Tasmania dominated the SAILING Champions League Asia Pacific Southern Qualifier, the state’s two heavyweight teams making the four-boat final and finishing first and second after a thrilling last race that broke a four-way deadlock.

Two days and 27 umpired fleet races on RS21 keelboats off Geelong’s waterfront, an event of the umbrella Festival of Sails, whittled the 12 teams representing Australia’s southern states down to four.

Derwent Sailing Squadron/Sandy Bay Sailing Club’s two teams joined South Australia’s Brighton & Seacliff Yacht Club (BSYC) and Royal Brighton Yacht Club (RBYC) from across the bay for the first to two points final on Monday January 27, 2020 in the best breeze of the series.

DSS/SBSC’s youth team skippered by Will Sargent carried a point advantage into the final and looked red hot to go all the way, but their savvy older clubmates had other ideas, evening the score with a bullet in the opening race.

RBYC 1’s turn came in race 2 and then Brighton & Seacliff’s team, skippered by Alex Higgins who is well known in 420s, made a late charge, winning race 3 to set up a sudden death fourth and final race.

In gusty then light and tricky sou’east breezes for the last downwind leg BSYC owned race 4 until the finish line. The pair crossed side-by-side and all eyes went to the committee boat to call the photo finish. DSS/SSCC 2 (Burnell) had scooped the win over BSYC by centimetres and seconds.

Burnell says his team combined quickly and this, plus his season steering an SB20 back home, “stood me in good stead for a few race finishes”. On those up front he shared: “I’ve sailed with Sam [Tiedemann] and I used to coach Jack [Allison] in cadets, and Chloe’s just an awesome sailor – we are unlucky to lose her to the mainland for Uni. She’s doing the 49er FX worlds next month and hopefully the next Olympics. How good are these guys for keeping a train wreck like me on the rails? All credit goes to the legends in front of me.”

The winning team say they are happy to return to Tasmania and rally more clubs for the next SAILING Champions League – Asia Pacific event. “It’s been fantastic, a lot of friends from Geelong and Tassie who are here at the Festival of Sails are interested. I think it’s going to grow; the concept is good, especially for us younger guys. We’ll happily spread the word back home,” Burnell added.

Brighton & Seacliff Yacht Club’s team were shocked at the result but collected themselves quickly, “Obviously we are a bit disappointed but the opportunity to have such competitive racing has been so much fun,” Higgins said once docked back at Royal Geelong Yacht Club. “It was really tricky on that last downwind, we also had Sarge [Will Sargent, DSS/SBSC 1] coming through. I think we were thinking about too many things. Hats off to Oli, he’s a great sailor and deserves the win. We’ll have to fire up and come back, hopefully we make it to Sydney for the final in April.”

DSS/SBSC 1, also called TAZ Racing Team, finished second overall and the top youth team, Brighton & Seacliff third and RBYC 1, helmed by Finn sailor Oli Tweddell placed fourth. RBYC’s women’s team skippered by Laura Harding took out the women’s category.

The top six open teams from the Southern Qualifier will join the top six from the Northern Qualifier plus invited teams from Asia and the Pacific for a three-day final April 3 – 5 on Sydney Harbour hosted by the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron.

RSYS is the current SAILING Champions League world titleholder after their representative team travelled to St Moritz last August and beat the seasoned Europeans, a surprise result given it was Oceania’s first year of league competition.

Full results for the qualifying races and final series.

The next event on the SCL – Asia Pacific calendar is the Northern Qualifier Hunters Hill Sailing Club will host March 15-16 followed by the first SCL Asia Pacific Women’s & Youth Regatta, an invitational event at Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club over the weekend of March 21-22, 2020.

Lisa Ratcliff
Communications Manager
SAILING Champions League – Asia Pacific

Photos by Beau Outteridge