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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Beau Geste Wins NSW IRC Title at Sail Port Stephens

The red shirts have prevailed at the NSW IRC Championship staged over three days under the Pantaenius Sail Port Stephens banner.
Photo:  Craig Greenhill :: Saltwater Images
Karl Kwok’s mighty TP52 Team Beau Geste, sailing for the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, overcame Tony Kirby’s Ker 46 Patrice from the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia in IRC division 1 results by four points. Third was Steven Proud’s Kernan 44 Swish from Middle Harbour Yacht Club.
Photo:  Craig Greenhill :: Saltwater Images
Kwok’s boat captain Gavin Brady and a few of the older heads are breaking in a new young Kiwi team and the whiz kids, resplendent in red, showed plenty of potential.
Photo:  Craig Greenhill :: Saltwater Images
At this evening’s trophy presentation, 24 year-old helmsman Will Tiller described what it was like driving a TP52 at 24 knots of boat speed, the equivalent of 44kph, when the ground’s moving and rising and the wind’s propelling the boat headlong. “It feels manageable as long as everything’s under control. Today was a bit awkward with the big swell, but it still felt good.”

Brady says the biggest lesson the young guys learnt during the state title was seamanship; preserving the boat and thinking ahead, particularly in today’s 3-4 metre swell. “Whether it’s the America’s Cup or Sail Port Stephens you can’t go airborne and break the boat. Then you don’t finish the race. Good seamanship is essential, and often underestimated.”

A natural phenomenon Brady hadn’t encountered in all his years of international competition occurred offshore today when sharks swam downwind with the boat and crossed the TP5’s bow. “I’ve never seen so many sharks…maybe 10…they definitely weren’t dolphins.”

Team Beau Geste is heading to Newcastle for the Audi IRC Australian Championship where there will be more competition, more boat-on-boat racing and more pressure admits Tiller.

Kirby and his “new look” Patrice crew are also looking forward to the rematch. “We had our best race against Beau Geste in the light stuff, one mistake and we were there. At Newcastle there will be other bigger boats and they won’t be able to sail their own race quite as much,” he said smiling.

In division 2 Roger Hickman’s red-shirted Wild Rose crew battled on with a torn mainsail for the final two windward/leeward races to put a regatta-winning eight point margin between the Farr 43 and Paul Clitheroe’s Beneteau 45 Balance, which snuck into second place on corrected time ahead of Andy Kearnan’s Summit 35 L’Altra Donna.

“It was a fantastic, well organised weekend and we loved racing against Paul, the consummate competitor and L’Altra Donna, a very exciting rival,” said Hickman, the new IRC state champion.

On the handbrake that is heading for the bin (he promises) Hickman had this to say, “We finished the first race nursing our torn main then in between races we hand stitched and patched it then three-quarters of the way up the first beat in the next race it blew again. We are pretty resilient. We never say die.”

Aboard for only her second regatta and first notable win was young Sam Scott from the Sunshine Coast, daughter of Andrew Scott who has been to sea with Hickman for the past 12 years. Though wet and cold as they tied up this afternoon the 18 year-old was beaming from ear-to-ear and according to reports proved herself a star, as well as helping to bring the average age of the crew down.

Wild Rose is not far off its 30th birthday celebrations and though the crew will always take the victory, the boat’s age and historical value does take some of the pressure off being all-conquering says the skipper. “Whether we win or lose we have fun, and the old girl’s history is always present.”

In the MC38 fleet Leslie Green’s Ginger crew managed to turn their fortunes around over six races to out-gun their classmates. Two bullets in today’s three windward/leewards were enough to put Ginger onto the podium ahead of John Bacon’s Dark Star, second on a countback, and offset yesterday’s very public sandbar grounding that cost them race two of the series and earned them maximum points, and jibes.

Those lucky enough to be part of the Pantaenius NSW IRC Championship have enjoyed the perfect going-over in a wide variety of conditions prior to Thursday’s commencement of the Audi IRC Australian Championship at Newcastle.

Friday was light, hot and sloppy offshore, Saturday was a heavy inshore day on flat water with rain squalls then sunshine and today, Sunday, April 13, the fleet encountered 15 knots gusting over 20 from the south west and big seas offshore on a grey, wet and very mild autumn day.

Lisa Ratcliff

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