Report by Andy Rice
Arthur Brett steered Uncle Bob just ahead of Jamie Hilton's Tyson at the finish of the final race to win the ACO Musto Skiff Australian Championship by a hair's breadth. The two contenders probably didn't even know they were in a fight for the title, but Brett found a gust from heaven on the final run of snakes and ladders, and it was enough to carry the Australian past the Scotsman who had fallen out of the best of the breeze. Brett surged across the line just a boatlength ahead of his rival, narrowly averting the embarrassment of a Pom winning the Aussie Nationals.
Perhaps neither of the front two would have won had Brett Morris managed to hold on to a decent score in the concluding race. Yesterday in the one light race of the day, Morris surprised himself to drift across the line in first place. Today the Port Melbourne competitor proved that Saturday's performance was no fluke as he motored up the first beat of the first race in 10 to 12 knots of shifty breeze to take a significant lead at the first mark.
While Morris relinquished the lead to Thor Schoenhoff for a good chunk of the two-lap race, Morris stole it back by the finish, to go 1,1 in the series. All he had to do was score a solid race in the top 10 and the title would be his, racing the Musto Skiff in only his second season. But what did for Hilton - the patchiness of the gusts and lulls on the final run - also did for Morris; sailing defensively down the middle of the course proved to be the least safe tactic as boats passed him from both extremes of the course. A 24th place relegated Morris off the lead and off the podium altogether, with third place going to fellow Australian Paul Newman. Any disappointment for Morris missing out on the Australian title was replaced by the thrill of winning two heats in a world-class field.
Asked what his plan for the World Championships was, Morris smiled: ""Just make sure I don't capsize! That's all I'm focusing on, and if I can do that I'll be happy.""
Paul Newman's brother Jon might have been in the chocolates but for falling foul of the sudden-death U Flag for starting too soon in today's first race. The outgoing Australian Musto Skiff Champion and former World Musto Skiff Champion in Perth in 2014 made amends in the final race by winning it, but that costly disqualification meant Jon only managed 17th overall.
This evening Blairgowrie Yacht Squadron is putting on a slap-up feed for the international competitors who can let their hair down knowing there's a day off before the big battle begins on Tuesday 9 January, day one of the ACO 9th MUSTO Skiff World Championship.