North Sails success in Australian Sharpie Nationals
North Sails success in Australian Sharpie Nationals
NORTH SAILS SUCCESS IN AUSTRALIAN SHARPIE NATIONALS
Q&A with newly crowned Australian Sharpie class national champion skipper Alex Blacker, who successfully took out the title sporting North Sails.
How does it feel to win your first Sharpie Nationals?
Honestly, it really is the most amazing feeling, there’s people out there that try their whole lives to win one of these, and for us to be able to achieve it so early in our senior sailing careers is just amazing. But also to be able to do it with two of your best mates makes it that much sweeter.
What was your secret to success in this regatta?
I feel like our boat setup, speed, and high/low modes played a huge part in our success in Hobart. Having such a well-tuned platform allowed us to keep our heads out of the boat as much as possible and just watch what was going on all the time. As well as having such a close bond amongst the three of us, we were prepared for all the tricks the River Derwent throws at you and gave ourselves more options right across the race course. The crew work was key, to be able to sail with a couple of your best mates who are all on the same page when it comes to what you want to achieve was critical.
It was a very competitive fleet with a few past champions, were you doing anything different to them?
I wouldn’t say we have done anything drastically different to the other guys, but we’ve really focused on our weaknesses and ironed them out this past year. We also worked really hard on our consistency as we knew coming into this regatta everyone was going to have their fair share of bad races, even the good guys. But we knew if we could keep our heads up and keep pushing through the fleet to a salvageable result in every race, then it would pay off massively by the end of the event.
I assume your crew played a big part in it, tell us about them?
Absolutely, I’ve got Harry Fisher up front, who I’ve been lucky enough to sail in Sharpies with for about four seasons, and for those who haven’t had the pleasure to meet him, he is a legend of the class, having competed in 14 Sharpie nationals over 17 years, starting when he was 14 years old. The knowledge of the class that Harry has brought to the campaign has been unreal. Then on sheets, I’ve got Sean Keen, who has done a bit of sailing with us over the years, but we finally convinced him to jump on with us full-time just more than a year ago. Since coming on board, Sean has brought a lot of energy to the boat as well as a really strategic way of thinking, which has helped us improve our regatta management. He is also a very driven bloke with a wealth of knowledge and is an absolute powerhouse in the middle.
What’s racing on the Derwent like?
I had never sailed on the Derwent before this nationals but now I can happily tick that box. I really enjoyed it, there’s some big shifts and big bends in the wind so there’s always opportunities and passing lanes. There’s also a lot of water movement from the tide and the river so it definitely throws up a lot of challenges, but once you somewhat get your head around it, it can be very rewarding if you sail well.
The top four were very close going into the last race, what was your strategy (for that race), and how did that play out?
Going into the last day, we were just behind the lead, but the second drop was going to kick in after the first race that day, so we had to crunch the numbers on the water. After the second drop kicked in, we ended up taking the regatta lead ahead of Noah Taylor from Canberra heading into the last race. We’d done the math, but we pretty much knew as long as we kept sailing the way we had been all week and we stayed close to the three other boats behind us, we would be fine. We also knew that we couldn’t finish worse than eighth, or else the drops would be recalculated, and Noah would overtake us regardless. The Derwent certainly threw some tricks our way and rounded the top mark about 20th in the last race with Mark Soulsby (third overall) in the leading pack and Noah Taylor (second overall) behind us. We thought to ourselves, the only thing we could control was to try and sail into eighth, keep Noah behind us, and hope Soz (Soulsby) didn’t win the race. It was a short race with only two upwind legs and a downwind finish, so on the last upwind leg we managed to get into a real nice breeze pattern up the guts while everyone else was playing the left. We sailed the race of our lives after that first work and pulled through enough boats to round the top can in eighth. Then from there, we just consolidated our position on the last downwind leg and went through the finish in the same spot.
You are using the North Sails main and jib, what do you like about them?
