Beneath a stunning blue sky with perfect sailing weather at 15 knots, the McCrae Yacht Club is hosting the Contender World Championships.
RPP FM’s Phil & Paula and our OB team were onsite with thanks to sponsor Red Hill Baker in Balnarring.
The regatta is raced over five days – beginning Sunday 21 Jan and finishing on Thursday 25 Jan – competitors come from all over the world to vie for the title.
Despite the 91 entries from eight countries including America, Canada, Italy and the U.K., the defending World Champion is an Australian – Jason Beebe (Royal Qld Yacht Club). He is ambivalent when it comes to defending his title saying his goal is to simply enjoy the event. “Where else would I rather spend a week? Yachting is a great sport and easy to get into – with just twenty thousand you can by a boat and enjoy these beautiful waters and great camaraderie that comes with sailing.”
McCrae boy Mark Bulka is currently second place in the title race and whispers around the clubhouse hope that his local knowledge of the conditions could help him be first across the line.
These sleek Contender boats were designed by yachting legend Ben Lexcen and are made of fibreglass or timber. The timber boats are all made in Italy and are finished with a high gloss. Contender boats feature a trapeze system off the back of the boat making it a highly visual and exciting race for competitors and viewers alike.
Phil & Paula spoke with the Treasurer of the Contender Association, Scott Munro. He said, “Mark Bulka and another local Scott Cunningham all train together and push each other along and will be highly competitive.”
Each competitor wears an electronic GPS device that tracks them on the water and tallies their score and the overall scores of each Contender boat. The GPS broadcasts the position in real time and viewers can log on to contenders.sailracer.org, select a race and watch real time GPS streaming of all races globally. The GPS is streamed live in the McCrae Yacht Clubhouse. This GPS is also a safety device ensuring any sailors who go overboard are easily located.
Simon Lovesey from England runs the Sailracer system. He has been tracking contestants for six years. “Thousands of people watch the World Championships, Etchells, Dragon and Techno Windsurfers through the Sailracer tracker site – it’s a hugely popular system.”
John Rowntree is the Chairman of Judges for the regatta and will oversee the racing from a rules perspective. He joined Phil & Paula and was open about his role in the recent Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race that saw a protest from LDV Comanche against winner Wild Oats x1. After hearing the evidence and long deliberations, the judges (including John) stripped Wild Oats x1 of its title – for failure to keep clear of its rival. The judges then applied a 60-minute penalty thus awarding the race to LDV Comanche.
The Contender World Championships wrap up on Thursday and people are welcome to come down to McCrae Yacht Club and cheer on the locals then head to Red Hill Baker for a delicious meal.
Post Script: Local boy Mark Bulka snared the Championship with Queenslander Jason Beebe second place!
RPPFM streamed Sunday’s race live to its YOUTUBE channel.
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Words & Pics: Honi McNaughton