BALNARRING’S catamaran world champion Robbie Lovig has rivals for best yachtie in the Western Port region – two teenagers he has been coaching for about 14 months.
Michelle Bursa and Chelsea Haynes, both 17, secured a place in the Australian team for the ISAF Youth World Championships in Portugal in July when they won their Hobie 16 class two weeks ago off Blairgowrie and Sorrento on Port Phillip.
Mr Lovig, 29, who with his French crewman Andy Dinsdale won the Hobie Tiger Worlds in Germany last winter, said they were the first-ever female team to represent Australia in the class.
“Michelle and Chelsea have been sailing together for about three years,” he said. “They are childhood friends who lived near each other in Somers. I have been very impressed with their commitment and motivation.
“They have potential to succeed far beyond the youth worlds and could be Olympic sailors.
“They have shown great courage overcoming their weaknesses on the race course and showing male teams what young women can do.”
He said the women won the youth and women’s division at the NSW state titles in December, beating a former women’s world champion and many youth men.
“They also placed very well at the national titles. These boats are very physically demanding so it’s impressive to see the girls master the demands of the boat.”
He said travelling around Australia and internationally was a financially challenging exercise. “Any support would be greatly appreciated.”
Bursa and Haynes will compete at the Hobie 16 open women’s worlds in February in NSW to tune up for the youth regatta.
“I believe they can win this event too. They will be racing against some of the world’s best women sailors including dual Olympian Krystal Weir.”
Mr Lovig said seeing his charges win this month meant more to him than any regatta he had sailed in recently. “As a team, we have worked so hard to achieve this. I’m so proud of them.
The women were introduced to sailing at Somers Yacht Club in their early teens.
They met Lovig in 2012 after a midwinter training sail and accepted his offer of coaching.
He predicted their success when interviewed by The News last August soon after returning victorious from the worlds in Germany.
Lovig and Dinsdale won the 2013 Hobie Multi-Worlds regatta, held in northern Germany last July. This followed Lovig’s third place in the 2012 event.