This season’s 2010 J24 Nationals at Sandringham Yacht Club in Melbourne is shaping up for a number of monumental battles.
In the last 6 years, this has been a battle of the Sean’s, with 5 wins between them, 3 to Sean Kirkjian and 2 to Sean Wallis, interestingly all in different boats.
Sean Kirkjian will be sailing Starpac and needs very little introduction to many in the sailing world, based out of Sydney he has achieved notable success in not only J24s in Australia in State and National Championships and in world championships, but also earlier in dinghies and in recent years helming or crewing on big boats such as Shogun, Yendys and Ragamuffin and is one of the youngest skippers every to sail in the Sydney Hobart. He has also won the 07 Sydney 32 One Design Championship and competed in Sydney 38s.
Sean Wallis from Perth and his team sailing Wetty Gripper sailed a brilliant regatta to win the 2009 National Championships last season in Adelaide and then followed that up with a resounding win in the first J24 Asia – Pacific Championship, also held in Adelaide in June 09. Previous to these wins Sean won the 06 Nationals in Melbourne. Sean’s sailing career started early both crewing and skippering International Cadets, winning an SA state championship. He then moved to 420s and Sharpies. He tried golf for a few years, but found he liked sailing better. In 1997 he had his first opportunity to sail a J24 and was hooked back in to sailing and the J24 in particular. In 1999 he was offered an opportunity to sail at the J24 nationals in Lake Macquarie and hasn’t looked back since then. He now finds himself doing his 11th consecutive J24 Nationals. Sean is also very much involved in Radio Sailing in Perth.
Both helmsmen will be out to win the nationals this season, Wallis going for his third title and the defending champion, Kirkjian to establish a dominant position in the J24 Roll of Honour. This is the hard to pick battle, both are very good in strong sea breeze conditions, which Melbourne is likely to turn on.
The other name that turns up twice since 2003 as a winning helmsman is Doug McGain sailing Code Violation from Sydney. Fresh from winning the NSW State titles in November, Doug is a no-nonsense, relentless skipper who is also very much in the fight for this season’s title.
Melbourne’s only previous Nationals winning skipper to be sailing this regatta is Hugo Ottaway, known colloquially in Melbourne as “Mr J24”, Hugo is a awesomely consistent skipper with a strong showing in all weathers, his boat “Vice Versa” has been totally renovated recently with the one aim – to win and go to the worlds. Look out !
But these guys won’t have it all their own way, also from Melbourne is David Suda sailing Pacemaker who is also very capable of winning this regatta. The Pacemaker crew has been together for years and have put in a huge amount of training in all weathers especially the strong sea breezes and are a force to be reckoned with on their home ground.
Also coming from Adelaide, are Alan Stevenson and Peter Stevens, and whilst not expected to win the regatta they are both very good in the similar Adelaide conditions and should be close to the podium if not giving the favoured boats a nasty surprise.