by John Curnow
The Vicsail team, headed by Brendan and Jo Hunt, are the guiding beacon when it comes to the gala regatta in Australia. For over 25 years they have held the always-entertaining Beneteau Cup on Sydney Harbour, with this year reaching even greater heights.
The boat’s named, I’m Alive, and it’s a sure bet they knew that on the day. - 2013 Beneteau Cup
Vicsail single handedly created the Beneteau muster at Hamilton Island, where today just about half the entries comprise of all manner of vessels from the powerhouse French brand. Just last year, Vicsail was the master force behind the inaugural Beneteau First 40 National Championship. This year saw Australia’s very first Lagoon Escapade take place, which is a real milestone when you consider how hard it is to get any of the 100 cats that Vicsail have imported into the one location at the one time.
Vanishing Point would go on to win the Spinnaker Division. - 2013 Beneteau Cup
As a result of such a pedigree, you may ask what would you do to a well-established and keenly followed event, such as the annual Beneteau Cup. Some may even consider just leaving it alone. However, for Vicsail there was always the desire to look for more. This came in the guise of re-partnering once again with their great pals at with the French Australian Chamber of Commerce. 'This really does add to the whole Francophile experience. They are great to work with and the amazing prizes afforded by their contacts with sensational French companies is one of the reasons you see so many happy faces out there and then back ashore for the all-important celebration. We do really hope all of their guests enjoyed their day on Sydney’s majestic harbour, as much as we and all of the owners did in having them aboard', said Brendan Hunt.
Indeed a plethora of wonderful sponsors stand behind lead icon, Sydney City Marine, which just goes to show you how popular this whole event really is. From other nautical corporations like North Sails to preeminent bling creators like Swarovski, there are terrific names and even better prizes to hope one wins, like the premier offering of a trip to Nouvelle Calédonie.
The prize winning began at the morning briefing and kept going all day. - 2013 Beneteau Cup
Now this 22nd iteration of the must-do Beneteau Cup owes its lineage to when it all began back in Australia’s bicentennial year of 1988. Only a couple of years were missed in early 90’s and after that, it has literally, well and truly been on! The other thing that all that effort throughout the years has ensured, is that the Beneteau Cup is completely imbued into the social sailing map.
The day may have started and ended with rain, if you chose to look at that, but from the faces receiving ham and cheese croissants as they signed in, to the constant sound of champagne bottles being opened, the guests and sailors were clearly focussing on other things.
The Beneteau 21.7, Sweetcheeks, made a gallant effort to begin racing on the day. - 2013 Beneteau Cup
In addition to all of that, there was a load of fun, some sun if you got in early enough, copious amounts of breeze, lashings of food and a plethora of terrific prizes that started finding new owners from midday until about seven o’clock. Given the conditions, one would have to say well done to all for being there, for going racing, enjoying themselves come what may and digging deep for the Humpty Dumpty Foundation. On that latter item, this year’s guests were informed about the 15 new babies that had been able to go home early as a direct result of the equipment purchased with the funds generated from the 2012 event. Not surprisingly, with such a terrific cause and sensational prizes to act as further inducement, raffle ticket sales continued at a furious pace, right up until the first draw.
46 vessels had indicated their desire to be part of the 2013 Beneteau Cup. Yachts had come from Port Stephens (Champagne on Ice), Brisbane Waters in Gosford (Elusive Spirit), Pittwater and Cronulla to get their taste of the gala. One crew even made the journey from South Australia. All in all, over 400 sailors took to the harbour at a little after 1pm.
Yandoo works up Sydney Harbour in the stiff breeze. - 2013 Beneteau Cup
'Over the years we have delivered well over 900 Beneteaus to new owners in Australia, which is just terrific. Our owners love the sailing and the camaraderie the Beneteau brand enjoys. Apart from all of that, they always give so generously for the wonderful charities we have been involved with, so it is little wonder that tens of thousands of dollars have been donated. Once all of the racing and awards have been completed, the fun then continues with many laughs, great music, company and food', said Hunt.
