By Neil Stanbury and Rhyss Edwards
Mounts Bay Sailing Club’s Craig Mann finally won his first Western Australia State Sharpie Championships on Sunday in Busselton at his twelfth attempt.
Mann, sailing on Wise Magic with sheethand David Nixon and for’d hand Chris (Moona) Jahn, took out the fourth and final race in strong conditions, edging out brother Dave Mann on Impact by half a point. Four-time State champion Vern Tidy of East Fremantle Yacht Club finished third overall, unable to maintain consistency after securing two wins on the first day.
A 19-strong fleet from four clubs sailed the championships over two days at Geographe Bay, with the sharpies opting to team up with the WA Cherub Association for a joint-States regatta. Four races were sailed on day one in breezes gradually increasing from light to moderate, but the third race was abandoned due to the windward mark drifting badly and lack of a pin-end mark on the finish line.
The fleet woke on day two to gales from Cape Naturaliste. All boats rigged up but with the fronts coming through just nine left the beach to take on the nor-wester steady at 25 knots gusting to 30 at times. Several soon headed back, including series favourite Ash Gabrielson who raced in a borrowed boat after identifying structural issues in Vita Brevis just before the series began. For those still out on the bay, Busselton’s Graham Morris was unlucky to have his rear deck on The Uninvited lifted off after being cleaned up on the stern quarter by Tidy, in an unfortunate mishap. Fortunately, no-one was was injured and the boat will survive to sail again.
Despite getting a start, racing was abandoned due to the high winds, but not before the sharpies put on a heavy-weather clinic for other competitors and spectators watching from shore.
Conditions abated slightly after lunch, allowing eight remaining boats to complete a fourth and final race, two short of the target six in the series.
Tidy went into the final day with two wins under his belt, but a capsize before the start and losing his for’d hand overboard dashed his chances and kicked the door wide open for Wise Magic to steal the series.
For Mann, it was the culmination of years of trying to secure the prize.
“After 12 attempts, three seconds and four different boats we finally fell over the line. Thanks to Dave and Moona for putting up with me,” he said.
David Mann also congratulated his brother for the win, not missing the chance to remind him that Moona was originally meant to be sailing on board his own boat.
A feature of the series was having three talented junior skippers in the fleet, Felix Browning, Riley Nail and Emily Wiltshire, with Emily finishing fourth overall on Vanquish to take the State Junior Title and Best Female Skipper title.
With such emerging talent, and the national series in WA not much more than two years off, the sharpie fleet in the west is flying.