Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Wild Oats XI Reclaims Line Honours Crown in Grinders Coffee SOLAS Big Boat Challenge

Despite smart crew work from last year's Line Honours winner Peter Harburg’s Black Jack, it was only a matter of moments before the Oatley Family’s Wild Oats XI exerted her authority to take Line Honours in the 2018 Grinders Coffee SOLAS Big Boat Challenge on Sydney Harbour today.
Wild Oats XI   Photo: Andrea Francolini
Although the breeze was light-on for the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s (CYCA) annual Harbour stoush, the pre-cursor to the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, the racing between these two super maxis was anything but.
Wild Oats XI   Photo: Andrea Francolini
"We were lucky enough to get a great start and that put us in a position to take advantage of the course," said Wild Oats XI skipper Mark Richards.
Mark Richards (WOXI), Jonathan Kerley of Grinders and Sandy Oatley  Photo: Andrea Francolini
"It's always tough racing against Black Jack in lighter air and they certainly kept us on our toes. All crews did a great job on all boats out there today and we are very happy with the Line Honours [Grinders Coffee SOLAS Big Boat Challenge] win," he added.
Black Jack Photo: Andrea Francolini
Behind the pair, Christian Beck’s InfoTrack was slow to wind up but soon picked up pace, meanwhile Seng Huang Lee’s Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag took a leg out to the western shore and seemed to be struggling. As the race wore on, however, third place became a battle of those two as they swapped third and fourth throughout the race, with InfoTrack coming from behind to claim third place.
InfoTrack Photo: Andrea Francolini
Further back from the supers the battle was on between The Oatley Family’s Wild Oats X raced by the all-female Ocean Respect Racing; Winning Appliances skippered by John Winning Jr and Sean Langman’s Naval Group.

Ocean Respect Racing Photo: Andrea Francolini
Winning Appliances got off the start smartly and was third behind the leading super maxis for the bulk of the first leg – perhaps John and John’s 18-foot skiff skills came into play. Winning Appliances kept the pressure on the whole way around the course, sailed in a mostly 8-10 knot sou ‘easterly, to take the Overall Win from Wild Oats XI.
WinningAppliances Photo: Andrea Francolini

"We've sailed around these headlands many times on 18-foot skiffs and we really enjoyed our second outing now on our Hobart challenger," said Winning Appliances skipper John Winning Jr.
WinningAppliances Photo: Andrea Francolini
"We've heard a lot about 'finalising preparations for Boxing Day' but for us, this was our first! We're flying in a lot of our crew from interstate and overseas and we're only going to get better and better from here."
Naval Group Photo: Andrea Francolini
Sean Langman’s Naval Group, on her second outing today, will now be keen to overcome headsail issues, also experienced by Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag and InfoTrack - which ultimately killed all three’s chances of either Line or Overall victories.
Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag Photo: Andrea Francolini
Pundits believe that the result of the Grinders Coffee SOLAS Big Boat Challenge is a forecast of what will happen in the Rolex Sydney Hobart. Competitors will tell you this is not the case, however, as there is a big difference between a short Harbour course and the 628-nautical-mile offshore race to Hobart when many other factors come into play.

This was the 25th running of the Big Boat Challenge which started in 1994 when George Snow’s Brindabella took Line Honours, another yacht with a Sydney Hobart pedigree.

After today’s exhibition of the big-end of the fleet, all eyes now turn to the main event, the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, the ‘Everest’ of Ocean Racing, taking place on Boxing Day.

