Thanks for this contribution from “casual, unbiased observer” Megan Aulich from the recent Australian J/24 Nationals, hosted by the Cronulla Sailing Club, just south of Sydney Harbour, for a fleet of 18 teams: The last time we towed our boats up the Hume for a National Championship in Cronulla was in 2017. Jack was a new owner of TWO DOGS, and SAILPAC would take out the podium position. This time around, we had a strong contingent from Victoria lining up to compete – BRUSCHETTA VI, JAB, JET, JOYRIDE, POKER FACE and TWO DOGS (plus Brendan Lee jumping on to helm the NSW boat KAOTIC). While some had left their boats to marinate on Magoo’s infamous lawn after the NSW States in November, others made the trek north in the first few days of 2023. Racing was scheduled to run from Thursday 5th to Sunday 8th, January 2023 with an aim to complete a dozen races. Tropical Storm Hughie had other ideas. Racing for Thursday was canceled the day before and replaced with a lunchtime welcome BBQ by our gracious hosts Cronulla Sailing Club. On Friday, crews fronted up to CSC only to eventually have racing abandoned for a second day due to the weather. Suddenly the four-day event had been compressed into a two-day panic session, and the pressure was heaped on. The sacred discard race was no longer a given when there were no guarantees about how many races would (or could) be completed. For those following along on the J/24 Victoria Facebook page, you would have seen some bloody impressive photos (Thanks to Marg’s Yacht Photos) from Saturday. There was a bit going on, so to speak (e.g., it was pretty bloody wild!). While the stories on shore were all quite varied (not surprisingly… sailors tell sea tales?? hahaha), there was consensus that the conditions were at the upper limits for J/24 sailing. Day Three: In Race 1, CONVICTS REVENGE, INNAMINCKA and SAILPAC showed us how it was done, taking out the first three places, respectively. Among the top 10 spots, Team Sandringham YC on TWO DOGS placed fourth, seventh was BRUSCHETTA VI and eighth was JAB. Unfortunately, POKER FACE had to retire after a spectacular wave surf, brisk gybe and unfortunate bump to the head. They were one of four retirements from the race, with EL FIDELDO breaking their mast in two places. In Race 2, the conditions remained challenging with gusts peaking beyond 30 knots at times. Five SYC boats started race 2, but only four made it to the finish line. TWO DOGS were undone by gear failure as their rudder snapped in two on the downwind leg, resulting in some impressive (and involuntary) circle work. BRUSCHETTA, JET and JAB all secured top 10 places in fifth, 7seventh and ninth place, respectively. In the last race for the day (Race 3), there were five SYC starters with BRUSCHETTA taking out fourth place, JET in eighth place and JAB in 10th. Day Four: Sunday would be the day that would make and break hopes and dreams of qualifying for the J/24 Worlds in Greece later in 2023. The sun was shining, and with all crew back on board, POKER FACE was back in the action along with EL DOGGO (Two Dogs + El Fideldo’s rudder) bringing our SYC starters back to six boats. As if the anticipation of getting underway wasn’t enough, sailors endured three false starts (one general recall and two postponements during the sequence) before the dreaded black flag raised its head in Race 4. The stakes were on. All boats played by the rules with a clear start. POKER FACE were early leaders of the race with a cracking start, before TWO DOGS pulled into the lead around the top mark the second time around. They maintained the lead, finishing 27 seconds before second place. BRUSCHETTA wasn’t far behind in third place with POKER FACE (eighth) and JAB (10th) also placing in the top 10. For Race 5, there were some headsail swaps, and Team SYC was getting in the groove. BRUSCHETTA finished second followed by TWO DOGS (third), JET (seventh), JAB (eighth), POKER FACE and JOYRIDE. The last race of the regatta was Race 6. Completing this race would qualify all boats for one drop which was always going to play havoc with the overall places. JAB finished strongly in third place, followed by TWO DOGS (sixth), JET (seventh), BRUSCHETTA (eighth), POKER FACE and JOYRIDE. Despite moments of brilliance across the board, ultimately our friends up north took out the podium spots. After the first three races, Stephen Quigley’s CONVICTS REVENGE posted a 1-3-1 for 5 points to be leading over their friends on SAILPAC skippered by Sean Kirkjian that had posted a 3-1-2 for 6 points. However, the ensuing races saw the CONVICTS lose a bit of their “mojo,” posting an 11-6-2 to close out the championship with 13 points net, sufficient to take the silver medal. Meanwhile, Kirkjian’s SAILPAC crew busted out their can of “whupass” and raced to the overall victory with a mind-numbing 6-1-1 for an 8 points net total score! Rounding out the podium in third place was Stephen Wright’s TINTO. The balance of the top five included Hugo Ottoway’s BRUSCHETTA VI in fourth with 21 points and Brendan Lee’s KAOTIC in fifth place with 26 points. Congratulations to all participants. It was a tricky regatta in conditions that many would not have experienced before on a J/24. Also, congratulations to BRUSCHETTA and TWO DOGS for qualifying for Greece’s 2023 J/24 World Championship. Special mention to JOYRIDE who finished every race in their first interstate national championships. No mean feat! Thank you to the Cronulla SC PRO (John Allan), Cronulla Sailing Club and all those who made us feel at home over the last week. For more Australian J/24 Nationals information, visit http://j24.com.au/.