Day 3 National Championships
The Australian 16ft fraternity’s leading FIFO skipper Dave O’Connor is on another hit and run mission, eyeing a second national title after guiding Noakes to back-to-back wins at Manly on Tuesday.
O’Connor and experienced crew Pete Mackie and Ricky Bridge sailed flawlessly in the 15-knot sou’ easterly, leading at each mark in both races to capture two bullets and race to the top of the overall pointscore list at the halfway point of the regatta.
O’Connor won his first Australia crown on Manly Surf n Slide in 2018/19 and could join the elite group of skippers to win nationals at different clubs after linking with Bridge and Mackie at St George.
Remarkably, the trio has not done a lot of sailing together, with Byron Bay-based O’Connor operating like a Fly in Fly out worker when the big races are on. “I was with Trent (Barnabas) and Rob (Napper) at Manly but with the birth of my child I missed the nationals last year and they got Dave Gilmour onboard (IMEI),” O’Connor explained. “They were really happy with him and he’s a remarkable sailor so I jumped on with these guys. “We’ve got a great sponsor in Sean Langman at Noakes and Pete and Ricky are legends of the sport and have probably won 10 nationals between them, so I’m just the lucky guy who gets to step on and steer.”
O’Connor saw plenty of his old crewmates as Noakes and IMEI slugged it out in heat four, the St George entrant eventually pulling away to record a 36-second victory. Belmont’s NHS Building Supplies was third from Red Pumps Red (Tyler Dransfield) and Moonen Yachts (Daniel Turner). Noakes enjoyed a little more breathing space in heat five, comfortably holding off Sail Racing (Felix Grech), SKE Electrical (Scott Babbage), IMEI and NHSBS to clinch its second win as Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance with
Somebody blasted out from the Ladies Day function back at the club.
“We had a really interesting day and to get two wins is great,” O’Connor said. “The three of us are quite heavy so when it’s light we struggle, but when the breeze is up we’re trucking. “As long as we put the boat in the right spot, we seem to go alright.
“These guys have got sailing smarts and we keep our heads and keep it simple.” Noakes badly needed to pull something special out after an ordinary start to the regatta left it chasing the lead pack. They now sit fifth overall and are sure to be threatening for title honours as we reach the back-end of the week.
IMEI is yet to win a heat but consistent top six finishes has it narrowly ahead of Manly clubmate Sail Racing and defending champion Typhoon (Nathan Wilmot) on the scratch pointscore. Moonen Yachts is lurking in fourth from Noakes, Eric’s Storage (Harry Lawson) and Botany Access (Chris Thomas).
Middle Harbour’s Man Flu (Nicholas Stabback) leads handicap honours, Southerly (Zoe Dransfield) heads the female division, Typhoon fronts the masters and Light and Wonder (Matt Meaney) is showing the way in the youth category.
Wednesday has been called a lay day with the regatta resuming on Thursday with heat six and the rescheduled heat one.