Di Pearson with DJ Munro

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Asko Claims Victory in Race 3 of NSW Championship

18ft Skiffs, NSW Championship - Race 3
Sunday, 9 December 2018, Sydney Harbour

The Asko Appliances crew of James Dorron, Harry Bethwaite and Kyle Langford came from a seemingly hopeless position to win an incredible Race 3 of the NSW 18ft Skiff Championship on Sydney Harbour today.
Photo: Frank Quealey/18 Foot Skiff League
In a race which saw two leaders capsize while in a race-winning position, Asko Appliances grabbed the lead just 200 metres from the finish line to produce the dramatic 33 second victory.
Photo: Frank Quealey/18 Foot Skiff League
Sean Langman, Ed Powys and Nathan Edwards took the lead, in Noakesailing, with one lap of the North-East course still to sail and looked to have the race won before they capsized at the final wing mark.
Photo: Frank Quealey/18 Foot Skiff League
The Noakesailing team recovered quickly but lost the lead as Asko Appliances powered home on the spinnaker run between Shark Island and the Clark Island finish line off Double Bay.
Photo: Frank Quealey/18 Foot Skiff League
Smeg (Michael Coxon, Ricky Bridge, Mike McKensey) took an early lead and opened up a break of more than one minute 30 seconds at the second windward mark, but the skiff capsized when it hit a wave, and nose dived as the team approached the bottom mark, which left Noakesailing in the lead.
Photo: Frank Quealey/18 Foot Skiff League
Despite losing several minutes in the capsize, the Smeg team recovered brilliantly to finish in third place, just 21 seconds behind Noakesailing. Asko Appliances trailed Smeg to the wing mark off Shark Island on the first run but lost several minutes when they had serious spinnaker trouble.
Photo: Frank Quealey/18 Foot Skiff League
With the fleet racing at top speed behind her, Asko was forced well back in the fleet for the next lap of the course. John Winning's Yandoo continued her consistency when she finished fourth today, and holds the overall lead in the championship with a total of five points, just one point ahead of Asko Appliances.
Photo: Frank Quealey/18 Foot Skiff League
Smeg is third on nine points, followed by The Kitchen Maker-Caesarstone (Jordan Girdis) and Finport Finance (Keagan York) equal on 12, Rag & Famish Hotel (Ben Bradley) 18, and R Marine Pitttwater (Simon Nearn) on 19.
Photo: Frank Quealey/18 Foot Skiff League
The wind and choppy conditions took a toll on the fleet with many competitors capsizing and four teams forced to retire. Despite the spectacle of the first two spectacular spinnaker runs from the Beashel Buoy, the final run was exceptional as spectators were unsure of the likely winner until the very end.
Photo: Frank Quealey/18 Foot Skiff League
Dal Zotto (Jack Sprague) continues to improve each week and the young team showed just how much it has improved with a fifth placing today.

Frank Quealey

Saturday, December 8, 2018

CYCA Trophy Series Underway - Final Lead Up Regatta Before 2018 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race

Day one of the weekend-long Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (CYCA) Trophy Series was underway today with a super competitive line-up making the start on Sydney Harbour. The CYCA Trophy is the last major offshore hit-out for crews preparing for the 628-nautical-mile challenge to come on Boxing Day and with fresh summer nor ‘easterly conditions today, is reminiscent of so many Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Races throughout history.
Hooligan Photo: Hamish Hardy / CYCA Media
Marcus Blackmore’s TP52 Hooligan from Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club led the fleet out of Sydney Heads followed closely by interstate entrant Hugh Ellis’ RP63 Voodoo representing the Ocean Racing Club of Victoria. A little further back Seb Bohm’s Rogers 46 Smuggler, a CYCA racing stalwart, raced head-to-head with Bob Cox’s DK46 Nine Dragons from Middle Harbour Yacht Club on their way out of Sydney Heads.
Chutzpah Photo: Hamish Hardy / CYCA Media
Bruce Taylor’s Caprice 40 Chutzpah, another interstate entrant representing the Royal Yacht Club of Victoria, will be one of the crews looking to get a feel for Sydney conditions leading in to the Great Race. Taylor’s long-term crew are all Rolex Sydney Hobart veterans, however they are yet to step to the top of the podium – something that Taylor, after claiming the Overall Win in this year’s Noakes Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race, very much has on his radar come Boxing Day.
Voodoo Photo: Hamish Hardy / CYCA Media
Les Goodridge’s X50 Wax Lyrical is one of a host of challengers in the CYCA Trophy Series who are fresh from competing in the first five races of the Audi Centre Sydney Blue Water Pointscore. Taking the challenge to them is fellow Audi Centre Sydney BWPS competitors in Charles Cupit’s Sydney 47 Wot’s Next, Tony Walton’s RP46 Hartbreaker and Mark Gorbatov & Mark Siebert’s Beneteau First 40 Blink.

