by Di Pearson
The Audi Sydney Offshore Newcastle Yacht Race line honours went to Stephen Ainsworth and his Loki crew from Sydney. They crossed the finish line in the Hunter River at 18.48.23 hours this evening, in the elapsed time of 1 day, 6hrs, 48 mins and 23 secs.
The Loki crew at the Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club tonight (Stephen Ainsworth main back row second from left
Ainsworth, a member of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, which organises the race, said the Reichel/Pugh 63 was pushed to the Hunter River finish in Newcastle 'by the most breeze we've had all race.
'We had a beautiful sail this afternoon when a nice nor’ easter kicked in and we sailed most of the afternoon with the Code Zero. We had a top of 15 knots and the forecast panned out pretty much how the Bureau of Meteorology said it would,' he said tonight at the Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club, which finishes the race.
Once Loki cleared North Head yesterday, Ainsworth said they stuck with ‘Plan A’, putting as much distance between them and the rest of the fleet.
'We went out to sea with our masthead kite and then tried to get inshore as the breeze was dying – and that tactic paid,' Loki’s owner said, of the tactics employed by sailing master Gordon Maguire and navigator Michael Bellingham.
Finding more breeze once they got inshore, Ainsworth said once again they found themselves 'with 0.00 knots at times; it wasn’t fun,' he said.
Along the way, they encountered rain squalls that would reappear and disappear. 'It was very fickle last night with a few rain squalls and zero wind. Yachts were catching us up and then we’d take off again.'
Now the Loki crew has to wait it out to see if they have won the CYCA’s prestigious Blue Water Pointscore, of which the Audi Sydney Offshore Newcastle Yacht Race is the final race.
'We won’t know until the other boats are finished,' Ainsworth conceded, not keen to wager a bet on the likelihood of beating Victoire, Darryl Hodgkinson’s Beneteau First 45. 'It was getting blowy as we were finishing and that will bring the rest of the boats home quickly,' he said.
Currently, Loki leads the race overall, but Roger Hickman’s Farr 43 Wild Rose, Victoire and Tony Kirby’s Patrice Six are sitting in second, third and fourth overall and are coming home quickly in the stronger breeze.
Right on cue, Danny McConville reported from Victoire: 'Heading south now, nice north-east breeze; good sailing. We’re trying to go fast, as we want to beat Loki. It’s been a slow day...'
Pretty Fly III (Colin and Gladys Wood) and Ragamuffin (Syd Fischer) are the next yachts due into Newcastle, 43 and 52 nautical miles respectively from the finish line. The rest of the 17-boat fleet will trickle in throughout tonight and into tomorrow.
The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s 213 nautical mile race has so far tested all entries since the Sydney Harbour start yesterday at midday, with a range of breeze and pressure keeping drivers, tacticians and navigators 100 percent focussed on their respective jobs.
Line honours positions and provisional handicap results can be viewed at any time from the Standings section of the race website.
Official Race website