TOP competitors in one of sailing’s fastest growing classes will descend on Melville Waters next year


The Viper 640 with its big downwind sail is crewed by three people.
The Viper 640 with its big downwind sail is crewed by three people.

TOP competitors in one of sailing’s fastest growing classes will descend on Melville Waters next year when the South of Perth Yacht Club (SOPYC) hosts the first ever Viper 640 World Championship Regatta in February.

Lightweight, trailerable and measuring just 6.4m in length, the Viper 640 is exploding in popularity around the globe and became a recognised World Sailing class in November last year.

A cross between a skiff dinghy and a keelboat, Vipers provide the stability of keelboat sailing with the excitement of dinghy sailing and can reach speeds of up to 40km/h.

More than 40 Vipers, some coming from as far away as the US and Europe, are expected to compete in next year’s World Championship, which will also feature a strong contingent of Perth sailors.

World Match Racing Tour veteran and SOPYC member Keith Swinton finished fourth at the Viper 640 International Championship last year and is likely to compete in next February’s World Championship Regatta alongside Bruce Mattinson.

Other local sailors taking part include Rod Beurteaux, Murray Howson and young guns Matt Jerwood, Conor Nicholas and Lachie Gilham, while reigning World Champion Zeke Horowitz (USA) is also expected to make the trip.

SOPYC sailing development officer Mikael Lundh said conditions on the Swan River were well suited to Viper racing.

“The boats have big downwind sails called gennakers so they can really take advantage of the sea breeze,” he said.

“They are usually crewed by three people and it’s quite a physically challenging boat, so after three 40- minute races you feel like you’ve had a big day.”

Lundh said there were already a dozen Vipers sailing out of SOPYC and that the class was rapidly attracting interest all over Australia.

“More boats are on the way and there is very strong interest from a variety of local sailors – both men and women – due to the fast-paced sailing action and the fact the boats only cost around $30,000 including sails,” he said.

SOPYC Commodore Mark Nicholas said the club was excited about hosting next year’s event and that the Viper was likely to become a core class in the future.

The Viper 640 World Championship Regatta will run from February 17 to 23 next year.