Some of the fleet after the start at the State Titles in Bundaberg. | Photo Nicole Couley
November 05th, 2020
Well it is official now, at the time of going to press, the green light is on for the first AWCA Weta National Championship to be contested at the Lake Cootharaba Sailing Club from December 28 to January 2. The planning committee is just as relieved as the swarm of sailors who have prepared for the event, can do all their final preparations. (you may know that a Weta is also a Kiwi insect with legs like Weta beams that swarms). The bulk of the fleet are from Qld, but there are growing numbers also coming from NSW and Vic, with SA and WA still to be confirmed.
Ironically, the Covid-19 border drama that hung over the heads of interstate hopefuls trying to head north in December may well have been a factor that has accelerated unprecedented growth in the class here in Australia. When the big gatherings and the large crew numbered boats have been locked up in the marinas, it is the little boats that have been growing the fleets. The Finn for example recently had a resurgence and 37 boats in their state titles. The new Windsurfer LT has a waiting list still of new and old sailors getting buying boards to get back to basics on the water. And when few events were sanctioned during our partial lockdowns in Qld, there were none more surprised than the sailors themselves trying to rig in the midst of a record breaking fleet of 151 dinghy and catamaran entries including 11 Wetas!
The Weta has been around in production from 2006 after Roger Kitchen developed the prototypes in New Zealand. Like many new production boats coming out of China and then Indonesia, it took a while before there was enough of a critical mass to build fleets and strong networks in this country, and also many others. I had always thought they looked a cool little boat so when I had time and a few dollars I dipped my toe in the water a few years back and bought an old boat for a trial. Intended to be just a fast and safe boat for cruising around the bay, I was tempted to go racing with some of the fleet growing at Bundaberg and Lake Cootharaba, and a year later I had updated to a new foam boat. Now the racing bug has me addicted so that my bigger trimaran is getting plenty of time in the paddock.
Although the older boats are still competitive it is the recent changes that have turned the spotlight on the class and ensured that every time I unrig there is another (welcome) sailor asking questions and hoping for a ride. Foam sandwich seamless hulls and a more contemporary looking square top mainsail fills a performance void in the medium breezes now, and the self-tacking jib kit just makes the boat a delight to sail and race. At the recent state titles in Bundaberg, 20+kt winds did not deter the top two sailors in the last heat from engaging in a nip and tuck 15 tack duel to the finish line for a crowd-pleasing dead heat!
The winner of that series, Glenn Foley from Bundaberg Sailing Club, is a nationals winner from other classes and favourite for the Weta nationals, with a few years and kilograms in his favour compared to the bulk of the fleet.
His son Mitchell has taken a few races from dad though and will make it hard for the southerners to get to the podium. Port Kembla Lightweight Sharpie champion Ian Richardson will be aiming to drive his new orange boat between the Foleys again, and a smattering of ex-A class cat sailors like lightweight Cootharaba local Doug Chetwynd will make themselves known in the tactical races. A recent dark-horse welcome to the fleet is multiple national championship division one multihull winner George Owen, who in his first few races has already pushed his way to first around the first mark in his new boat, not named Mad Max this time but WetAsAShag. Gordon Myers, the creator of the foiling trimaran Bare Essentials has just secured one of the last available used boats and is getting plenty of practice hours in also.
The hopeful overseas entries will not get across the water this time, but that will not stop the fleet in excess of 30 boats from lighting up the picturesque waters of Lake Cootharaba.
By Peter Hackett
Multiple state champ and 125 national champ Glenn Foley showing how to float hike upwind. | Photo Nicole Couley
Artist – Faye Boyes