Dramatic Finish to the 16’Skiff National Championships
A broken rudder pin worth around $20 left one boat heart-broken and another ecstatic as the Australian 16ft Championships ended in the same dramatic way they started at Manly on Saturday.
St George entrant Noakes (Dave O’Connor) looked set for the club’s first national title in 25 years as it sat eight places ahead of nearest rival Typhoon (Nathan Wilmot) with three-quarters of the final race done. But in another reminder to take nothing for granted in sailing, Noakes took a swim and resurfaced to find its rudder pin out. Crew member Pete Mackie did his best to repair the damage while treading water, but the task proved impossible and the boat and devastated crew required a tow back to the beach.
Typhoon couldn’t believe its luck, slowly moving its way through the pack to finish ninth and secure a second successive national title and a win for Manly in the club’s 100th year. “We went into Grotto and a big Pro-Dive boat went through and we tacked and capsized the boat,” Noakes’ Ricky Bridge explained. “We tried to get going but the pin had come out of the bottom gudgeon. “I’m not sure how it happened – it’s the one that got away but what do you do? “You’ve just got to deal with it.”
While it was pure devastation in the Noakes camp, it was all smiles 200m away as Typhoon celebrated one of the great escapes. “The whole race we were just working as hard as we could thinking anything could happen,” Wilmot said. “We had a drop to fall back on and they didn’t so we kept chipping away and in the end it worked for us. “It’s a shame it ended that way for them because they’re a really good bunch of blokes and had a good week. We definitely got a bit lucky there.”
Noakes won four heats but an 18th, a 32nd and, ultimately, a DNF cruelled its hopes. Typhoon finished seven points clear of clubmate Moonen Yachts (Daniel Turner) with Noakes third, Belmont’s SKE Electrical (Scott Babbage) fourth and IMEI (Dave Gilmour) from Manly in fifth. The Craig Nicholls-owned Typhoon enjoyed six top five finishes but started the last day three points in arrears of Noakes. It needed a minor miracle – and was duly delivered one.
Wilmot, bowman Mal Page and stand-in sheethand Zac Barnabas, who came out of semi-retirement just two weeks ago to help the team, were swarmed by well-wishers as they celebrated with a freshly tapped keg of beer at the boatshed. Page, an Olympic champion like Wilmot, has seen plenty in his time in sailing but still looked slightly shocked at how it all unfolded. He said: “It was a weird race. Noakes had it in the bag really until that equipment failure. “It’s very unfortunate for them but I’ve always said good luck and bad luck is dealt out equally throughout the week and maybe life was paying us back in some way. “I do feel for the Noakes boys because you don’t want to necessarily win like that, but you take your breaks in sailing when you get them. “It’s been great working with ‘Ed’ (Nicholls) and I’m so happy for him and happy we were able to deliver Manly a national title in their 100th year.”
For Barnabas, who had a year off sailing to concentrate on his burgeoning rugby career, this was a pinch yourself moment. “I was a last-minute call up and to be able to sail with these guys and win a nationals is incredible,” he said. “I couldn’t say no to them and I’m glad I didn’t.”
The handicap win was some slight consolation for Noakes, the St George boys finishing on top ahead of MH44 (Eva Attwood) from Middle Harbour, Manly’s Cunninghams (Nick Connor) and Eric’s Storage (Harry Lawson). Manly’s Southerly (Zoe Dransfield) won the 16s female division, Typhoon took out the masters and Belmont’s Light and Wonder topped the youth category.
By Adam Lucius