After three days of racing on Lake Illawarra in conditions ranging from calm to a 45knot “Southerly Buster” local windsurfer Russell Jones triumphed to win the coveted Australian & Oceanic Championship for International Class Raceboards.
Jones started the championship in fine fashion with a 2nd place in the only race sailed on a light wind Friday, however Saturday brought entirely different conditions with strong westerly winds favouring nearest rivals Mike Nelson from Wollongong and last year’s champion James Grunfelder from Sydney.
The last race on Saturday started with similar westerly winds but quickly moved to the south west. Jones picked all the wind shifts to sail to a superb win with Nelson in 2nd place. Only 5 windsurfers managed to finish before a dramatic southerly change blew through, turning the lake into a churning mass of breaking waves totally flattening the rest of the fleet.
The crew on the rescue boats braved the 45 knot gusts to ensure all windsurfers were safe. As windsurfing club president and competitor Neil McKinlay commented he had never seen chop as big as that on the lake and that it was like being in the surf at the beach. At the end of Saturday Jones was leading Nelson by a solitary point.
The final days racing on Sunday saw a much subdued wind, blowing gently from the south east. Two races were run with Jones doing just enough with a 3rd and a 5th to win the overall championship. The final tally, allowing for a drop of the worst race, saw Jones winning on 14 points from Grunfelder (15), and Nelson (16).
In the ladies division local windsurfer Alisha Kawalla retained her title from last year ahead of fellow local Judi Nealy. Alisha handled the conditions across the 3 days with her customary skill to beat many of the male competitors with a 5th overall.
Newcastle sailor Byron McIllveen totally dominated the Open class (bigger sails allowed) to record his 9th Australian Open title. Wagga Wagga based windsurfer Damian Candusso easily won the Silver fleet, and local Flying Ant dinghy champion Kaitlyn Middleton switched to windsurfing to win the junior title.
The inaugaural Race Committee's Rising Star award was given to first year racer John Demol, who finished 8th overall in the International division.
All in all an enjoyable event with a full range of conditions