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Robberg Fine Foods Hobie 16 Nationals Plett – all hands on deck!
The Robberg Fine Foods Hobie 16 Nationals held in Plettenberg Bay from the 17th-20th December almost didn’t happen! Just three days before the event was scheduled to kick off, its fate hung in the balance, with the President shutting down all beaches in the Garden Route.
While sailing is one of the most socially-distant, Covid-safe sports possible, it requires rigging and launching from Plett’s beautiful Hobie beach, which was officially closed to the public for recreational purposes.
Hobie sailors are by nature a positive bunch who nevertheless travelled from across the country to participate eagerly in what had become one of the only national sailing events held all year, and the first Hobie 16 nationals held in Plett in twenty five years.
As their catamaran trailers made their way down national and regional roads, with two teams coming from as far as Tanzania, careful negotiations with municipal and district officials and assurances by the organisers of extra Covid safety protocols, championed by the ever-enthusiastic Plett Tourism, under the watchful and helpful eye of municipal police officers, saw the event getting the green light the day before the start.
Sponsors, Robberg Fine Foods, Barringtons, Clemengold, Choice Properties, the Bungalow, and Parrot Products ensured that the event was well funded, along with the generous support of the local boating fraternity and holiday volunteers, as well as officials from Knysna Yacht Club. Together their support in time and resources meant the ambitious event could take place in a year when little else was otherwise possible.
The fleet was an especially competitive one, with the country’s top Hobie sailors – including Plett world champions Blaine Dodds and William Edwards joined by another world champion Shaun Ferry from Cape Town – tested by some tricky weather conditions that prevailed over four days of fabulous sailing.
After the tense will-it-won’t-it-proceed debates, Thursday rewarded the sailors with a clear day and a light Southerly wind, and options to seek out the breeze close to land or head further offshore. After three races, there was little to separate the front runners, but William and Lucinda Edwards made their local knowledge count and ended top of the log establishing themselves as early favourites.
On the second day, a brisk 10-12 knot South-Easterly kicked up a 3 metre swell and the long rolling break on the beach made for especially challenging launching conditions. But nothing keeps a Hobie sailor down, and the top coastal teams helped launch the fleet through the surf without incident. It was tough on the bodies and the boats out on the water, with crews struggling to stay up on trapeze in the wet, bouncy conditions. This saw quite a few capsizes and some boats limped back to shore with breakages. After another three races, Team Edwards held on to their lead.
Saturday saw a lighter Southerly 8-10 knot breeze and calmer seas which enabled the Race Committee to hold a further four races, with Cape Town team Paul and Jayden Lagesse taking over as new leaders.
An overcast start on the last day with a light 6-8 knot South Easterly saw three final races.
William and Lucinda Edwards emerged as deserved overall winners to ensure the National Championship trophy fittingly resides in Plettenberg Bay for the next year. They were followed closely by Paul and Jayden Lagesse in second place, Shaun Ferry and Alison Ball in third, and Blaine and Roxanne Dodds in fourth. Penny Alison and Heather Wares, all the way from Tanzania, won the Women’s Team Trophy.
The Regatta showed the value of team work, behind the scenes, on the sea, and across the Plettenberg Bay community in one of the most trying years in history, with enthusiasm and old fashioned doggedness trumping all.
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