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Cabbage Tree Island Yacht Race - Hickman makes it three in a row

by Di Pearson, CYCA Media on 10 Nov 2013
Wild Rose has made it three wins from three races. David Brogan, www.sailpix.com.au

Roger Hickman has sailed his 28 year-old Wild Rose to three consecutive wins in the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s annual Blue Water Pointscore after winning the 180 nautical mile Cabbage Tree Island Yacht Race this weekend, rating him a favourite for the upcoming Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.

The reality of the upcoming Hobart race bit, as yachties and their boats were sorely tested, ending with five retiring because of boat damage, but Hickman’s well prepared boat and crew came into their own, nudging out line honours winner, Celestial, the Rogers 46 owned by Sam Haynes, by a snip under two minutes.

Wild Rose beat third placegetter, Midnight Rambler, Ed Psaltis, Bob Thomas and Michael Bencsik’s s Ker 40, by nearly seven minutes. Tony Kirby’s brand new Ker 46, Patrice finished fourth in its debut race.

A fleet of 30 contested the difficult race, which ended in high hopes for some and back to the drawing board for others.

'A baptism of fire,' was how Roger Hickman described the race. Patience, skill, boats and their gear were tested to the limit. Five retired with damage after taking a battering in excessive winds and seas. In between times, crews were struck by the contrast of conditions thrown at them when lulls and parking lots replaced a harsh sea and winds that ran the gamut of the compass.

Hickman was late to the start because he and the crew were preparing the boat for re-measurement and was on the wrong side of the line when the race was about to start. Flagged OCS by Principal Race Officer, Denis Thompson, it was not the most auspicious start.

Hickman described the race: 'We were off and running in 23 knots with bursts of 27 and 28 knots. One or two miles off the Heads, some boats tacked back in. The agony of ocean racing – what to do – there was conflicting weather information. Tide affects the little boats too, so we made our decision and went out and further out, away from the coast.

'It was blowing from nor’north-east at 25-26 knots and out of the blue the wind went quiet. East of Manly, we heard the airport weather and it said a 28 knot south-west and we thought ‘what the…’. So we were watching the clouds, and saw a big roller and were prepared when the wind swung to the south and south/west at 20 knots and freshening. We saw 30 on the dial and paused to let it settle.'

Hickman said most of the fleet was sailing close to the coast so did not experience all that they did offshore, until the last 50 nautical miles. He said along with the DK 46, Minerva, skippered by William Cox, they sailed towards the Island in a moderate to heavy seaway with green water coming over the bow and white water at the back.

Wild Rose’s crew set a kite, then the wind swung to the north-west and then nor’ north-east. At 2.00am off Nobbys Beach, the wind went back to the north-west at 8-12 knots and by the time they reached Cabbage Tree, they saw Celestial, Victoire (Darryl Hodgkinson’s Cookson 50) and Patrice.

'We crossed Minerva, Balance (a Beneteau 45) and St Jude (a Sydney 47) and realised we were in good shape – and then we got totally becalmed. Canute (a King 40) was two miles behind us, and they sailed through us.'

The way back to the finish was not any easier, with a light nor’ easter increasing to 18 knots, 'Then all hell broke loose when we were hit by a thunder storm and hail; Duende (the Judel Vrolijk 52) was there with us,' Hickman said. Once through that, they faced constantly changing winds which ended with a 25-37 knot south-easterly that gusted to 30 knots as they sailed to the finish.

'It was a great Hobart workout for everyone,' conceded Hickman, who said his crew, and especially those he had sailed with long term over the years; Peter Inchbold, Andrew Scott, David Morris and his best mate Phil Endersbee, made all the difference.

'The old girl was smoking – I looked at Peter Inchbold and said: ‘How lucky are we?’ It was a tough, frustrating, get knocked down and get up again repeatedly sort of race,' Hickman said.

Back at the CYCA, Hickman was told by a Celestial crew member that Wild Rose had beaten them by won by one minute and 56 seconds.


'Celestial deserved to win – Sam Haynes and the guys are great competitors who put in the hard yards,' said Hickman, who can’t wait for the Rolex Sydney Hobart. 'I still get excited by that race,' he said.

Record holder Wild Oats XI, did not race, Mark Richards and crew electing to undertake crew training instead. Her record of 12 hours 15 minutes 55 seconds set last year, was left undisturbed as the fleet battled the elements.

Celestial was first boat home at 17:26:41 on Saturday, with Victoire following nearly four minutes later and Patrice five minutes later, causing the new yacht to be quickly dubbed the ‘TK Express’.

Kirby was wearing a big smile back at the CYCA. Rushing to put the finishing touches on Patrice on Friday, he was at the top of the pack heading to and rounding Cabbage Tree Island yesterday in company with Victoire and Celestial. You could not ask for more from your first race.

The rest of the fleet trickled in slowly, the last handful crossing the line in the early hours of this morning.

Rod Jones’ Audi Sunshine Coast was first to retire, Jones commenting: 'We had some hardware failures, including winch and clutch problems among a couple of others'. Lessons learned, they will repair 'we’re looking forward to a competitive summer,' he finished.

Michael Martin’s Frantic was next after also sustaining gear failure in the first hour of yesterday morning. Ian Creak’s Pennant Hills Ford was the next casualty, after her owner reported they had blown out a spinnaker.

