Event Report – Ask Huey Woolgoolga classic

This north coast event is always a favourite having delivered great sailing conditions for 4 out of the last 5 years. Flat Top Island at Woolgoolga offers superb down the line wave sailing in southerly winds as well as a northeast option for summer seabreezes. The forecast for this event was exceptional with an intense low pressure system promising 29 knot winds and rising seas over the 3 days of the October long weekend.

There was a healthy turn out of competitors for all divisions at registration. This included a couple of first timers who had also made the long drive north; Andreas and Zac who were competing in the Amateurs and Youth divisions respectively. Despite clear skies a potential seabreeze never materialised so competitors used the time to catch up, go surfing or use their stand up paddle boards. Tony Marsh from Ask Huey, the event sponsor, also brought his new V8 ute.  Ask Huey has been a long time windsurfing sponsor and has also made a recent successful venture into V8 Ute racing. At 11:00am the event was put on hold until 9:00 the following day. Competitors met up later in the afternoon to watch the Rugby World Cup and then move on to NSW WA curry night. The lessons for this night were; never lose faith in England and don’t insult the owner of the local Indian restaurant.

Sunday’s sailing conditions were much more on target with the forecast.  Southwest winds were building with some 2’-3’ clean set waves rolling in. Many competitors took the chance to go free sailing before official competition began. The judges began with the Juniors/Youth and Ladies division as the first heat of the day.  As the waves were a little scarce and the wind was quite offshore, heats were extended to 20 minutes. Young Jake Juretic showed his clear talent to ride waves to win this division. Zac Coleman also showed signs of promise however, he struggled to find the waves he needed. Jess Juretic was as enthusiastic as ever while Alex Lucek tested his new JP wave board.

The first round of each division was also successfully run including two heats of Masters. Alan Bailey picked off the biggest set of the day to advance straight to the Masters final. Rob Graham in the second heat used his supersized quad from Nude to also skip Round 2 and join Alan in the final. The Amateurs enjoyed the conditions although as the heat progressed waves become scarcer. Unfortunately for the Pro’s heat the wind died within the opening minutes leaving them up to the knees and struggling. However, Dan Berry on his brand new JP Quad showed that he is still a class competitor taking an early lead before the heat was abandoned. As the rain settled in, competition was eventually postponed with strong winds anticipated for the final day, Monday.

Competitors met up that night at the Seaview tavern for the NSW WA Presentation and to watch the League Grand Final. Plenty of prizes were on offer from Ask Huey. NSW WA provided all competitors with a free voucher for the excellent meal deal offered by the Seaview. With the anticipation of Round 2 and Finals the following day most competitors took it easy and had an early night.

As predicted, strong southerly winds through the night had whipped up angry seas at Flat Top.  Duncan Osborne, on his new Hot Sails Maui 5.8m launched into the maelstrom of building 2 metre waves and strong, gusty southerly winds. He showed that conditions were potentially contestable as well as repeatedly hitting the peak rather than taking the safe options and straight-lining into the beach. The first reaction of most sailors was quiet apprehension while others rigged to get some quick practice runs before Round 2 began.

As the tide rose, the confused seas settled somewhat and some predictable peaks began to form on the outer sand banks. However, huge mast high sets were pounding the middle of the main beach together with a nasty shore-break and strong rips. Careful positioning was needed to catch the better sets and avoid the closeouts.  The Pros was called as the first heat of the day. Andrew Morris, sporting new Naish Boxers on his Fanatic Quad, offered serious competition in this division as well as Olli Barta, who was also fully decked out with new Naish sails and boards.  New NSW WA President Adrien Gacon had stepped up into the Pros division rode his Exocet tri-fin with Maui sails, along with Duncan Osborne who was also a new Pro level sailor. Dan Berry showed his experience in testing conditions to take the win, combining exciting wave riding with a high cheese roll for his jump score. This was despite serious challenge from Olli determined to take the biggest waves of the day and the aggressive sailing from Duncan.

The Amateurs final comprised Ben Kirk, Adam Lowenstien and local hot shot, Stephen Wooley who brought his famous 70ltr ‘flying fish’ board out of semi-retirement for the event. Stephen looked comfortable in the testing conditions to take the win. Ben used long wave rides and good competition strategy to land his first table top jump in completion to move into second place. Adam sailed courageously by selecting the bigger waves towards the middle of the beach. However this tactic earned him a couple long swim biting deeply into the available heat time.

The most contested division, the Masters was a very close fought with 2 sailors from Round 2 advancing to the Final with Rob Graham and Alan Bailey. Mike Preswick, Dave Stafford, Jason Juretic and Warren Holder each focussed on their waves and tried avoid some of the dead patches of wind. Worst wipe-out of the day was Dave who pulled off the back of a logo high wave on the outer bank only to gybe straight into a mast set which just mowed him down. He recovered after a long swim and his gear escaped unscathed. Mike took the sensible option and stayed well upwind to keep out of trouble. Despite Warren’s deep bottom turns, fluid cutbacks and small aerials, Jason Juretic took the win over by selecting the larger set waves and adding a clean high jump to his scorecard.

The Masters’ final was contested in the most challenging conditions of the day, fading winds and large seas.  With half an hour to score 3 waves and a jump, good contest strategy as well as great sailing skills, were needed.  Unfortunately Warren retired hurt suffering the effects of a corked thigh from an earlier heat leaving Rob and Jason to challenge for the top spot.  Jason gybed on to a great set wave and after a series of carving turns narrowly avoided a heavy closeout to score highly. Rob had moved to his 99 twin fin for more manoeuvrability. He consistently targeted the larger sets forming up towards the middle of the beach. Jason’s second wave was almost too big as he found himself behind a heavy section that proved difficult to get around. Unfortunately  the ramps and necessary wind did not appear as both sailors needed good jump scores. In the end it was Rob’s final wave of the heat which got him a narrow win. After bottom turning deep into the throat of a logo high barrelling set wave he pulled off a fluid series of carves and top turns right to the beach. Both competitors finished their heat exhausted.

This was a terrific event that provided challenging conditions which truly tested the all-round wave sailing skills of competitors. Many competitors took on the difficult conditions being inspired by their peers. Those on the water could often hear the cheers from the judges’ tent as they finished their heats. Often there was someone close by to help carry gear, give advice or mere words of encouragement. This feeling of support and camaraderie is a great part of NSW WA and a great part of the scene.

A big thanks to everyone who made  that event possible and to Ask Huey and Tony Marsh to be there once again to support that event.

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