Out on the track, which saw the two starting groups commence in Rushcutters Bay up to the Sow and Pigs and then return via Island, it was clear that all of the bubbles and fizz on shore were to be replaced by some new salty ones. The sunny breaks got superseded by dark and somewhat ominous clouds as the Nor’noreaster climbed from being a fresh 25 knots to a truly solid 30, with the peak gust of an invigorating 42 knots at around 3pm.
Ocean Road sailed well and took out the Non-spinnaker Division A prize. - 2013 Beneteau Cup
The sea state was mostly considerate, staying in the 1m zone on the whole, but there were some green surprises out there to keep all entertained as the spray got whipped up into a small frenzy. Not surprisingly, and with a lot of reaching involved, spinnakers stayed in their bags. At any rate, they would have looked a little incongruous with the reefed mainsails, and in the case of the dedicated cruising vessels, the significantly furled headsails.
No, the amount of ‘canvas’ up had nothing to do with the smiles generated, which you could see through the spray, incidentally, or the sight of so many Beneteaus barrelling along. It was particularly terrific to see such great competition between many craft, like Ocean Road and Vanishing Point, as well as smaller craft like Sweetcheeks, Luce Change and Elusive Spirit set about their tasks with great aplomb.
Heading off from the start, several boats did take some time to master the strong gusts, with the roundup being a reasonably common sight, but by the time they were coming home to cross the finish line, the little practices early on had ensured all were masters of their destiny for the day. Interestingly, as the afternoon wore on the usually busy harbour gave way to a much more serene outlook and it was interesting to note that it was the participants of the Beneteau Cup that had stayed out when many had already run for port.
Herman Heligiers of Hubcap II with one of the magnificent half models that winners received. - 2013 Beneteau Cup
You can certainly tell when the winners on the day are popular, for the raucous reception they all received was easy to note. Taking out Non-spinnaker Division B was Herman Heligiers, Hubcap II. In Non-Spinnaker Division A, it was Fritz Mare’s Ocean Road and the winners of the Spinnaker Division, whose course was the longest, were Bill Wheeler and the crew of Vanishing Point.
Special mention has to go to Tonia Wheeler for designing and then creating the very swish, ultra-pink Beneteau jackets she, daughter Nikita and crewmember Lacey Ogilvie wore on the day. Other vessels of note for things ranging from seamanship to general joie de vivre were, Santé, Osprey, I’m Alive, Holy Cow, Champagne on Ice and L’Amour de ma vie.
Greg Newton won the major prize of the trip to New Caledonia. Delegates and the Consul himself were on hand to make the presentation. - 2013 Beneteau Cup
'The Beneteau Cup is always sold out and we were completely full in the CYCA’s dining room this evening. It is fantastic that our Beneteau owners consider this a must-do event. To see Greg Newton, father of Team Oracle USA sailor, Sam, win the New Caledonia prize in the raffle really was something an adds an amazing global aspect to it all.'
'The Beneteau Cup is awarded to the owners who not only personify the brand, but also extend themselves to really make a mark. After a stellar Winter season up North, placing in IRC at the Airlie Beach regatta, Hamilton Island and then Magnetic Island Race Week, I am delighted to name the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s Commodore, Howard Piggott as the winner for all of his efforts with his First 40, Flying Cloud', said Hunt.
Howard Piggott (R) receives the Beneteau Cup from Vicsail’s Brendan Hunt. - 2013 Beneteau Cup
'The Vicsail Beneteau Cup is both fun and incredibly rewarding, but as a major event, it is a day of such complexity. Cheryl Stanton, our Marketing and Events Coordinator, has certainly been the figurehead, but all of our team deserve my thanks for really stepping up and making it all happen. Naturally, our sincere thanks also go to the French Australian Chamber of Commerce (FACC) for their unceasing efforts and enthusiasm, our great sponsors and all their tremendous and highly sought after prizes. Finally, to our 2013 Beneteau Cup participants, including our special guests from the FACC, I would like to acknowledge your support, keen involvement and ability to have fun', said Brendan in closing.
See vicsail.com or call 02 9327 2088 to talk all things Beneteau and find out how to make your sailing good, great, better and even awesome.
Hubcap II came blasting home to take out the Non-spinnaker Division B prize. - 2013 Beneteau Cup