RACE NEWS – Australian sport is in turmoil with the drug scandal story that has broken this week. Meanwhile off Sandringham Yacht Club there was plenty of good clean fun being had by the eight boats and 100 sailors who jumpstarted their TP52 Southern Cross Cup today.
With sunny summer skies and the eastern shore of Port Phillip and the Melbourne city skyline to the north back dropping racing, Principal Race Officer Denis Thompson completed three races and was able to throw a downwind start in the mix for race two, a decision that turned results on their head.
Hong Kong based Karl Kwok’s Chinese New Year commitments have kept him from competing in the inaugural Australian TP52 Southern Cross Cup, but his presence is strong thanks to the excellent results his Kiwi crew on Team Beau Geste posted on day one.
Two seconds and a first have given the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club registered Team Beau Geste, originally Bribon, an early three point break. Tactician John Cutler and an all-star New Zealand crew led by Gavin Brady and broken up by a single “token” Aussie, Cam Ward, have given the locals something to ponder.
“It was an interesting day,” said Brady dockside this afternoon at the club. “Downwind starts are the great equaliser whether you are starting a short course race, a Sydney Hobart or a Volvo Ocean Race. Hopefully the older generation TPs had a good day and enjoyed the middle race.
“Today wasn’t so much about boat speed; it was about starts, crew work, tactics and manoeuvres.”
As a concept, Brady is fully behind the TP52 Southern Cross Cup. “This has got to be the future of the sport. Instead of 12 hour sailing days owners spend half a day on the water, which means they can work in the morning, be back at the dock around 3 o’clock and have dinner with the family.”
Jason Van Der Slot’s Calm 2, one of the local favourites, settled in early and sits second on the pointscore this evening. Barney Walker was steering and Matthew Turner calling the shots and the combo worked brilliantly in race one and three, their two wins putting them near the top of the points table with two days and plenty of life left in this class battle.
“We had really great racing with Team Beau Geste and Hooligan, we all had our noses in front at one point,” said Turner post-racing. “Trying to herd them up one side of the course was challenging. Our crew did an awesome job today and the mood was constant. We have been sailing together for 12 months and we have focused heavily on teamwork. Now the results will show.”
Marcus Blackmore’s Hooligan from Sydney is third by one point after recording three thirds. They enjoyed some one-on-one time with Brady and Beau Geste, the pair going tack-for-tack as the America’s Cup contingent on both boats showed off their match racing prowess.
Cutler was circumspect about their controlling tactics. “If you are out in front, you’ve got to get your elbows out. You can’t underestimate the competition here.”
Race one began in a light southerly and by mid-race a course change was necessary thanks to a 40 degree wind shift left. As the afternoon progressed the slow building sou’easter reached nine knots, the average was 7-8 knots over the day.
Noticeably absent from the top results at the close of racing was Rob Hanna’s Shogun, Hanna admitting this afternoon he’s had better days.
A good spectator fleet was on the water enjoying the action, including Sydney Hobart warhorse Bacardi, formerly owned by John Williams who was at the helm of his current boat, the TP52 Calm, which is contesting the new series. With all the carbon fibre on the track, the only ‘wood’ belonged to the lovely classic boats which rimmed the course area off SYC commented one spectator.
Round-the-world solo sailor Jessica Watson took in some of the action late this afternoon.
Tomorrow will be a fine-tune of today for Thompson and his team. The owners will be consulted tonight and at tomorrow’s owners’ breakfast on how they found day one, and minor tweaks may be incorporated.
Tomorrow’s forecast is for variable winds tending north-westerly to 10 knots during the morning. The breeze is likely to tend southerly during the afternoon and increase to 15 to 20 knots, which will up the tempo on today’s gentle regatta start.
By Lisa Ratcliff