The Sharpie Nationals – a biannual dinghy boat race for three people – took place in Canberra for the first time this month, and it was a triumph for the local sailors.
Canberra crews from the same family won the national and junior championships, while the locals also took third place.
The 78e The Sharpie Nationals ran from December 28 to January 3. Hosted by the YMCA Sailing Club on Lake Burley Griffin, these were the first Sharpies in two years; the Canberra event was supposed to take place 12 months ago but has been postponed due to COVID-19.
Smoke, skippered by Michael Forster, and crewed by his brother Andy (head gardener at Floriade) and Simon Doherty, won first place.
“It’s pretty amazing,” said Michael. “I’ve never won a national championship before, and it just keeps on flowing! “
The Forster brothers placed second a dozen years ago, at the 2008/09 Australian Championships, held in New South Wales – but only 18 boats competed, and few interstates.
This time, despite the pandemic, 31 boats competed, from all states and territories except WA and NT (14 from ACT) – including two previous national champions.
“It was really good to beat the competition from all over Australia! Said Michel.
Points are accumulated over eight races; whoever has the lowest score wins. Smoke came first in three races and third in two more.
“We have been the most consistent,” said Michael.
The second classified boat, that of Jason Heritage Maelstrom (SA), came in first and second twice, but also scored lower: an 11 and a 13. Smokethe lowest place was the fifth.
Local knowledge was also an advantage; the brothers grew up sailing on Lake Burley Griffin and have sailed here for most of their lives.
“We know the intricacies of the lake,” said Michael.
Some interstate competitors had annoyed the Smoke the crew, saying they would know what to do in the windy conditions.
“We didn’t necessarily know what to do,” said Michael, “but we played the percentages, and were in the right place most of the time, and sailed in the right position at the end of the race.”
Andy Forster’s son Robin (skipper) and daughter Naomi and Michael’s son Josh won the Junior Championships in their boat Priority road, to come 23e overall in their early Sharpies.
Michael said they enjoyed the atmosphere of the event and the competition against highway boats. In ACT, they normally sail with a fleet of half a dozen boats, so sailing with 32 boats was quite a leap.
“They took on this challenge,” said Michael. Their best result was eighth in a race – not a handicap, but on the line. “A pretty good effort, considering the fleet. “
Noah Taylor’s boat Bangin leaves won third place, with three thirds and a second.
Michael Forster and his crew will defend their title at the upcoming Australian Championships, which will be held in Hobart later this year.
The younger generation will also be competing; they bought a newer boat. “I hope they can go even faster! Said Michel.
Until then, Michael said, he and his family will continue to enjoy the sport.
“We love to sail, go out and compete with other boats,” he said. “Being able to sail at your best and hopefully beat the other boats at the same time is what I really love about sailing.”
Sailing, he says, is sometimes mentally difficult and physically taxing. Besides the competition, the weather is also a challenge; the wind conditions are always different, so no race is ever the same.
Michael thanked the interstate and local competitors. “We are grateful that we were able to make it happen and that our interstate competitors were able to attend.”
Besides the competition, it was a lively social event, outdoors under marquees, prepared by the locals.
The Sharpie Championship event was sponsored by the government ACT (via Events ACT), the Yachting Association of the ACT, Capital Brewing Co, Contentious Character Winery, the Canberra Yacht Club – Boat Club, Steve Walker Sails, Hill Sails One Design and Down Under sail.