Audi Victoria Race high winds wreak havoc on Portarlington Race fleet

A splash of colour in the Portarlington Race - Audi Victoria Week 2011
Audi Victoria Race Week Portarlington Race was cold, colourful and extremely windy, causing mayhem and damage to a number of yachts, including one dismasting and ruined spinnakers and reputations.

Most of all, the breeze provided a fast spinnaker run off the start; the 241 participating boats providing a colourful and breathtaking viewing for those shoreside and others following the race by boat.

Mocean crew member Aaron Brighton gave a synopsis of the day in general. 'There were lots of wipe-outs, especially around Wilsons Channel where it gusted 30 knots at times.

'I saw a sports boat lose its mast, another boat lost its rudder, someone else wrapped their spinnaker and sheet around the forestay – and on and on it went,' said Brighton whose crew finished 16th in the Performance Division 1 today.

Brighton, a regular on local Murray 41 which represents Royal Geelong Yacht Club, said when they saw the carnage in the Channel, 'we dropped our kite, but some around us didn’t and paid the penalty,' he said.

Spinnakers weren’t the only thing providing a bit of ‘colour’. In the fresh, gusty winds, many had trouble controlling their yachts and there were a number of ‘wipeout’ moments, with involuntary gybes, round ups and running aground all on the menu.

Most were able for the 13-17 knot start, but when winds got up in the 18-22 knot range midway through the race, the trouble started.

Darren Pickering, the skipper of the Hick 30, SixFootSix Larriken2 (Vic) which finished sixth in Performance AMS Division 1, gave a photo snapshot of the view.

'We carried our big masthead chute till we got to Drysdale, when our lookout told us that spinnakers were being turned to flags behind us, like they’d been through a shredding machine,' Pickering said.

'Then I saw a Thompson boat drop its rig and decided it was time for the bullet-proof fractional kite. Lots of boats dropped their kites and sailed under jib, wanting to play it safe.

'When we turned the corner for home it was horrible – a hard beat all the way. It wasn’t helped by the fact our bowman forgot to shut the front hatch. Below decks was soaking wet, including our sandwiches and the great sausage rolls my wife made especially. We’ll probably kill him,' he said laughing.

The return journey to the finish line on Corio Bay was uncomfortable but less fraught with danger; a cold, slow upwind slog. Competitors returned home looking forward to a hot shower and a hot meal. Most had a few stories to tell.

The Audi Performance divisions, S80s, Super 30s, Noelex 30s, Bluebirds, Classic Yachts and the massive four divisions of Cruising Yachts, featuring 159 boats in spinnaker and non-spinnaker categories, sailed today’s race.

It was the Blairgowrie Adams 10s brigade that cleaned up in the Super 30s, with Mischa Leonard’s Another Fine Mess coming home for a three minute win over Andrew Clark’s 2Xtreme and Peter Southwell’s Ten Past Too. The fourth Blairgowrie boat, Bo Derek (Greg Rowland) ran aground and finished seventh.

'The four of us were pretty even until we went up the channel and Bo Derek (my old boat that sank in the Passage Race last year) ran aground, broke a halyard and lost her spinnaker,' said Ten Past Too’s owner Peter Southwell.

'Shortly after, I looked behind and saw all the round-ups and damage being done, so we dropped our kite, but the top two kept theirs up and finished first and second,' he said.

Marshall Gibbs sailed the best of the Bluebird’s with Secret, Mark Holter’s Silver Cloud came out on top in the Noelex 30’s, while the Outlaw Gang syndicate took over to win the S80 division with – Outlaw!

Royal Geelong Yacht Club race officials fired the S80’s away first at 10.25am and the last of the classes, he Cruising Non-Spinnaker, roamed the pre-start area until their signal got them started at 10.45am, sending them on course of 28 nautical miles.

Every year Royal Geelong Yacht Club hosts Australia’s largest sailing regatta which can also boast being Victoria’s oldest sporting event. Along with the a huge volunteer force, the Club puts on a unique event each year that features a full shoreside entertainment package to keep competitors and spectators engaged throughout the week.

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Alexandru Baranescu

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