I’m a huge fan of the North Sails working gear, I find the main very responsive to controls and sheet tension, which has been huge for when we were changing gears. It knuckles up really nicely for when you’re chasing power, and it flattens off and opens up nicely for the really light stuff and the windy conditions. The jib is fairly deep but is super responsive to sheet tension and opens up nicely when the breeze picks up. It’s a really nice sail to drive to and has some wicked grooves as well. It’s also been a pleasure working closely with Sandy Higgins at Binks Marine, our local North Sails agent in South Australia. The work he has done, as well as Andrew Harry in Western Australia, to get North Sails on the pace in the Sharpie class has been really pleasing to be a part of. By jumping on the North Sails program, we have had full confidence in the manufacturing quality that comes with such a reputable brand, combined with the local experience to really ensure we gave ourselves every chance to be as quick as possible this season.
Where to from here? What goals do you have for the future?
All going well, we are keen to lock in to defend our title next year at the Mordialloc Sailing Club in Melbourne. From a Sharpie point of view, it would also be nice to try and snag a State Title, as they are incredibly hard to win against a strong local fleet. There’s also some 505 sailing in the pipeline for me with the Worlds coming up in Adelaide in two years, so I’m sure it’ll be a big couple of years on the water.
Great to catch up with you Alex, and congratulations once again to you and your crew on a great victory; very well deserved!
Upcoming Regatta Repair Schedule
North Sails Certified Service Experts will repair your sails overnight. Our Service van is on-site at select events, offering regatta venue pick-up and drop-off. Tears happen, but they shouldn’t leave you without a key piece of race inventory. Look for our North Sails Certified Service Experts at the following regattas this season. *All pickups will be 4:30-5:30pm and drop offs will be 7:30-8:00am.
NYYC ANNUAL REGATTAJune 9-10 | Sail Newport, The Alofsin Piers
BLOCK ISLAND RACE WEEKJune 17-22 | Block Island Maritime Center
SAIL NEWPORT REGATTAJuly 8 | Sail Newport, The Alofsin Piers
ORC ECC / IC37 NATIONALSJuly 14-15 | The Alofsin Piers
12M WORLDSAugust 1-4 | IYRS Pier
SAFE HARBOR RACE WEEKENDAugust 11-13 | Safe Harbor Newport Shipyard Pickup
NYYC INVITATIONALSeptember 9-16 | New York Yacht Club Harbor Court
IC37 NORTH AMERICANSOctober 6-7 | Sail Newport, The Alofsin Piers
Talk To A Service Expert
North Sails-powered TP52 Crush is victorious in the 700 nautical mile Fremantle to Exmouth Race.
David Davenport’s North Sails powered TP52 Crush has added a third race record to their long list of achievements in 2023, with the latest line honors win taken in the Fremantle Exmouth Race and Rally along Australia’s iconic western coast. North Sails Expert Andrew Harry commended the team’s efforts in the complicated race, “it was a great race for a lot of our clients. It’s the first time that the boat has done this race, and they add another race record to their names.” “Previously this year, they set a new record for the Bunbury return, which is 180nm, and the Cape Naturaliste and Return race which is 210nm, so three race records this year for the team, and all have been standing for quite some time. They won IRC overall in the race as well, which is part of our Bluewater Pointscore and secured the overall win for them this year in the series, so it’s a great win for the guys.” There was another win for North Sails customers in the long-distance race, with Alan Stein winning both the Overall PHF and Division 1 titles in his Pogo 40 called Fat Bottom Girl. “North Sails Expert Kyle Dodds onboard with Alan for the race, as he used to work in the Perth loft and sail with him before moving over to Sydney.” Andrew highlighted the development the team has worked with Alan on recently, saying, “Just three months ago, we put new sails on the boat, including all new 3Di inventory, and it really has transformed the boat. Alan’s really loving the sailing, and in this race, he won PHF, and he was fourth across the line as well. He’s stoked and really happy with the boat’s progress!” Unfortunately for Andrew and the crew on Obsession, they weren’t able to finish the race to Exmouth. “It wasn't the greatest for us, we got 100 nautical miles in and in a bare headed change, the breeze increased to about 35kts and we destroyed our headfoil, so therefore it gave the rig a bit of a shake, so we had to turn around. But the team and I all made our way up to Exmouth so we’re all here to support the rest of the fleet as they come in!” commented Andrew. “The first six hours of the race was really fresh, with easterly breezes between 18 to 38 knots, giving the fleet great power reaching conditions straight up the coast. As they got further north, there were a lot of shutdowns in the breeze, and it got a little trickier and more complex tactically. There was some great sailing going on out there, and everyone had fun with a big smile on their face as they arrived, so all in all, a successful race!” “It’s a great race. It's only the third time it’s been run, so over the last 30 years, it’s typically a long-distance race with a 1500nm around Bali, but as things changed over the past few years, it got moved to the beautiful Exmouth.” See full results from the 2023 Fremantle to Exmouth Race and Rally here.
