Glamour is in attendance for the 2022 16ft Skiff Australian Championship on January 2-8 as host of Olympic champions will be featured in the 47-strong fleet on Lake Macquarie.
Most attention will be on the all-star crew of the borrowed skiff Fluid, with Nathan Outteridge helming, Tom Slingsby on sheet, and Iain ‘Goobs’ Jensen manning the bow. They’re rivals on the SailGP circuit, representing Japan, Australia, and Great Britain respectively, but close mates off the water.
Elsewhere in the fleet are Rio Laser gold medalist Tom Burton, now helming his own skiff Knighton Group at host club Belmont 16s. He’s defending the title won last season as sheethand on River Wild.
Legends of the 470 class, Nathan Wilmot and Malcolm Page, are reacquainted aboard Ronstan (ex-Growthbuilt), with Lake sailor Brett Davis on sheet and providing local knowledge. Wilmot and Page claimed gold at Beijing in 2008, then Page repeated the feat with Mat Belcher at London 2012.
Outteridge and Jensen won 49er gold at the same 2012 Games and silver at Rio, along with multiple world championships. Outteridge recently joined Team New Zealand for the next America’s Cup defense.
Slingsby, recently named World Sailor of the Year for the second time, won his Laser gold in 2012, having claimed six world titles in the preceding years. He admits, laughingly, that a 16ft skiff isn’t his natural territory – whereas driving F50s at 50 knots is.
“Obviously trapezing isn’t my strong point. Really I’m providing a bit of entertainment for Nath and Goobs, who are probably two of the best there’s ever been,” Slingsby says.
“It’s super-impressive to see how their dynamic works. They know what each other’s thinking, so it’s an honor for me to sail with these guys. We’re having a laugh as well, because we’re not here to set the world on fire.”
Competing in the Red Pumps-sponsored 16ft Skiff Australian Championships began as a pipe dream but crystalized when the trio were watching a recent Belmont club race. “We thought, ‘why not?’,” Slingsby adds. “It’s rare that we’re all in the same country and don’t have a commitment.
“We’ve got a lot of friends in the class – my brother-in-law is Joel Castle and I’m good mates with Jamie Woods from East Coast Marine, as well as Scott Babbage (SKE Electrical), Daniel Turner (Moonen Yachts), and lots of others. We’ve always followed the class and watched the results.
“Aside from that, Nathan, Iain, and I have been talking for a while about sailing together. We’ve competed against each other for years – in Nathan and my case, around 30 years. Fortunately, Clint Bowen and Phil Harmer offered up their boat and within a few days it was happening.”
Outteridge is also relishing the chance to sail with his mates in such a strong fleet.
“We’ll only get five or six training days together before the nationals, so we’re trying to work out what we’ve got with the rigs and our roles,” he says, acknowledging the choice of skipper was a tough one.
“It came down to kilos and I’m the lightest person on the boat. Tom has done a bit of trapping before in the A-Class but I’m calling him ‘Twinkle Toes’ because he’s really graceful. It’s just good fun.”
All agree that an Olympic pedigree doesn’t translate to instant success in the 16s, albeit the Ronstan crew recently handed the Belmont fleet a sailing lesson on their own course in a club championship race.
Malcolm Page argues other boats have enjoyed superior preparations.
“Do we have a realistic chance? I guess we do, but I feel others have more of a chance because they’ve done more work and sailed more,” he said in a Manly 16s report. “A lot has to go right for us and I wouldn’t like to go in with high expectations.
“It’s sport and there’s nowhere to hide. You need to be good, be well prepared and have some luck.”
Source: Mark Rothfield