The Australian Hobie 14 Class – Cowboy Racing

It’s the merry season Hobie Sailors. The breeze is blowing, the beers will be flowing, and most of all, it’s the time in which we would all be preparing for the Australian Hobie Cat National Championships.

But sadly that’s not the case.

So in the Hobie spirit, we continue on with a sense of positivity and optimism, as we look forward to what is on the cards in the future.

And for the Hobie Family, that will be the 2022 NSW Hobie 14, Women & Youth State Championships, taking place at the Vincentia Sailing Club, in Jervis Bay. So as we edge closer and closer to the NSW Hobie 14 State Championships the question that is on everybody’s mind is this:

Who the bloody hell is going to win?

If you haven’t been living under a Hobie 14 that’s been left out to pasture, you may have witnessed a slight resurgence of the original off-the-beach catamaran in recent years, with numbers steadily building at Hobie events since 2017. This resurgence has brought together sailors, both young and old, experienced and inexperienced, to a number of regattas and club championships over the past few years. We’ve seen Hobie Legends jump back on the bucking broncos for the first time in decades, as well as bringing back individuals that the majority of the Hobie Family haven’t seen for quite some time.

The most notable of these regattas was the ‘The Quinny Regatta’ in early 2021, at the Vincentia Sailing Club (VSC) in Jervis Bay, where 28 Hobie 14s came together on start line to compete in what was some incredible Cowboy Racing. Home-grown sailor, Andrew McKenzie, nabbed the Title by one point over Hobie 14/Turbo legend Mick Butler, with Pat Butler sneaking in with the bronze only a few points behind. On a regular club day at the VSC, it has been said that if you threw a blanket over the trio, you wouldn’t have a clue who’d pop out first.

So, in honour of the extremely tight results we have be seeing from the top end of the Hobie 14 fleet, all the way through the middle and towards those who have just joined the Hobie Family, we thought we’d create a list. A list that ranks our Hobie 14 Sailors, based on the regattas they have competed in, how they placed within the fleet, and how their results and consistency compares to that of the other Hobie 14 Skippers. A list that provides the Hobie Family with an opportunity to speculate, ponder or even wager who may reign supreme in the upcoming NSW Hobie 14 State Championships, the inaugural event of the 2022 Australian Hobie Sailing Season.

Now this list, or we might just say rankings, is up for debate, as it is based off official Hobie regattas that took place throughout 2020 (the year that was) and 2021 (the year that was Part 2.), and have consisted of up to 5 or more Hobie 14s. As such, we encourage speculation and an open mind when you are absorbing these rankings, as one cannot compare the skill of one Skipper to another, if those Skippers have not competed in the same number of events. Additionally, one would expect that by competing in more regattas, a Skipper would be more skilled than their counterpart who has only competed one or two events.

But, is this truly the case? Here is what we can determine…

Firstly, consistency is key. We can see observe from the top three boats, as well as those who have competed in 2-3 regattas, that a consistent performance throughout a number or regattas, varying in fleet size, will always put you in a good position. However, as we look closer at our H14 Skippers, particular the up-and-coming youth superstar, Bryn Robinson-Mills, and Victorian Zak Rowdon, that practicing within a big fleet of boats will pay off in the long run.

As we head down the list to the Skippers competing in 2-3 regattas, we can see the Hobie All-Star Richard Quinn up in the mix of things, along with fellow Vincentians Craig Hatton and Brian Bates consistently placing well throughout multiple events. But who could put past the Victorian Hobie Royalty, Geoff Rowdon, and central coast superstar, Darren Schmidt as one’s to look out for on the start line.

Now observe those Skippers who have competed in only one Hobie 14 event. The Hobie greats from Queensland, Keagy Batesy, Branchy, MacFarlane and Warneke are all the mix of things and could turn the tide of a regatta. And to top it all off, the infamous Gavin Luxton is back on the scene after flying in from England, just in time to snag the Silver medal at the Bad News Regatta in the June of 2021.

As we move down to the very bottom of the list, to the sailors who have “Registered, [and] yet competed”, we find the dark horses. Infamous Hobie Sailors such as Brad Sumner, Peter Manley, Stefan Ochsenbein, and the one and only Upu Kila, as well as the young guns Tait Fortier, Georgii McKenzie and Arbi Watt. These individuals aren’t looking particularly good on paper at this stage, but when observing the oral history of the Australian Hobie 14 class, we can determine that these individuals will certainly stir the pot.

With the vast majority of the 35+ boats entered being refurbished models that were built in the 70s and 80s, thanks to our mates at Hobie Asia Pacific, from mid-2021 there has been an influx of brand-new Hobie 14s hitting our shores from France. These French beauties have been breeding like rabbits, and have been spreading throughout the vastness of the Australian continent for the past 6 months, with boats being spotted in WA, South-East Queensland, as well as on the Central and South-Coast of NSW.

However, we are yet to see how these boats truly compare to the original models that were built in Australia up to 40 years ago.

Will the French vessel best the Aussie pride? Or will the skill of the sailor determine who will reign supreme?

These questions and more will be answered at the 2022 NSW Hobie 14 State Championships in Jervis Bay this January.

Be seeing you all very soon, Cowboy Sailors.