Northshore Marine claimed victory in the 2013 Melges 24 Australian Championships in Geelong by the narrowest of margins, marking the end of an era for the class that’s been dominated by Bandit for the past two years. In 2014 the Melges 24 World Championship will be sailed during the Festival of Sails at this same venue.
It was less than a perfect performance on day four at the Festival of Sails for Northshore Marine’s skipper Chris Links, who posted his worst result of the regatta in the final race, placing sixth in the mild conditions, an 8-10 knot sou’easter on Corio Bay. Luckily he had claimed the win in the first race of two.
With one drop allowed, Links’ crew broke a two-way-tie with Kevin Nixon’s all-family crew aboard Accru to finish just one point ahead on 21 and secure the Parks Victoria Melges 24 Australian Trophy.
Just three points separated the top three teams, with former champions Bandit, skippered by Warwick Rooklyn, rounding out the podium finishers with 23 points.
The Northshore Marine crew will now turn their sights to the Melges 24 world titles that will be hosted by the Royal Geelong Yacht Club in January 2014.
'In that last race it was hard not to think about the results, but we didn't ever give up, we always thought we could come back,’’ Northshore Marine crewman Heath Walters said.
'We were just ecstatic with the overall result. It’s fantastic how close it is, it just shows the quality of the fleet and that can only get better ahead of the worlds.'
The four-day regatta has made for the perfect test bed for race officials ahead of hosting the world’s best.
The Australian Melges 24 Class Association president Warwick Rooklyn said it would be the first time the fleet’s worlds have been contested in the Southern Hemisphere.
'It’s a big coup for Australia, for Geelong and the Royal Geelong Yacht Club,’’ he said. 'To back it up to the Festival of Sails is a great thing.'
Competitors from America, Italy and Japan have already expressed interest in competing in the event that attracts some of the world’s greatest sailing champions.
While it’s been great for the Australian teams to race in Corio Bay over the Australia Day weekend, Rooklyn doubts it would give any advantage come next year.
by Danielle McKay