176th Australia Day Regatta - Sydney Hobart yachts excel

Classic Yachts division 2 start - Australia Day Regatta 2012
Brindabella, Fidelis and Quest, past line honours winners and an overall winner of the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, excelled in their respective fleets of the 176th Australia Day Regatta.

Yachties celebrated the national day afloat on Sydney Harbour and on an historic stretch of ocean between Sydney and Botany Bay.

Back in 1788, the First Fleet sailed north from Botany Bay to Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour) to establish the Colony of New South Wales and today a fleet of modern ocean racing yachts retraced that fleet’s coastal course, in the Australia Day Regatta race for the City of Sydney Sesquicentenary Cup.

On Sydney Harbour yachts old and new, small and large contested the traditional Australia Day Regatta, held continuously now for 176 years and as such, the oldest sailing regatta in the world.

Bob Steel’s TP52 Quest, overall winner of the 2008 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race led the fleet home, fast reaching up the Harbour under her powerful Code 0 sail. Close astern of her came Brindabella, line honours winner of the ocean classic back in 1997.

On the Harbour in the historic 176th Australia Day Regatta itself, the 1966 Sydney Hobart line honours winner Fidelis led home the fleet after a sail around fixed marks on what is traditionally a race enjoyed by family and friends as well as regular racing crews. Fidelis did sail a shorter course in the non-spinnaker divisions with fastest time in the spinnaker divisions going to Sydney, owned by 176th Australia Day Regatta president Charles Curran.

Helming Sydney today on behalf of Curran, whose duties as president kept him busy as host aboard the Flagship HMAS Sydney, was David Kellett, the treasurer of the International Sailing Federation (ISAF).

However, neither of the big boats figured in corrected time results on a day of light easterly winds on the harbour and even lighter offshore. On the Harbour 84 keelboats and historical skiffs raced, with nearly all completing the course.

Early rain reduced the number of spectator craft, but the Sydney Harbour ferries again put on a spectacular Ferrython and four Tall Ships added nostalgia.

'A light easterly came in just as the first boats were ready to start and the sun shone brightly throughout a warm summer’s afternoon,' reported Australia Day Regatta management committee chairman John Jeremy.

'Three RAAF F-18s gave a wonderful display over the harbour, the Army’s Red Berets did a spectacular parachute jump into Farm Cove, while a Navy Seahawk provided a search-and-rescue display,' Jeremy said. 'All in all, it was a wonderful day to celebrate Australia Day 2012.'

The Australia Day Regatta is always attracts a magnificent line-up of Classic Yachts, some a century old, and today 27 old timers competed in two divisions.

Fidelis, Nigel Stoke’s 60-footer which took line honours in the 1966 Sydney Hobart, sailed a splendid race to take line honours and third place on corrected time in Classic Yachts division 1. The winner was David Mandelberg’s Tanami, second place going to Ian Kortlang’s metre-style boat, Antara.

Division 2 went to Cherub, owned by Mark Pearse and Peter Scot, second to Antares (R Keesen & D Wood), third to Tamaris (Greg and Brian Sproule).

Spinnaker division 1 saw a win for Philip Grove’s Huntress from Larki Missiris’ Wild One, with Charles Curran’s Sydney third. In division 2, first place went to Hickup (Bill Ure) after a close duel around the course with Balmain Tiger (Brian Wood). Third place went to Allen Mather’s Akela.

Well-known Sydney Amateur Sailing Club member Herschel Smith won division 3 with Shambles, second place going to Joka (Cec Williams) and third to the Yngling class yacht, Karma (Gary Wogas).

The non-spinnaker divisions are always strongly supported on Australia Day, with division 1 going to One More – No More, skippered by Ian Guanaria, from Lahara II (Glenn Crane) and Nocturne (Gerard Kesby). In division 2, Kaleula (Chris Warren) won corrected time from Slips (David Kinsey) and Mid Wicket (Stephen Churn).

It was a long, long day for some competitors, and certainly for the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s race team as they ran the Australia Day Regatta race to Botany Bay and return for the City of Sydney Sesquicentenary Cup. The race started from Sydney Harbour at 11am and the last of the 44 starters in all divisions crossed the finish line back in Rushcutters Bay at 7.49pm.

The City of Sydney Cup is decided on PHS results with the Cup going to AFR Midnight Rambler, Ed Psaltis’ Ker 40. Runner-up was Paul Clitheroe’s Balance, third Stephen Thomas’ Blackadder. Of the 24 starters in the City of Sydney Cup, seven boat did not finish.

The City of Sydney Cup was run in conjunction with the CYCA’s Grant Thornton Short Ocean Pointcore and while most boats in the Australia Day event also are contesting the SOPS, results in this series also include IRC scoring in two divisions.

The Grant Thornton Short Haul fleet also raced to Botany Bay and return, and sailing in light winds without the use of spinnakers, their day at sea was protracted.

Under IRC scoring for the SOPS, AFR Midnight Rambler won Division 1 from Quest and Balance, while Out of Sight (Mike Wilkinson) was the only finisher in Division 1 IRC.

Top three PHS results for the Grant Thornton series were identical to the City of Sydney Cup results in Division 1. In Division 2, Limelight (Alan Husband) won from Outlandish (Sean Barrett) and Alpha Carinae (Damian Barker).

Only two boats completed the course in the Grant Thornton Short Haul race to Botany Bay and return, with Attitude (Robert Hunt) winning from Trim (Shaaron Walsh). Attitude was the last boat to finish at 7.49pm giving the boat an elapsed time of 8 hours 39 minutes.

Historical skiff under full sail in the 2012 Australia Day Regatta
Peter Campbell

Quest in action at the Australia Day Regatta