The largest fleet at the Festival of Sails is the combined Cruising category at around 150 vessels. They looked amazing and as the sun made some valiant attempts to make an appearance at lunchtime, it added even more spectacle to the grand event.
So as the fleet headed out to Corio Bay proper, went through the narrows at Point Henry and thence on to wider pastures, there were more than enough vessels to go the roundup at Channel Marker 10, as the breeze had built a little strength over the fetch of the inner harbour.
Perhaps they were keen to see that no weed had been collected on their keels and were keen to kill it off?
Now one vessel that had not seen yesterday’s pics or heard the story of Hooligan sticking herself firmly in the gluey mud that exists in the area was the Melges 24, Concubine. As they made their way out to the race track, they obviously thought their shallower draft would allow them to sneak inside the prominent North Cardinal, but no, no, no. Their departure from the carpark was a lot quicker however, but as they were not racing yet, outside assistance was able to be applied and they were soon on their way.
It looked like a 15knot Sou’soueaster, but it was not that consistent in pressure and ranged through 12 to 15. On the Audi IRC Australian Championship course, the axis was set at 160 degrees with Division One to complete 2.3nm and Divisions Two and Three to do 1.6nm. Whilst waiting for the start, one could not help but be impressed by the volume and colour of the Cruising Division(s) and the sun coming off the multi-coloured spinnakers was more than aesthetically pleasing.
It was a clean start for Division One, but Calm 2 did get rolled by both Hooligan and Shogun V in a larger, but very similar way to what often occurs in an Etchells fleet. Calm 2 came back well after going way right. They held Hooligan out at the top mark, but perhaps punched the corner so hard, without a quick duck before the mark to then go head to wind at the mark before rolling around. The result was they screamed past it and let Hooligan in under them.
After going from zero to hero, Calm 2 had ended up about eight boat lengths down on the first run.
Shogun came back down the centre and did really well to overtake the other two TPs in the village. Owner, Rob Hanna, was driving and the other two split from each other at the bottom gate, perhaps realising that their fun and games had cost them dearly. Calm had a very late drop at that mark and went around behind the Committee Boat in the end.
Shogun gybed quickly at the top mark again and then went on to win the day’s first race from Hooligan and them Calm 2. In the second race, the Race Committee set the axis to 180 degrees and on the same length, with a real 15 to maybe the occasional 18 knots on offer. Shogun seemed to be extra motivated after their great success and not only won over the line among the TPs, but with their better handicap, also took a little extra time away from Calm 2 and Hooligan in third, too. The latter had even tried the Shogun V method and gybed early after the top mark, but it did not go as well for them.
The points were looking good for them after this race and they had a one-point buffer over previous series leader, Hooligan. Was there to be a changing of the guard at the top? On form, you may have thought so, but Calm 2 had other ideas. In a breeze now from 175 degrees at 11-14 knots, Calm 2 got home about a minute ahead of both Hooligan and Shogun, who were one second apart.
Ultimately, Hooligan would stand atop once more, two points clear of Shogun V and three in front of Calm 2. What it all means is that tomorrow’s one Windward/Leeward course followed by a short sprint of a passage race (17nm) will really see who has what left in the tank. Frantic was not out there today and so we wonder what has occurred for them. Spare a thought too for Black Jack, who have been super impressive at every rounding and today looked to have done enough to place or win in the first two races, for sure. Perhaps the lack of fellow Mini Maxis has not allowed them the real competition they need to beat the proverbial clock.
The second start was tight and predominantly clean, except for Archie slapping in to Ikon as everyone struggled for room and some remembered that you do have to stay up and not fall down the line. Shoulder room was at a premium up at the boat end, but at the pin end it was there for you and so Ginger and Wild Rose made the best of it.
Serial winner, Executive Decision, snuck in at the boat end, perhaps a benefit of being small. They did enough all day to stand atop the table once more, with Wild Rose next and Invincible after them. Schüss tried to shoot the tube, but got squeezed out by Senna in a Beneteau First 45 battle. Reverie did well and had Schüss there to keep her company.
Invincible (Div3) got to the bottom before Archie, so they suffered even more since their poor start. Everyone was going right and nary a soul went left for the second work. Ginger and Equinox II were left, however. This would work well for these two who definitely enjoyed having enough breeze to play in. Ginger got there first, but had to take third on corrected time. Equinox got the IRC win, just, from Reverie.
In the second start, Reverie got squeezed out to the back row after playing difficult and then went on to duck the fleet. Later, she would climb over the top of others, so it may have been a blessing. In a return to the Beneteau’s dominating the scoreboard, Reverie got it over Ikon and Senna.
The breeze fell away a little when the final course saw the fleet go deeper in to Clifton Springs beach. It was flukier, harder and gustier at the top, but flatter and it was Ikon who mastered it to get the win over Senna and then Equinox. At the end of the day, Ikon would hold a two-point lead from Reverie, with Equinox II and six and seven points astern of the latter, respectively.
Rod Hagebols, the Sailing Manager from the host, the Royal Geelong Yacht Club, said ‘Quote for the day? Go Right! It was a little different at the top to the bottom of course. Looking at the Melges 24s, we were using this as a trial course for the Worlds and it looked a little light at the top, so we’ll have to have a debrief over that. Outside (the inner harbour) is a good option for a championship, as it is interesting to mix it up for the sailors.’
‘My pick for a winner in the Audi IRC Australian Championship? It is going to be tight between Shogun V and Hooligan, but Shogun V because Rob (Hanna) is a Geelong guy.’
Well done to all crews, race management and especially the myriad of volunteers that help to make an event like this possible. See festivalofsails.com.au for more information.