At the beginnning of 2024, the shores of Safety Beach, Victoria, witnessed an event that brought together the exhilarating world of B14, Javelin, and Musto sailing—the Skiff Fest Nationals. Hosted by the picturesque Safety Beach Sailing Club, this championship marked the first time all three skiff classes joined forces at an Australian national level, creating a buzz of excitement among sailors and spectators alike.
Skiff Fest Nationals played host to sailors from across Australia, featuring thirteen B14s, alongside participants from the Javelin and Musto classes. This unique convergence of skiff classes added an extra layer of anticipation and competition to the event. Safety Beach, nestled on the shores of Port Phillip Bay, offered the perfect canvas for this sailing spectacle with its clear blue waters and ever-changing weather conditions.
Among the thirteen B14s, the competition was fierce, with two boats representing Tasmania, five from Victoria, and six from New South Wales. The victors of the B14’s in the Australian Nationals were:
First Place: Craig Garmston and Paul Fleming on Aus 375
Second Place: Brent Frankcombe and Leigh Dunstan on Aus 378
Third Place: Scott Cunningham and Brody Riley on Aus 373
Skiff Fest Nationals recognised not only speed and strategy but also the fun antics upon the water. The Multitool Awards, sponsored by Phaedrus Estate, Ronstan, and Jetty Road Brewery, highlighted remarkable moments throughout the event:
Day 1: Anthony House and Michela Torchio on Yellowbone received the award for rounding and hitting the mark.
Day 2: David Grace and Corey Riley on Osbourne earned the award for their "no hands" approach.
Day 3: Ryan Gerrish and Callum O’Boyle showcased brute force, winning the award for ripping pulleys out of their boat on Aus 378.
Beyond the Races: Seals, Scenery, and Celebrations
Skiff Fest Nationals was not just about the races; it was a holistic celebration of sailing culture. From friendly seals accompanying the starting boat, to welcome dinners at Jetty Road Brewery and evenings unwinding from the day just passed with fellow sailors; the event embraced the joys of being on the water.
Stay Connected: Social Media and Photography
For those who couldn't be at Safety Beach in person, the action was kept alive on social media. Skiff Fest's Facebook page became a hub for updates, highlights, and community engagement. Additionally, A J McKinnon Photography captured the moments, offering participants and fans the chance to relive the excitement through their lens. https://ajmckinnonphotography.shootproof.com/gallery/23583560/
Proud Sponsors: A Community Effort
Skiff Fest Nationals 2024 was made possible by the support of several sponsors, including the Victorian State Government, Refresh Property Solutions, Ronstan, Phaedrus Estate, Jetty Road Brewery, Irwin Sails, and Safety Beach Sailing Club. Their contributions played a vital role in making this event a resounding success.
As the sails lower and the skiffs rest, Skiff Fest Nationals 2024 leaves behind a legacy of camaraderie, competition, and the sheer joy of sailing. The shores of Safety Beach will be fondly remembered for the Nationals 2023-2024, until the next rendezvous in Sydney Harbour at Woollahra Sailing Club, with the Nationals 2024-25 from Jan 2-4 and the Worlds Jan 6-10 2025. See you there!!!!
by Paul Fleming & Craig Garmston
Storms yesterday evening were expected to play havoc with today's breeze, and by the time the fleet launched for a 1pm start the breeze was already quite an unsteady southerly, which left some of the lighter crews licking their lips at what was going to bring them some good results.
Race 5 started off in what felt like at the time a building Ora which enticed some, including series leader Nick Craig / Tobytastic (GBR 796), to go the right cliffs which were visibly closer to the start line and seemed to some as an obvious choice. Mark Watts / Matt Johnson (GBR 797) lead the left pack with Russ Gibbs / Lucy Loughton (GBR 762) and Mark Barns / Simon Reynolds (GBR 799) in hot pursuit. The down wind legs proved very tricky with gusts coming down and angles changing constantly. Wattsy / MJ defended hard but in was Russ / Lucy that took the win in the end.
With the wind slowly shutting down and flicking 45 degrees that race committee made an excellent decision to move the course to the south to ensure race 8 could be held.
Special mention to Russ / Lucy (GBR 762) who challenged the series leaders all day, and also Crispin Taylor / Guy Haril (GBR 789) for their series best results with a 4th and 5th place respectively today.
After today racing sets up the final day for a proper show down by the top 2 boats Nick / Toby (GBR 796) who lead Wattsy / MJ (GBR 797) by only a point. There is still everything to play for and it will be great to watch these teams fight it out tomorrow for the final two races of the series.
by Lissa McMillan
Day 2 of the B14 World Championships at Lake Garda started out looking like a classic “Ora” for Races 3 and 4.
But the reality wasn’t quite like that.
Official word from the race committee was 15 to 18 knots from the South. Eye-witness reports from sailors at the pointy end of the fleet put the wind at between 9 to 28 knots, or at least “well into the 20s!”. There were some very big shifts, and some dangerous doldrums.
