Two crews of 2 RPAYC sailors, Fletcher Walters, Jack Hildebrand, Oscar Verity and Ellis Merrett, made the journey to Wangi Wangi Sailing Club on the western shores of Lake Macquarie on the weekend of 24 and 25 of November to participate in the first round of the NSW 29er championship. The regatta was only the second for the boys, having only spent a few months in the 29er after graduating from the Optimist (and Laser for Jack) at the end of last season.
Plans to do an afternoon training run on the Lake a day prior were thwarted by a howling 30+ knot wind, which continued well into the evening. Saturday morning was still quite fresh, but calmed significantly to a 10-12kn westerly for the start of racing. The first race got off on time. At the first mark, Oscar and Ellis were right up in the leading pack, positioned 5th in a fleet of 17. While they couldn’t maintain the pace, finishing 12th behind Jack and Fletcher’s 10th, it immediately showed just how far the two crews had come since the State Youth Championships in late September. A wind shift to the south saw a course change for the completion of 3 more races on day 1. At the end of day one results of 10th, 13th, 12th and 9th had Jack and Fletch in the running for a top 10 finish, while similar results and an OCS in race 4 meant Oscar and Ellis were reliant on a drop and some good results on Day 2.
Day 2 started with still conditions, which then built to a consistent and gradually strengthening 10kn westerly for the scheduled start of racing. Jack and Fletch got out of the blocks early, posting a 7th in race 5 and followed up with an 11th and a 14th. Oscar and Ellis were consistent during the day in posting two 12th and a 13th. At the end of the regatta, the two teams finished within a place of each other in 12th and 13th and were well in touch with the much more experienced fleet at only 5-10% off the pace of the top 3 placing boats, two of which are currently ranked No. 2 and No. 6 in the world. it was an excellent regatta for both crews, illustrating the huge gains both crews had made over the past months of training, underpinned by some excellent coaching from Jim Colley and a healthy rivalry that has developed between them.