And bringing up the rear of the fleet as they head for the open ocean is the first yacht to have ever raced to Hobart 25 times, the S&S 39 Mark Twain. Now under the ownership of Michael Spies and representing Hamilton Island Yacht Club, the historic boat will once again make its pilgrimage to the Apple Isle this year, this time with a crew boasting over 150 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Races between them.

It was down to the wire with Hooligan and Voodoo at the finish for line honours, but it was the TP52 Hooligan that took the win in IRC Division 1 in today's race. Smuggler is sitting in second ahead of Voodoo in third.

DJ Munro

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Comanche Sails to Fourth Series Line Honours and Breaks Seven Year Record

After capturing the eyes of the world and, more importantly to her team, Line Honours and the new open record for fastest time in the 2017 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race in spectacular fashion, Comanche has backed up with an undeniably dominant performance in this year’s Audi Centre Sydney Blue Water Pointscore (Audi Centre Sydney BWPS) series.
Photo Hamish Hardy / CYCA Media
Five races down and one to go, Jim Cooney & Samantha Grant’s 100-foot racer has not only claimed four Line Honours victories, but three new records in the series considered to be the pinnacle of ocean racing in this country.
Photo Hamish Hardy / CYCA Media
“The team only had four days together on the boat before the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race last year,” said Cooney, who famously purchased Comanche a mere 96 hours before the start.

“This year we have set out to prove the boat’s credentials and have worked hard on our light-air performance and downwind depth. I think that work is now shining through and the team has really come together,” he added.

And with today’s Bird Island Race now behind them, their attention inevitably turns towards the greatest race in the Australian sailing calendar, the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race starting on Boxing Day this year. With five super-maxis entered and an exceptional line-up throughout, it has been described as the toughest fleet in the history of the event.

“These are all top-line boats, and we’re all very, very keen to be first across the line for the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. Three of the super-maxis have won before, and it’s fair to say the top half of Scallywag has won the race before. But it will come down to conditions, it will come down to a bit of luck, everyone will be trying their utmost hardest and all teams have put their preparation in,” said Cooney.

But Comanche wasn’t the only record-breaker on-course today with Peter Harburg’s Black Jack also coming in under time. The previous record, held by Stephen Ainsworth’s RP63 Loki (who now own the race's conventionally ballasted record) was set in 2011, the same year Ainsworth took her to Overall Victory in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.

The Bird Island Race battle continues however, with four-time winner in the Audi Centre Sydney BWPS series so far, Matt Allen’s Botin-designed TP52 Ichi Ban, currently leading the pack. Allen and crew are the current Tattersall Cup holders for Overall Winner in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race and a team that continues to dominate.

And even now, with nine hours of racing behind them, and plenty of miles still to race, ‘we’re winning’ will undoubtedly still be the mantra of the smallest boat in the race, the crowd favourite 'little blue boat’ – Shane Kearns’ S&S 34 Komatsu Azzurro.

DJ Munro

Bird Island Race - Anyone Can Win Shortest and Fastest Audi Centre Sydney Blue Water Pointscore Race

A packed-out boat-end start line in 5-10 knots of building nor ‘east sea breeze this morning saw not only the first day of summer, but the start of the final Audi Centre Sydney Blue Water Pointscore (Audi Centre Sydney BWPS) series before the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. Forty competitors have started in this year’s Bird Island Race, the shortest and fastest of the Audi Centre Sydney BWPS, and with conditions created a level playing field, this year’s race is anyone’s game.
Forty competitors took the line for the Sydney Harbour start of Bird Island Race. Photo: Hamish Hardy, CYCA Media
“We are going to win” said the invariably confident Shane Kearns from his S&S 34 Komatsu Azzurro – the smallest boat in the fleet – before the 1000hrs start.

