by Di Pearson
In the Cabbage Tree Island Race this afternoon Bob Oatley, Mark Richards and the crew of Wild Oats XI were savouring their record breaking line honours win while the battle for overall honours raged throughout the day with Stephen Ainsworth finally adding another trophy to his collection when his reliable Loki was declared the overall winner this evening.
You could not wipe the smiles from the faces of Lokis crew today - Cabbage Tree Island Yacht Race 2012
Ainsworth and his usual crew, including sailing master Gordon Maguire and navigator Michael Bellingham, sailed the Reichel/Pugh 63 across the finish line at 10:03:54 today, third yacht home behind Wild Oats XI and the Peter Millard/John Honan 98ft Bakewell-White designed Lahana, which has claimed third place overall.
Next home was Syd Fischer’s super maxi, Ragamuffin-Loyal, her mainsail lashed to the boom, followed by Bob Steel’s, TP52, Quest, which won the 2008 Rolex Sydney Hobart.
Ainsworth said tonight: 'It was a wet race – there was a lot of rain. We were worried about getting out of the Harbour, because the rain killed the breeze. It took us over an hour – and that’s not a good way for a high-rating boat like us to get started!
'Once we got outside, we had good breeze, although it was quite variable to begin with. Once we got clear we had a good run north – it was a pretty good consistent 15-20 knot sou’ easter.'
Looking ahead, Ainsworth was concerned at what they might find when they got to the Island: 'It can be very tricky there - funny light winds, but this time the rain disappeared, so the breeze came back,' he said.
The nice breeze wasn’t to last though, as it faded gradually early this morning, not in time to affect Loki’s finish time and overall win though; in fact it helped, slowing those behind him down.
Ainsworth did admit: 'A number of things can go wrong in a race like this – and it has before for us in the past. We could have parked up at the Island and had a freshening breeze to drive the little boats home. Instead, we had quite a bit of reaching, and Loki is a good reaching boat,' said Ainsworth, who has put the boat on the market and will end a stellar career at the end of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race which he won last year.
'It’s time; we’ve won everything we could possibly could; we’ve broken records... It’s time to have Christmas at home with my wife and family and do other things for a while,' said Ainsworth, who with his crew wore a smile on his face after finishing the race.
While Ainsworth was feeling happy with his lot in life, and the Wild Oats XI crew were revelling in their shaving 1 hour 57 minutes 40 seconds of the 14 hours 13 minutes 35 seconds record they set in 2010, for a new record time of 12 hours 15 minutes 55 seconds, Syd Fischer was organising a new pin for his port runner. However the legendary yachtsman was still pleased with their day’s work
'A pin dropped out of the port runner block. We reconnected the runner, but it wasn’t safe to sail with the main up – the rig could’ve come down, but it’s not a big job to fix it,' a pragmatic Fischer said.
'We still made it fourth over the line and until we lost the pin, gybing to the Island (Cabbage Tree), we were only around eight miles behind Wild Oats.
'I’m quite pleased with the way the boat sailed. This was our first race, and a few of our guys, including the bowman, couldn’t make it. We had to get people to fill in, but I’ve got the nucleus of a good crew, and we did OK, considering. We’ve got five weeks to get it right and I’m feeling OK about it,' Fischer said.
The 180 nautical mile race started on Sydney Harbour last evening at 7.00pm. It was the first time last year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart Wild Oats XI and line honours winner, Loyal, now known as Ragamuffin-Loyal, had faced each other since the Hobart last year.
Only eight yachts were across the finish line by 2.00pm today, and it was some time before others appeared. As the wind clocked to east-nor’east at 2.00pm, it began to bring the bulk of the fleet home by late afternoon and early evening.
At 8.30pm, only four boats were left to finish: Simon Kurts’ Love & War, which is at her worst in the conditions she had foisted upon her; James Cameron’s Luna Sea, the little Hick 35, Illusion, Kim Jaggar’s Davidson 34, and Peter Rodgers’ Olsen 40, She, which was off Broken Bay.
'I have a feeling we’ll be out here till midnight,' Principal Race Officer, Denis Thompson predicted, as Bryan Thurston’s Sydney 36 cruiser racer This Way Up motored to the finish line explaining they had broken two thirds of their rudder.
For full race results of the Cabbage Tree Island Race and provisional Blue Water Pointscore Series standings log on to the event website.