Audi Victoria Week Passage Race surprises

Veloce was well-placed at the start and came home well - Audi Victoria Week
Audi Victoria Week 2011.

Nick Bartels sailed his Cookson 50 from Melbourne to an overall win in Division 1 of the Passage Race at Audi Victoria Week today, while Christopher Opielok (Rockall III) a newcomer to Australia and the event cleaned up in Division 2.

While so many of big boats of Division 1 were fighting it for last overall, Bartels and his Terra Firma crew sailed with patience to claim the win from two other Victorians, Phil Simpfendorfer and his Elliott 44CR, Veloce and Tony Donnellan’s RP Shamrock.

Scarlet Runner, which finished the race second online and is also from Victoria, was fourth overall.

'It’s always good to start a regatta off with a win,' said Bartels, who finished the Audi IRC Series second overall last year after leading until the final day.

The Passage Race is the opener of the Audi IRC Series, so Bartels is away to a good start. 'It was difficult racing. The breeze that was predicted, and what actually happened, did not match up. It threw people into disarray,' Bartels said.

The Melbourne yachtsman told of breezes from every direction. 'We got a good start, but we were way behind at Sandringham – the wind was all over the place, but we never gave up,' he said.

'We went south with Scarlet Runner and Pretty Fly III and the weather let us back into the race,' Bartels said, referring to the light southerly 10 knots that came through in the nick of time.

Pretty Fly III and Terra Firma came up trumps today - Audi Victoria Week

While he was surprised with Terra Firma’s win, Rockall III’s owner wasn’t terribly surprised by his.

Although Christopher Opielok only relocated to Perth in Western Australia from Hamburg in Germany just three months ago, he is an experienced sailor who is having his first stab at Audi Victoria Week.

'I like it very much,' he said of the event tonight after packing up his Corby 36. 'We knew we were doing well, because we were looking good on the water. I thought we might finish in the top five,' the confident yachtsman who has represented at the Commodore’s Cup in Cowes said.

'It was a tough race though – a lot of wind shifts – we had to be in the right place at the right time. Also a good start made a big difference,' Opielok said.

Second overall in Division 2 was claimed by Paul Buchholz’s Extasea (Vic) which had famed US yachtsman Dave Ullman calling tactics. Third overall went to 2009 Sydney Hobart winner Two True, owned and skippered by Andrew Saies from South Australia.

In Division 3, it was no surprise to find Peter Sorensen (NSW), the 2008 Audi IRC Australian Championship winner, in first place. Sorensen sailed his Sydney 36CR The Philosophers Club to a win of over 31 minutes from Grant Botica’s Adams 10, Executive Decision (Vic). Gienah, a Seaquest RP36 owned by Rod Miller (Vic), was third.

All in all, it was a successful day for Victorian yachts, whose crews perhaps read the weather better than the rest.

Racing continues in the Audi IRC Series tomorrow, with two windward/leeward races planned starting from 12.30pm.

Audi Victoria Week website