Kearns’ confidence is so unwavering, in fact, that even as the last boat out of the Sydney Heads and making for Bird Island some 40 nautical miles north, he could still be heard cajoling his crew with “we’re winning, we’re winning.”

Providing strong competition for the smallest boat in the fleet, however, will be some of the largest. Four TP52s: Matt Allen’s Ichi Ban, CYCA Rear Commodore Dr Sam Haynes’ Celestial, Peter Wrigley & Andy Kearnan’s Koa and Matt Donald & Chris Townsend’s Gweilo are currently racing north in that order after an exciting tussle off north head saw the lead change with every cross.

Shadowing them closely is Michael Cranitch’s LC60 Triton, with Hugh Ellis’ RP63 Voodooand Sean Langman’s newly-christened RP 65 Naval Group ahead. All of these teams will be using this race as preparation for their 628-nautical-mile journey to come on Boxing Day.

And no boats will be watching each other more closely than the three super-maxis at the head of the race. Riding the building nor ‘easterly breeze Jim Cooney & Samantha Grant’s Comanche has overtaken Pater Harburg’s lighter-wind-favoured Black Jack as they race past Bateau Bay, only 12 miles from the turning point.

Christian Beck’s InfoTrack, after setting, resetting and setting their sails again down Sydney Harbour is also rising to the occasion, and the building breeze, hunting down their same-sized competitors.

Some very close racing is also being had in the bulk of the fleet with almost three quarters of the competitors spread between just an eight-nautical mile field. This pack including the likes of 2017 Blue Water Pointscore champion Tony Kirby’s Ker 46 Patrice, as well as this year’s Cabbage Tree Island Race winner CYCA Vice Commodore Noel Cornish AM’s Sydney 47 St Jude.

Kevin Whelan’s Reve, another stalwart of CYCA’s racing program, is towards the back of the fleet. With only Komastu Azzurro trailing, the team aboard Reve will surely be spurred on by the almost-incessant ‘we’re winning, we’re winning’ coming across the water from the little blue boat behind.

DJ Munro

Friday, November 30, 2018

CYCA's Bird Island Race Expected to Be Fast and Furious

Race five of the Audi Centre Sydney Blue Water Pointscore series, the Bird Island Race - the final event in the series before the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race - starts this weekend. At 10:00 on Saturday 1 December, a 41-strong fleet takes the line on stunning Sydney Harbour for the 85-nautical-mile drag race, the shortest and fastest of the series.
Photo: David Brogan
With three grand-prix, 100-foot super maxis making their way to the start line, the race to be the first out of Sydney Heads will be hotly contested, especially with Christian Beck’s InfoTrack returning after months of modification and preparation works.
David and Goliath - last year's Bird Island Race Line Honours winner the 100-foot Black Jack dwarfs the last season's BWPS Overall Winner, the Ker 46 Patrice Photo: David Brogan
This race will also draw some new entrants to the Audi Centre Sydney BWPS including Sean Langman’s newly-christened RP65 Naval Group, as well as Rod Wills’ X43 Great Xpectations and Phillip Neil’s Hoek TC78 Oroton Drumfire. These boats will be thrown into the deep end taking on many previous race winners including Matt Allen’s Botin-designed TP52 Ichi Ban and CYCA Vice Commodore Noel Cornish AM’s Sydney 47 St Jude.

“It’s great to see an ever-growing fleet throughout the entire series, there have been new underdogs in each race who could take out a win,” CYCA Sailing Manager Justine Kirkjian said.

“It keeps the competition evolving with teams able to make modifications and then come back stronger than ever to test themselves against the rest of the fleet.”

One team that has been working hard throughout this year’s Audi Centre Sydney BWPS and has so far been able to reap the rewards is last year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart Line Honours winner Jim Cooney’s Comanche team.

“Preparation has been great, we have either been sailing on the boat or working on the boat for the last month. Comanche has been going very well and the crew are comfortable with all the changes we’ve made and we are rearing to go,” said Cooney.

“It’s always good to see how we are going against the other 100-footers, but more importantly it’s about adjusting our mindset to focus on race performance and tactics to make sure we are maximising our trim and making the best sail selection.”