Fun For Sailors Of All Ages
The Dutch Shoe Marathon is almost a 5-mile race, a long-distance race in the world of 8-foot dinghies. The race starts in between San Diego and Southwestern Yacht Clubs and finishes at the Coronado Yacht Club. Every year almost 200 jr and sr. sailors come to race this fun race. For most of the Jr. sailors ,this will be a challenging and difficult race to complete. We asked rockstar coach Jon Rogers and last year's winner Ronan Servais for some tips.
How do you help prepare competitors for a race like the Dutch Shoe?
It's a long race. The first thing I do is to remember that it is as much an experience as it is a race. I triple check everything during the week before to try and ensure nothing breaks. I also check the weather forecast and tide so that I know what point of sail I will be on mostly on.
Why do you like the T6 mainsail?
The T6 is a good sail to cover all the conditions that we experience. It is especially good in events that have lots of boats and the related disrupted wind and chop that come with that. The T5 is a great sail, especially for smaller kids, but once the conditions get chopped up, the T-6 has a little more power to deal with it.
What is your advice for fuelling up for such a long journey?
I always remind competitors to bring a good amount of food, snacks and something good to drink. It can be a long race and all those little “pick me ups” help keep the mind focused. I tell kids to always bring something sweet that they really like. For me, it’s a frozen Snicker bar. Previous 2022 Dutch Shoe Winner Ronan Servais shares his tips on how to prepare for the race and what he likes most about the North T6 mainsail.
How do you prepare for a race like the Dutch Shoe? It's a long race!
It's a long race, so I get my snacks, fill up my water bottle and make sure my boat is ready to go. Last year my Dad and I reviewed my boat checklist the week before, which included a trip to North Sails, to inspect and pick up my new T6. I also suggest trying to get a good night's sleep and eat a big, healthy breakfast.
Why do you like the T6 mainsail?
I like the T6 mainsail because I go really fast with it. I have two hiking straps in my sabot so I can hike out farther and handle the power of the T6.
Do you bring any snacks with you for such a long journey?
Yes. I like cookies, candy bars and root beer.
What are your sabot sailing goals in 2023?
My sabot sailing goals for 2023 are to move up to Sabot A Fleet, and get a podium finish in an A fleet regatta. I’d also like to compete in the Dick Sweet Team Race for the first time with my SDYC teammates.
What are your future goals in sailing?
I’d like to learn to sail the C420 very well and then win a regatta in the Class.
Stop by the Dutch Shoe Marathon this year at San Diego Yacht Club where you can enter to win a North Sails Pace SUP. Must be present to win. The winner will be drawn and announced at the awards ceremony on July 21st, 2023 at Coronado Yacht Club. Don’t forget, order now and save 15% on Sabot sails plus have your new sail delivered before the Shoe!