Both races were 2 laps of 1.1 nautical miles, stretching the course a bit from the previous day.
In Race 3, the great bulk of the fleet followed the traditional wisdom of heading for the cliffs. Current regatta leaders Nick Craig and Tobytastic Lewis (GBR796) got a great start at the pin, tacked immediately, then went hard right and were never challenged.
At the first bottom gate, 2nd and 3rd placed Aussie boats from the same club were managing to sabotage each other, with Paul Newman and Leigh Dunstan (AUS378) tee-boning compatriots and good mates Craig Garmston and Paul Fleming (AUS375). Both knew each other’s sailing styles so well, they did the same manoeuvre to avoid each other, bringing them closer together. AUS375 managed to stay upright, finishing in 4th, with Mark Watts and Matt Johnson (GBR797) capitalising on the situation, and ending up in 2nd place. AUS378 withdrew from the race and came ashore for some quick repairs.
Meanwhile French team Thierry Llonch and Michael Duflos will have another morning of boatwork as FRA760 was taking on about 20 litres of water in each race. The French are famous for their submarines, but now is not the time to showcase this mode of sailing.
Out in the lead, Nick and Toby got a monstrous gust on the last run, nailing the finish in one gybe and having to drop before the finish so as not to end up in Riva. Nick described it as “wildly windy” At on point on the run Toby asked him to move back a bit, but there was no more boat left!
The high winds proved tricky for several, with not all masts pointing to the sky throughout the whole race. Amy and Dave Roberts (GBR784), newcomers to the class, did a sterling effort to pull off a high-powered gybe heading for the finish. Unfortunately they timed out by a couple of seconds!! But they showed they are quickly gaining the skills to mix it with the fleet.
Race 4 was Wattsie and MJ’s race. They snagged a massive lift up the first beat and at one point were half a leg ahead of the nearest competitor.
Joey Randall and Louis Chapman (AUS78) went for yet another pin-end port start but, despite crossing the fleet spectacularly, ended up with a U-flag disqualification after their impressive 3rd in Race 3.
This time the Malcesine side of the lake was favoured by the fleet, rather than the cliffs of the previous race. But the racing was difficult, with gusts, lulls and significant wind shifts. As well as training fleets of 29ers, Optis and IQfoils, there was the added challenge of the bottom of the course being in the windsurf hire zone! At least one windsurfer ended up strategically capsized in between the gybe marks.
While conditions were varied, they had nothing on the variety of sailors who can be competitive in the B14 class. The boat reacts well no matter the crew size combinations. With rack hiking, it doesn’t matter if it’s the crew or the helm who is bigger, lighter, taller, shorter... This flexibility allows all sorts of pairings to be competitive in this socially active class! There are women sailing on a third of the boats at this regatta, with sailors ranging in age from late teens to nearly 70. The racing is close and exciting with 2nd and 3rd on the same points and 4th to 7th separated by only one point.
It’s also great to see the Race Committee boat is almost exclusively women, led capably by Carla Malavolta. Grazie signore!
by Mark Watts
After the light show the night before and the enforced lockin at the local winebar (whilst waiting for the rain to stop) the fleet were optimistic of sunshine and the legendary Ora for Day 1.
The abbreviated version of the day from roving reporter Leaky
"Race report from behind the scenes (& behind reinforced concrete survival bunker)…..
Yeah. They all went out and used-up all the sensible air…..then, “IT” came. 😬. Quick, RUN FOR THE HILLS!
NO! NOT THE HILLS! Just RUN!………"
The full report..
After holding ashore to ensure we weren't being sent out into a dangerous thunderstorms the fleet headed out into a solid Northerly but the big holes in the breeze were a warming of things to come.
Off the line the fleet split looking for pressure with none of the favourites agreeing. In the end it was Russ Gibbs/Lucy Loughton GBR762 "ASBO" that rang the bell out left to lead round from GBR799 "Seavolution" Mark Barnes/Simon Reynolds
The first run saw a number of teams distracted by the scenery and heading for the cliffs only for the wind to shut down. The big winners "Wonky Donkey" GBR797 Mark Watts/Matt Johnson pulling through to 2nd.
The next beat and run saw plenty of snakes and ladders with ASBO holding on with a lot of place changes behind. The final beat became very patchy with a pack of boats all arriving at the windward mark together and some big losers and gainers.
The last run was super light, at the finish ASBO were pipped to first by Seavolution, recovering from their earlier sightseeing trip to the cliff. GBR 796 "Harken" Nick Craig/Toby Lewis picking some good shifts for third to make it a GBR 123. Behind were a lot of photo finishes in extremely close finishes.
Special mention to GBR 756 Paul Roberts/Guy Raynes "Erectile Distinction" for sticking it out for 2 laps despite their obvious problems…..
The looming thunderstorm meant the next race was for the beach before an opening ceremony accompanied by torrential rain and massive hailstones.
Fingers crossed Day 2 reverts to classic Garda conditions, as the sun sets in beautiful sunshine it looks promising. And if the early socials and close racing are an indicator an epic few days to come.