The battle for handicap honours, however, will be in the hands of the weather gods with a light-air start predicted, followed by a building nor ’easterly breeze in the afternoon. These conditions play right into the hands of the lightweight, stripped-out, highly-competitive TP52 racing machines, of which there are four.

For the smaller entrants in to the race including Shane Kearns’ S&S 34 Komatsu Azzurroand Army Sailing Club’s Jarkan 925 Gun Runner the big deciding factor will be how far they are able to make it before the nor ’easterly sea breeze drops as night falls.

Follow the competitors on the Yacht Tracker and keep up to date with all the latest news on the new Audi Centre Sydney Blue Water Pointscore series website, launched this year by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia. Additionally, you can use and follow #AudiCentreSydneyBWPS to stay in touch on social media across the CYCA’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram channels.

Hamish Hardy

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Woody Wins First Race of 18 Foot Skiffs NSW Championship

18ft Skiffs - NSW Championship, Race 1
Sunday, 25 November, 2018 - Sydney Harbour
Photo: Frank Quealey/18 Foot Skiff League
The experienced Yandoo team of John Winning, Seve Jarvin and Mike Kennedy won a dramatic Race 1 of the NSW 18ft Skiff Championship on Sydney Hatbour today.
Photo: Frank Quealey/18 Foot Skiff League
Yandoo took out the race by1m32s from the young The Kitchen Maker-Caesarstone team of Jordan Girdis, Lachlan Doyle and Tom Quigley, with Bing Lee (Micah Lane, Peter Harris, Jack Macartney) a further 40s back in third place.

Finport Finance (Tom Clout) finished in fourth place, followed by Asko Appliances (James Dorron) and Smeg (Michael Coxon),
Photo: Frank Quealey/18 Foot Skiff League
The race began in a light East-South-East breeze with most of the fleet electing to sail to the west of Shark Island to reach the windward mark in Rose Bay. The lone skipper to sail the more regular course (east of Shark Island) was Brett Van Munster in Appliancesonline.com.au.
Photo: Frank Quealey/18 Foot Skiff League
Van Munster's move proved a winner as Appliancesonline led Finport Finance by five seconds in Rose Bay, with John Winning Jr. (Winning Group) in third place.
Photo: Frank Quealey/18 Foot Skiff League
On the long spinnaker run across the harbour to the bottom mark off Robertson Point, Appliancesonline retained the lead over Finport Finance, Smeg and Winning Group, but the race was turned on its head when most of the fleet went around the mark in the wrong direction.
Photo: Frank Quealey/18 Foot Skiff League
It was only when Yandoo, Ilve (Jonathan Whitty), R Marine Pittwater (Simon Nearn) and Bing Lee sailed the correct course that many other teams were forced back to re-round the mark.
Photo: Frank Quealey/18 Foot Skiff League
Finport Finance's crew saw what happened behind them and set a spinnaker to go back while the leading team, Appliancesonline didn't notice and continued to sail the course. When notified by the judge as she crossed the finish line, her crew accepted the decision without complaint.
Photo: Frank Quealey/18 Foot Skiff League
Following the drama, Bing Lee became the new leader at Clark Island then held a 55 second lead after the tight run to Chowder Bay. Yandoo and R Marine Pittwater had a great battle on this run with Yandoo edging out R Marine Pittwater as the fleet headed across the harbour to Rose Bay.
Photo: Frank Quealey/18 Foot Skiff League
Asko Appliances was next, ahead of The Oak Double Bay-4 Pines (James Ward), Quality Marine Clothing (Yvette Heritage), Ilve, Finport Finance and Panasonic Lumix (Katie Love). On the loop from Rose Bay to Taylor Bay, and back to Rose Bay, Yandoo dominated the race and was more than 2mins ahead of The Kitchen Maker-Caesarstone on the final spinnaker run.
Photo: Frank Quealey/18 Foot Skiff League
Finport Finance showed great speed with her big rig over the final two legs of the course and recovered from her earlier problem to finish an impressive fourth.
Frank Quealey