5 SKUD18’s took to Melbourne’s Port Phillip Bay in the Sail Melbourne regatta held in December. This event also served as the first Australian Para Sailing Championships.
Challenging weather conditions only made two days of racing possible across the four-day event. But with two races on Friday and three races on Sunday, all fleets managed to get a good race series in.
The fleet was dominated by Queenslanders with Ross Manning and Maximillion Quan ahead of Neil Rowsthorn and Peter Shepherd in second and Matt Speakmann (QLD) and Emma Bailie (QLD) finished third.
“The inaugural para-sailing championships here in Melbourne have been an absolutely fantastic event and the big thing for us has been the inclusive side of it. We’ve been included just as another fleet, and even in the SKUD18 we are able bodied and disabled sailing together,” Matt Speakman said.
“The big thing for us is to be included, and to be included in this event has been absolutely fantastic. We feel just like any other of the sailors and the skill level required for us to helm our boats and to get our boats around the course are exactly the same as everybody else’s. We have a little bit of adaptive equipment that goes along with that to make it possible for us, but as far as we are concerned, we are just out there like everybody else and having a great time sailing.”
Former Australian Sailing Youth Team representative Emma Bailie agreed, “This fleet is great, it’s got the competition and it’s got the fun side of sailing. These guys have the same determination that is required for any type of sailing, it is very competitive racing, and it’s great to watch and be a part of. Just to see everyone out on the water and being able to enjoy is a really good thing. The Parasailing academy across Australia is really good at that, getting people into sailing and hopefully having them there for a long time.”
It was not all smooth sailing for Spearman and Baillie this Sail Melbourne International regatta though with their 2016 Paralympic Games gold medal winning boat catching fire on the transport down to Melbourne.
“Unfortunately, we had a crazy thing happen on the way down. We think someone threw a cigarette out of the window of a car or a truck, and our boat caught fire, which was a real shame. It was the gold medal winning boat from the Rio Paralympic Games, that Dan (Fitzgibbon) and Liesl (Tesch) sailed and sadly that boat was completely destroyed,” Spearman recapped the events on the way to Sail Melbourne.
“Liesl is aware of what has happened, and she is quite devastated about it obviously. I am devastated too, as I was so proud to be sailing that boat up in Queensland, being the gold medal boat. Thankfully we got some great support and ‘Sailing for Everyone Foundation’ and Hansa Sailing came on board and lent us a boat so we actually managed to get down in time for our first race. At least we will also be able to continue the SKUD18 program of the Queensland para-sailing program, which is a good thing.”