Strong westerly winds in Bass Strait hold the key to the all-important forecast for stage two of the TP52 Southern Cross Cup this weekend. If they push north into Victoria’s Port Phillip there could be plenty of bump and grind to potentially mix up the stage one results. If the high pressure system wins the arm wrestle, yacht crews will have to rely on brains more than brawn.
Shogun V at TP52 Southern Cross Cup
Light winds and warm temperatures were a feature of February’s opening bout hosted by Sandringham Yacht Club. Autumn has since brought a chill to the waters of what’s commonly called ‘the Bay’, and the current season can also mean wide variations in local breezes.
Barney Walker, helmsman on local boat Calm 2, owned and skippered by Jason Van Der Slot, says the forecast for gradient NW-W winds looks likely to bring decent pressure to the race track, particularly on Saturday. If there’s some SW influence that can stir up a fetch, meaning choppy conditions for the eight TP52s contesting the three-day regatta.
'It’s going to be a tricky weekend for sure,' says Walker. 'How much breeze we get on the day will vary on how far north the westerlies come up from Bass Strait into Victoria. If there’s cloud cover this can also change the Bureau’s forecast day-by-day, and even hour-by-hour.'
Shogun V’s skipper Rob Hanna is well aware of the local vagaries at this time of year. 'Forecasts really don't mean much other than to help with sail selection. There could be five knots of nothing or 15-20 knots, and not much in the middle,' he said earlier in the week. Of one thing he was certain: 'On the day there will be weather.'
Now that the regatta is imminent, Hanna has a more reliable set of figures and he’s predicting Saturday will be the heavy air day, potentially a 'sail maker’s dream day' with plenty of torn kites, though manageable seas.
Off the back of their Audi IRC Australian Championship win at Geelong’s Festival of Sails in January, Shogun V was one of the red hot favourites going into round one of the TP series. Racing without instruments and sluggish starts had the newly crowned IRC champions and those looking on scratching their heads in the first half.
As the breeze increased and their start sequences improved, the Geelong champion climbed impressively back up through the pecking order. Their two wins on the final day put them back in familiar territory and were enough to give them a fourth place overall behind Team Beau Geste (HKG), Hooligan (NSW) and Calm 2 (VIC).
Shogun V will race this weekend with a new addition, seasoned navigator Bryan Northcote, plus regular tactician Steve McConaghy among the gun crew. 'It will be very tight racing and starts once again will be critical,' added Hanna.
Rob Date, weddings and TP52 regattas don’t seem to mix. Date will miss the entire round this weekend while attending a country wedding while for round one he was whisked ashore as soon as Scarlet Runner crossed the finish line on the last of the Saturday races so he could attend a family friend’s evening nuptials.
In charge of the RP52 in the owner’s absence this weekend will be veteran yachtsman Ross Lloyd on the wheel and boat manager Brett Avery.
Date’s still monitoring the forecast of course, and given Scarlet Runner beat Shogun V around the track in a recent Association Cup light air race, he was hopeful of another perfect window for the Reichel Pugh design, 5-11 knots and flat seas. 'Friday’s forecast 15-20 knot nor’wester is not great news for the red boat. This weekend looks like Shogun’s weather for sure,' Date ventured.
This will be the RP52’s final batter up for the Southern Cross Cup before Date switches the boat back to ocean racing mode and sets off on an epic journey of hopefully many downhill runs starting with July’s Audi Sydney Gold Coast yacht race. Next on Scarlet Runner’s itinerary is the Brisbane to Keppel Island race then on to Cape Town for the Cape Town to Rio Race starting January 4, 2014. Antigua Race Week in the Caribbean is on the calendar and finally the Pacific Cup in July, billed as the ‘fun race’ from San Francisco to Hawaii.
Today, ANZAC Day, is the official crew training day for the eight TP52 crews, among them multiple America’s Cup, Olympic and Volvo Ocean Race sailors.
The Bureau of Meteorology’s forecast for tomorrow’s opening day is W-NW 15-20 knots tending westerly at 10-15 knots in the afternoon.
Saturday is likely to deliver NW winds 15-20 knots during the morning and 20-25 knots by early afternoon.
The competition will run through to Sunday with up to three races scheduled daily starting from midday on Friday and Saturday and the family friendly time of 10am on Sunday so interstate and international crews can be home that evening.
The stakes are high for Karl Kwok’s Team Beau Geste sailing for the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, which is one up in the four-part series.
Beau Geste’s helmsman Gavin Brady is looking forward to a pressured-up rematch, '52 sailors love the breeze, there is no other keel boat in the world that perform like a 52 downwind in wind and waves.'
List of entries:
Boat name Skipper’s name Yacht club
Frantic Michael Martin LMYC / NCYC
Calm 2 Jason Van Der Slot SYC
Team Beau Geste Karl Kwok RHKYC
Scarlet Runner Rob Date SYC
Shogun V Rob Hanna RGYV / RYCV
Calm John Williams SYC
Hooligan Marcus Blackmore RPAYC
Cougar II Anthony Lyall RYCT
Results will be posted daily at http://www.syc.com.au/