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Journeys : RACT MNJ June July 2010
Several times a week at Sandy Bay Beach during Hobart's extended summer evenings, young Hobart sailors can be found participating in the surprisingly cut-throat sport of team sailing. Youngsters from an egalitarian cross-section of Hobart schools for m themselves into school teams of six sailors, sailing three identical dinghies per team. The action is frenetic -- imagine three- dimensional sailboat racing on steroids, or floating chess, with sailing dinghies as the knights and bishops. The boats are colour-coded so crews can instantly recognise team mates and each race takes only five or six minutes. Boat handling becomes second nature as crews connive their way around a start, four mark- roundings and a finish. It isn't just about getting around the course as fast as possible -- blocking opponents to allow your own team to improve is part of the game. Break a rule of sailing? Let the Sandy Bay Sailing Club's on-water umpires decide the punishment -- crews regularly and vocally call for umpires to decide the fate of their opponents. Verbal shenanigans are all a part of the weaponry available -- spectators close by are often treated to a high level of 'argy-bargy' between the young sailors. This is action-packed sailing at its best -- and the kids love it! School team sailing is gaining in popularity right around the country. A National Championship is held every year, with the two top teams from each state competing for the right to represent Australia against New Zealand in the Interdominion Challenge. Tasm anian team s are regularly selected to represent Australia. Participants hail from a variety of Hobart schools. The utilitarian nature of the boats means that the best sailors, working together as a team, will carry the day. Some of Hobart's girls' schools have fielded team s in the competition over many seasons. The all-girl crews compete equally with male crews. Younger students often act as crew for more experienced skippers. While success can be measured simply by finishing positions, there is much more to be gained other than simple race results. Team sailing gives girls an opportunity to work together, to for m relationships with younger students and represent their school in a sport that allows them to compete equally with their m ale counterparts from other schools. Apart from being a serious mental and physical challenge, team sailing offers the opportunity for boys and girls to push themselves beyond their nor mal comfort zone. And as some of our photos show, Hobart's often notorious weather can make simply getting around the course a serious challenge for the kids! Racing takes place in identical fibreglass Pacer dinghies provided by Yachting Tasmania. Sandy Bay Sailing Club houses the boats and hosts the racing. Pacers are ideal craft for the purpose, being roomy and relatively stable, with a surprising tur n of speed. They present a real challenge for younger sailors, while the more experienced throw the boats around on the water in often alarming fashion, using the boats as offensive weapon s and belying the traditionally genteel image that many outsiders may have of dinghy racing. A visit to Nutgrove Beach at Sandy Bay during one of these events is a treat for any casual obser ver. It's an opportunity to see Tasmanian youngsters showing off all of their best qualities -- sportsmanship, co-operation, enthusiasm and the sheer joy of participating in something clean, healthy and completely egalitarian. Above: Mount Carmel College sailors Molly Rasmussen (left) and Charlotte Stennard (right) leaving the water on a miserable Hobart evening. The faces say it all! In Tasmania today 43 June /July 2010
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