Back in 2015, the Sydney 38s held their annual one design national championships. Prior to the event, the organisers decided to email some of the Sydney 36 boat owners to ask them if they wanted to compete in their own division. The data base of contacts to choose from wasn’t great and the turnout not much better with only five boats competing. Pete Franki’s Saltshaker was the overall winner.
The crew, relishing their win and able to call themselves Sydney 36 champions were hungry for more. When the Sydney 38 International Championship was to be held again in Sydney’s waters in March 2017 in conjunction with Middle Harbour Sydney Regatta, I (a member of the Saltshaker crew) contacted the Sydney 38 committee back in early October 2016 asking about the Sydney 36 division.
It wasn’t to be they said....unless someone could pick up the reigns (or should I say sheets) and be prepared to get the division up and running. It would need at least 6 boats entered for the Sydney 36s to have their own start line.
And so the challenge was on.
After extensive research into all the Sydney 36s in Australia’s waters, I began contacting them all, some may say hassling them all, to get them to commit to the event. By the end of January, there were just 2 boats committed, but slowly and surely they started to roll in. One week before the start, the Sydney 36s Championships had 12 boats entered, as many as the Sydney 38s. The Sydney 36 Championship regatta was on.
The event was held over 2 days, Saturday 4 March and Sunday 5 March. It was a windward/leeward course, up to 3 races per day with a maximum of 6 races. As not all boats were IRC rated, it was an EHC rating with the race committee deciding the rating for those without IRC. The race was to be held off shore, with the start line off south head.
You can plan a lot of things when it comes to sailing, except for the weather. And the Sydney 36 Championships had it all: rain, wind and lots of sea swell. The race committee kept Saturday’s racing in the heads with the start line in the vicinity of Manly. Two boats decided not to compete, leaving 10 for the first race.
With a clean start for all boats, the first race went to Ed Psaltis’ Midnight Rambler, Jack Stenning and Colin Gunn’s Stormaway in second place and Pete Franki’s Saltshaker in third. The wind continued to build through the day, with the second race claiming two more retirees and two over the line at the start. The race results reflected the first race with Ed Psaltis’ Midnight Rambler claiming the top spot again. After the two races on Saturday, Midnight Rambler was leading the event with two points and was always going to be tough competition to beat.
There was no reprieve in the weather for the second day of the regatta, with Sunday’s forecast much the same as Saturday’s. The day saw two more retires with only 8 boats on the start line. This time the races were held off shore, with a start line off Macquarie lighthouse.
The first race of Sunday saw a win for Andrew Hurt’s Onya, a second for Midnight Rambler and a third for Stormaway. As the winds continued to build, we saw more boats deciding not to compete. In an unusual turn of events, race four saw Midnight Rambler having to do a 360 just after the start, but that didn’t stop her taking another first for the race, with Saltshaker in second and Onya in third.
By race five, the last race of the day the wind had built to 32-35 knots and there was only 4 boats remaining in the competition. It was another convincing win for Midnight Rambler who were the overall winners of the 2017 Sydney 36 Championships. Saltshaker claimed a second and Damian Barker’s Alpha Carinea who also managed to survive all the races, third place. Alpha Carinea had a better day off shore on Sunday than their results on Saturday. Damian Barker said he had a challenging but rewarding day offshore on Sunday which at least beat dodging ferries in a big well off the heads on Saturday. Overall he said they were very happy with their result all things considered.
At the end of the race, I spoke to the overall Sydney 36 Champion, Ed Psaltis, a veteran Hobart sailor, who said, “It was pretty tough out there,” and “5-10 knots less and a bit less rain would have been nice”. But he also went onto say that his crew worked hard from start to finish and they all just kept going, whatever conditions the weather gods threw at them. With the boats being thrown around in the condition between the races, there wasn’t a moment to rest. His final comment was that there certainly was never a dull moment... I think all taking part can agree with that!
The next Sydney 36 Championship will be held in 2019 in NSW waters. Let’s hope that the weather is slightly more favourable and who knows maybe there will be one more Sydney 36 !