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Festival of Sails – The wheel that turned

by John Curnow on 25 Jan 2013
The Melges 24, Bandit, had an awesome day out there. - Festival of Sails © Andrea Francolini Photography http://www.afrancolini.com/
And then yes, it turned once more, with a touch of feeling, too!
Yes it was blowing hard this morning in Geelong and Melbourne as well. 40 knots worth, actually. It was enough to postpone the start of the annual passage race from Melbourne to Geelong until 1145hrs.


Down at Geelong, the Audi IRC Australian Championship fleet got away on their long race under gloomy skies and something like 15 to 18 knots out of the West. Division One would complete a 50nm race out the channel in to the middle of Port Phillip, whereas Divisions Two and Three stopped at Portarlington and completed 30nm.


It would go down to just 10 knots before clocking around to a classic Sou’wester and then virtually immediately climb back to a traditional fresh to frightening, 25 to 30 knots and sometimes even higher. The doom and gloom, as well as washed out sky were then replaced by striking light, waves and bluster as yet another wheel made a turn. This also allowed many crews to have their own moment in the sun, and change their own fortunes.


One such lucky crew were Hooligan, who after spending 15 minutes parked in the sandy mud off Point Henry, then did the buffalo girls (go round the outside) and leapt back in to the ‘village’ of TPs by races end with a third place. It has to be said that the crew’s diligence and efforts to get Hooligan firstly spun on her axis (keel) and then sailed off were both commendable and good to witness.

Terry Wetton from Hooligan commented, ‘We’re really happy to still be atop of the series scoreboard. It was a good save and then lots of hard work that got us back into it. There is still a long way to run and yes, having four points up our sleeve is really great, as there is still a lot of regatta to go. Definitely looking forward to tomorrow’s windward/leeward racing…’

Shogun V did well, despite going bareheaded for sometime and finished in second place, just two minutes behind the day’s winner, Calm 2. The latter is in third place for the series, two points adrift of Shogun V and six astern of the leader, Hooligan.

As expected in Division Two, Leslie Green’s MC38, Ginger, showed all where the marks were. Despite finishing two minutes ahead of second place, Ikon and sixteen ahead of the Farr 40, Local Mocean, Ginger would be relegated to last place and now sits in fifth place for the series. Three of the Beneteau First 45s occupy the stage as a result of their day’s efforts. In third is Senna, then Reverie and atop the table it is still Ikon.


Bruce McCracken from Ikon said, ‘The local boat, Senna, did really well today. We had plenty of wind. Up to 36knots at one stage, which stayed in for a while, but most of the time it was more like 25s. All in all it was a good challenge and the family is still all talking to each other.’

We love it when it blows up a bit. Our family have all grown up sailing. It sorts out the thinking processes and we’re having a lovely chat about it all now at a Beneteau First 45 gathering at Alan Woodward’s (Reverie) apartment, overlooking Corio Bay as the passage race fleet come in.’

Asked about the final calculations, Bruce finished by saying, Thank you. We’ll do our best to keep up the good work and hopefully stay on top.’


In Division Three we cannot say, ‘the all-conquering Executive Decision’, as we do not want to put a hex on them. So in second place today it was Wild Rose and then in third, Invincible from Tasmania. Archie, also from Tasmania, holds third place in the series and Roger Hickman’s Wild Rose is second, three points in front, but five behind ‘those we cannot mention’.


Elsewhere in the myriad of events that make up the Festival of Sails, nearly 250 vessels finally got away in an Easterly breeze of around five knots, just before midday. Things changed from there as that wheel turned and an hour and half later it was low 30s from the South. There were more than 20 retirees and three masts did not stand up to it as chaos started to reign supreme. Freestyle, Champion and Rising Sun will have serious trips to the rigger posted as their result of the day.

The Sport Boats completed a Corio Bay course of 18nm today and it was won by Circus School. Most notably here, they had a forestay issue occur at about 30 minutes in, which their bowman then repaired by utilising a screwdriver to replace a lost pin. Despite letting a lot of the fleet sail by, they came back for a win and so, we have yet another wheel that turned.

Without doubt, the vessels that got everyone stirred up were the Melges 24s. They had three races today and will be tired. Whilst upwind may be onerous at best, off the breeze these little craft are electric and really show how best to achieve the now de rigueur, stacking of the windward quarter.

Northshore Marine lead the fleet at the day’s beginning, but Bandit, now on equal points, but clear on countback leads as of tonight. These two vessels had an awesome day out there and would often be many hundreds of metres in front of their nearest rivals, as is evidenced by the nearly three minute gaps in elapsed times around the course.
Northshore Marine did not have a great time in Race Five and finished fourth. This was a result of going back through the line when they were not either of the two vessels called for an Individual Recall that did not return and were subsequently listed as OCS.

Ross Wilson was the Race Officer on the course and he said, ‘Well it was bumpy where we were, but it was all fine in the end. We had 15 knots when we started, after resetting the course and did three laps of the track. It went to 16-20 knots for race two and it was 20-24 for race three, which we lengthened the track for, but reduced it to just the two laps.’

Well done to all crews, race management and especially the myriad of volunteers that help to make an event like this possible. See festivalofsails.com.au for more information.


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