Yachts racing at the 2020 Australian 'A' class catamaran association national titles held at Gippsland Lakes Yacht Club.
Yachts racing at the 2020 Australian 'A' class catamaran association national titles held at Gippsland Lakes Yacht Club.

Smoky skies Trying conditions for Wide Bay Sailors

SAILING: Four Wide Bay sailors have finished in the top 15 at the Australian ‘A’ class catamaran association national titles.

The Gippsland Lakes Yacht Club in Paynesville Victoria hosted the championships between January 7-10.

Under smoky skies due to the bushfire crisis, sailors competed over several days for the national title.

Wide Bay sailors Trevor Brown, Bruce Woodward and Claire and Paul Neeskens competed in seven races over three days.

Numbers in the competition were down as sailors withdrew due to concerns with the bushfires.

“We were in no danger but if the fire had moved another 10 kilometres towards the meet we would have been forced to evacuate,” Paul said.

Trevor Brown finished eighth overall in the Classic Fleet points table, racing in the master class.

Claire Neeskens was right behind Brown, finishing ninth and competing in the grand master class.

Bruce Woodward followed in 10th, racing as an open competitor while Paul Neeskens finished 14th.

Paul was recently appointed national president of the ‘A’ Class catamaran association after serving as vice-president last year.

“It was a different sailing experience for all competitors with the smoke causing racing to be cancelled on some days due to low visibility,” he said.

In the 10 years that Paul has been sailing, he has not experienced those conditions.

“We are used to sitting out races due to no wind or too much wind but the smoke haze is not something that usually affects sailing,” he said.

The small Paynesville community was appreciative of the regatta being held in their town as the sailors spent money in the shops, clubs and restaurants.

“It was a long way to travel but just shows the commitment our Wide Bay sailors have to the sport,” Paul said.

Local club sailing returns on the Australia Day weekend with the next major regatta to be held in February.

The Torquay Pharmacy Sailing Regatta will be held on February 15 and 16, attracting competitors from across the Fraser Coast.