Feb 24, 2020

WA's Sean Wallis - New Australian Marblehead Champion


Sean Wallis completed a brilliant regatta coming out on top of the field to win the 2020 Australian Marblehead National Championship held in Yarrawonga. Sean's odyssey began with a trip to New Zealand......

A short time prior to the ARYA Nationals, on the New Zealand Radio Sailing website, a Marblehead came up for sale. It was a Grunge, built at Robot Yachts, finished off with BG sails and rigs and the fellow had rarely sailed it. Sean made contact and the deal was done. But, how to get it to WA? The freight was going to be very expensive.

Fortunately for Sean, travel around Australia and New Zealand could be part of his job, so the arrangement was made for Sean to fly over and bring the boat back as luggage. What turned up in Yarrawonga was a brand spanking new M with everything ready to go.

The three day event started with two days of south westerley winds, which blew the weed up the river. The water was reasonably clear, although there was still the odd foul up. Right from the start, the boats which impresed were both the Grunges as well as David Thomas and Lincoln McDowell's new F6. Both were sailing really well - albeit with some fairly accomplished skippers driving them.

Early in the event, Scott Fleming, sailing an F6 showed he would be difficult to beat. Scott has done a lot of work with Dave and Lincoln, and his boat was immaculate. Scott Mitchell also looked like he would be in the mix with his F6.

On the BG side of things, Scott Condie and Andrew Reid showed their experience in M sailing and were pegging away. Kirwan Robb, who is the defending champ and recently crowned Ten Rater champ, hit a few speed bumps on day one, and found himself down the order a bit.

Most of day 1 was sailed in B rig, and the WA boys were reasonably comfortable using the conventional rigs. Glenn had some rudder and steering issues, Denton had a servo breakdown and Simon had a day to forget, losing communication with his boat, having more than his fair share of weed as well as a broken jib sheet and a winch line break. Sean managed to sink his boat after a patch popped. Luckily the water was fresh, and Steve Segemen jumped in to save it before it went under.

On day 2, the wind started out slightly lighter and the swing rigs came out. Well, that was something different for us! A few tips from some of our more experienced M mates from the east, and at least we had rigs that looked OK. It didn't last all that long, and pretty soon the conventional rigs were back. Sean kept in touch with some really good starting and smart sailing.

By the end of day 2, Scott Fleming had the lead, Lincoln was just behind, Kirwan had a good day with three race wins, and Sean was slightly ahead of Scott Condie in fourth. The event was really open and up for the taking.

Day three arrived with light north-easterly winds. All the weed that had blown up the course over the last three days was on its way back! The swing rigs were out again, but there was pressure building. Glenn started the day well - first race in C fleet was a win, then a come from behind win in the B fleet race and a second place finish in the A fleet, with a rig change in there somewhere.

Sean came out of the blocks winning the first race of day 3, while his closest competitors slipped slightly. His scoreline on day 3 would finish up reading 1,1,4,1 which was very impressive. Scott Fleming actually took the lead at the overall end of the second last race by one point. At that time, the wind decided to take a holiday, whilst the last C fleet was racing. The first boat only just made it in the time limit, so the race did not have to be re-sailed.

The B fleet race was also hit by soft to no wind, and it was starting to look a bit doubtful as to whether the last A fleet race would get away on time. Fortunately, a light breeze kicked in which allowed the B race to finish and the A to start. Sean got out off the start line really well and took a narrow lead. Scott Fleming was right on his tail until the top mark the second time, when Sean managed to slip around and take off, whilst Scott was left flopping up and down in the slop with no wind.

Denton and Simon learnt an awful lot about Ms, and will be much better for the outing. Glenn showed glimpses of form with a few seconds and thirds, but a lot to do before being a serious contender.

Sean's performance was impressive. His boat was fast right out of the box, which allowed him to concentrate on starting, tactics and racing. Lincoln finished second, and by his own admission, started badly and spent the regatta catching up. Scott Fleming finished third, but possibly had the fastest boat out there. Kirwan came in fourth and Condie fifth.

The results can be found here: http://www.aryanationals.com/index.php?page=2020-m-results

Some photos of the Champs:

M champs 4

M champs 2

M champs 3

M champs 1