Changing down sails in a 30 knot north-easterly, Creak and crew were unexpectedly hit by a 40 knot southerly, with no time to pull down the kite, which was shredded. Then their world went quiet as the wind blew itself out to nothing. This was to be the pattern for most of the race.

On Saturday morning, Andrew Wenham reported keel damage to Southern Excellence II, bringing an end to his race. At 8.55am, Paul Jones’ Canberra entry, Namadgi, reported she was retiring off The Entrance, north of Gosford, while still headed north to the Island. She had been caught too long in an airless pocket and looked likely to finish the race early next week. In the afternoon, Paul Clitheroe pulled Balance because of steering issues.

Principal Race Officer Denis Thompson reported from the start line off Point Piper on Friday evening: 'The yachts started in a 25-27 knot north-easterly wind. It was really blowing,' he said. 'It was a clear start, but a few held back to play it safe.'

Thompson said all mains were reefed (except Wild Rose which had been testing a re-raked mast) and smaller headsails in place in the big conditions. 'Two hours into the race, though, the wind went round to the west and south-west at around 20 knots, which wasn’t predicted.'

On Saturday morning just after 9.00am, Thompson and his crew were sitting in 1 knot of breeze, waiting for the predicted 15-25 knot south-easterly to fill in.

Blue Water Pointscore Series

Hosted By CYCA

Race 4   (8/11/2013) 

Updated:  10/11/2013  6:14:17 AM

IRC results Start : Div1 19:00 Div2 19:00
Place Sail No Boat Name Skipper Div No Fin Tim Elapsd AHC Cor'd T Score Vis
1 4343 WILD ROSE Roger Hickman 2 01:22:16:27 01:03:16:27 1.039 01:04:20:16 1.0  
2 421 CELESTIAL Sam Haynes 1 01:17:26:41 22:26:41 1.264 01:04:22:12 2.0  
3 8338 MIDNIGHT RAMBLER Ed Psaltis/ Bencsik/ 1 01:18:55:40 23:55:40 1.189 01:04:27:00 3.0  
4 360 PATRICE Tony Kirby 1 01:17:36:12 22:36:12 1.280 01:04:55:56   Yes
5 AUS5299 VICTOIRE Darryl Hodgkinson 1 01:17:30:39 22:30:39 1.352 01:06:26:05 4.0  
6 A140 ARIEL Ron Forster Phil Dam 2 01:23:37:39 01:04:37:39 1.083 01:07:00:13 5.0  
7 8339 LUNA SEA James Cameron 2 02:01:34:56 01:06:34:56 1.016 01:07:04:18 6.0  
8 6837 MINERVA Edward Cox 2 01:21:50:25 01:02:50:25 1.160 01:07:08:05   Yes
9 6686 ST JUDE Noel Cornish 2 01:21:40:14 01:02:40:14 1.175 01:07:20:16   Yes
10 10007 PRETTY FLY III Colin Woods 1 01:18:19:51 23:19:51 1.352 01:07:32:36   Yes
11 33345 BLACK SHEEP Derek & Martin Shepp 2 01:23:18:40 01:04:18:40 1.118 01:07:39:07 7.0  
12 A169 NAUTICAL CIRCLE Ian Prentice 2 02:00:07:01 01:05:07:01 1.099 01:07:59:58 8.0  
13 6841 PAPILLON Phil Molony 2 02:00:30:59 01:05:30:59 1.092 01:08:13:55 9.0  
14 6689 COPERNICUS Greg Zyner 2 02:01:30:33 01:06:30:33 1.066 01:08:31:22 10.0  
15 N40 ONE FOR THE ROAD Kym Butler 2 02:00:32:53 01:05:32:53 1.103 01:08:35:29   Yes
16 MH60 TSA MANAGEMENT Tony Levett 2 02:00:59:23 01:05:59:23 1.100 01:08:59:19   Yes
17 A147 TICKET OF LEAVE Matthew Prentice 2 02:03:37:02 01:08:37:02 1.061 01:10:36:25   Yes
18 8824 CHANCELLOR Edward Tooher 2 02:05:43:52 01:10:43:52 1.109 01:14:31:00 11.0  
DNC 226 SWISH Steven Proud 1     1.239   19.0  
DNC 1236 LOCAL HERO Peter Mosely 2     1.049   19.0  
DNC 5356 ILLUSION Travis Read 2     0.988   19.0  
DNC 10001 WILD OATS XI Mark Richards 1     1.987     Yes
DNC 11033 KERISMA Grant Dawson/ Brent 2     1.151   19.0  
DNC 52002 QUEST Bob Steel 1     1.351   19.0  
DNC MH85 CANUTE Mitchell Miller 2     1.121     Yes
RET 6755 PENNANT HILLS FORD Jim Lelliott 2     1.076     Yes
RET 7771 BALANCE Paul Clitheroe 2     1.131   16.0  
RET A5 AUDI SUNSHINE COAST Rodney Jones 1     1.282   16.0  
RET AUS03 SOUTHERNEXCELLENCEII David Burt 1     1.591   16.0  
RET GBR5211L FRANTIC Michael Martin 1     1.347   16.0  
Harken AUS Reflex 660x82Fremantle to Bali Race 660x82Lancer Not Equal

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