The Pusser’s Rum Melges East Coast Championships was held over the weekend of the 8/9th November 2014, hosted by the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club. This is the sixth Melges East Coast Championships to be hosted by the club, a permanent fixture in both the Melges 24 and Melges 32 annual regatta schedule. Pusser’s Rum have been watching the growth and culture of the fleets in Australia and have extended their international Melges sponsorship to the Australian classes providing their Blue Label British Navy Rum and Nelsons Blood hip flasks as prizes.
Day one of the Championships was a classic summers days racing on ‘shiftwater’. PRO Steve Merrington took advantage of the conditions and ran four races in the afternoon through the Saturday sailing traffic. Lake Macquarie team The Kraken (BER 655 from Toronto Amateur Sailing Club skippered by Aiden Menzies was unlucky not to finish the day leading with two first places on the scoresheet. Sneaking in one point ahead was Stephen Girdis +GST (AUS 762) racing consistently throughout the afternoon, his worse place a third. +GST crewmember youth teams racing sailor Travis Thorn experiencing his first Melges 24 regatta. Since coming third in the Corinthian Division at the Melges 24 Worlds, Geelong in January Peter Kendall Amigos (AUS 816) from the crew has stepped up to helm for the East Coast Champs.
Sunday’s racing kicked off earlier and consisted of two races in a twenty knot southerly wind. The Melges boats had Pittwater all to themselves and were revelling in the windy gusts and awesome downwind rides. Amigos started the day with determination and a strong performance, Peters dad Andrew hiking hard in the Southerly wind resulting in a win. Following closely behind in second place, race five was sixteen year old skipper Harley Walters Northshore Marine (AUS 807) whose dad and eleven year old brother were also part of his crew hiking out. For newcomers to the class Dean Pennell Arriba (AUS 215) the learning curve was steep and the crew new to the boat but the fun was fast and furious.
In the spirit of the rum tradition there were some exciting ‘hair raising’ moments and a tot of Pusser’s rum was the call once the boats were tucked up in the dock ready for their next regatta. Victory by one point going to Steve Girdis +GST in a well fought battle, Ayden Menzies The Kraken second overall and Peter Kendall Amigos finishing third. The Melges 24 fleet are packing up and heading to Lake Macquarie Yacht Club to enjoy ideal lake racing conditions for the Pusser’s Rum NSW State Titles in a fortnight. Melges 24 Australian Class President and Lake Macquarie local David Young No Comment (AUS 746) will be taking full advantage of his local knowledge for the event and looking for more results like the second place in race four of the East Coast Championships.
Once again the Melges 32 fleet enjoyed exhilarating high speed downwind rides giving passers-by yachts from the regular Saturday fleet a spectacle. Their bows lifting as the crews backed up on the downwind runs launching the boats through the waves in the twenty knot southerly wind on Sunday. The photography boat struggling to keep up. Chris Way Easy Tiger (AUS 221) and Barry Cuneo Envy Scooters (AUS 138) battled it out on the racecourse throughout the six race series. Both crews working on their boat handling and tactics to gain the edge.
In the end it was Chris Way Easy Tigers regatta experience that carried them to victory winning four out of six races, followed two points behind by Envy Scooters and class President Kim Williams Rock n Roll (AUS 320) third overall.
For Barry Cuneo and his crew on Envy Scooters representing Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron this event was an important training regatta in preparation for their Melges 32 World Championship campaign in Miami Florida next month from the 1 -7 December. Barry Cuneo has sponsored four youth sailors from Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron to compete in the 2014 Melges 32 Worlds, along with his more experienced crewmembers; Rob Brown, Matt Chew and Ben Lamb. The Pusser’s Rum Pittwater Championships hosted by the Royal Motor Yacht Club next weekend will provide another valuable training regatta with on water coaching and debriefs by rules guru David Tallis, between races at the Royal Motor Yacht Club.
Article Written By Tracey Walters
Photos Courtesy of Northshore Marine Photography (Ash Stephens)