short(er) way, some by plane, and some even via cruise ship!It was both the first time away for a competition and the first time to Blairgowrie for most of the team.
Our excellent long-time sponsor, Northline, had once again transported the boats to the venue in plenty of time. Their commitment to the junior sailing community over the years really has done so much to create these priceless opportunities for NT kids.
Some of the team arrived a few days early to unpack the boats and to join in with some club races to experience the conditions. The water there is shallow, cold, blue, and beautiful. These first few days coincided with the first sunshine Melbourne had seen in weeks, and our sun-smart Territory kids couldn’t make sense of the crowds of crazy southerners doing everything they could to get sunburned.It was looking like a classic Australian summer, and any thoughts of monsoons and mould became a distant rumble for the Territory kids having the experience of a lifetime.
Measurement day came and went without a fuss and all our attention became focussed on the Invitation Race. We all learned something about sailing that day. After anxiously rigging and getting dressed we looked up to see the postponement flag going up the pole. We waited…and waited…and waited. The sea breeze just wasn’t coming in. Of course we had heard that Victorian weather was temperamental, but everyone was disappointed when the race was finally abandoned after so many hours of anticipation.
The next day’s racing went as planned with three races, with highlights being Aden McGrath’s 3rd in race 1 in the open fleet and William McGrath’s 1st in race 2 in the novice fleet.Phoebe Wiltshire had her best race of the week, stepping right up to the middle of the Main fleet and showing great improvement.James McGrath, Riya Fordyce, and Jericho Stroud all started in the Main Fleet for the first time, having graduated from the Novice fleet in Darwin in July. Jericho also got to try out his new sail which he reckons is waaay better than his old one.
Day two was dramatic. Ari Cousens and Aden McGrath’s dad both agree it was, in Ari’s words, “the epicest day ever”.In the Novice fleet, Ari capsized before the race, couldn’t get up, missed the start, had a ride in the safety boat for a while, got back in and sailed around in circles for a bit, racing got cancelled, it was too windy, he got towed in, and after all that…he still got a prize at the muster for “biggest smile under tow”!
Meanwhile, in the Main Fleet…the wind was getting up well over 15 knots and the waves seemed to be going in all directions, much like the Minnows.After race 1of the day, Aden’s dad was sitting cold and wet in a little spectator boat, praying to Poseidon for better conditions, when coach Hamish Wiltshire came speeding up.In the buffeting wind all that got heard was - ”…Aden’s…mast…another…broken…”.Getting back to shore to find Aden already there came as a shock to his dad because he was obviously missing race 2, and someone must have driven a boat very fast to get him there that quick!It turns out that his Minnow had capsized, causing the mast to get stuck in the shallow bottom and then break in two.Luckily coach John Lynch was there to blame so we can all keep doing that forever. No replacement mast could be found because of the unique mast step.
Watching the Minnow community energise to fix this problem was remarkable.Within an hour a new pole had been paid for and delivered to an address in Melbourne, with arrangements in place for it to be brought to Blairgowrie the next morning. Luckily the next day was a lay day. All Aden’s dad could do was try his best to look helpful while a team of champions measured, grinded, drilled, riveted, swaged, and screwed together a brand new mast!
It’s a shame Aden missed a race, but the silver lining is that it became obvious the mast was badly corroded and due to break.If it had happened anywhere else it would have been a much bigger problem.Aden was busy having fun with new friends and seemed to take it all in his stride.
The next day saw lots of racing, with Raj Fordyce doing brilliantly and winning a race in the Novice Fleet.Our team’s success in the Novice fleet is a great credit to our Novice coach, Patrick Wiltshire…just not as much credit as he’ll tell you!
Conditions on the last day were challenging again. The Novices didn’t go out at all and had to make do with jumping off the pier and playing really hard.There was more excitement in the Main Fleet when the two sailors vying for the Championship both managed to do varying degrees of damage to their boats after the first race.Fortunately enough races had already been run and the conditions meant further racing was abandoned. Thankfully the equipment problems didn’t affect the outcome of the competition and the kids then entertained themselves with getting ready for the presentation dinner where there would be dancing, crowd surfing, and trophies galore!
The decades of DSC families working with Victorian clubs while maintaining the Minnow class really seems to be paying off, and we’re all very grateful.The Blairgowrie club members and staff couldn’t have done more to make us welcome and ensure we had everything necessary to make the event so memorable.
38th Australian Minnow Championships
Location: Blairgowrie Yacht Squadron, VIC
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