Late dash and two days to spare to make Audi Victoria Week cut-off

Donald Fraser and the Dry White crew on a windy Corio Bay - Audi Victoria Week
Audi Victoria Week.

A French wharfies’ strike almost cost Donald Fraser his chance to compete at this year’s Audi Victoria Week with his brand new Beneteau First 40, Dry White. Luckily some quick thinking by the manufacturer allowed the popular production class boat to make the cut-off for Australia’s largest and most established sailing regatta.

The brand new out-of-the-box Beneteau, named after the owner’s wine of choice, missed its original shipping date due to strike action on the wharves, however the French manufacturer was able to freight Dry White to Belgium and from there it was shipped to Australia.

Fraser, Commodore of the Ocean Racing Club of Victoria, took charge of the boat on December 23rd, spending half an hour aboard surveying his toy and quickly hoisting the new North sails before handing over the final cheque and returning to official duties as the race director of the ORCV’s Boxing Day Classic and three Melbourne to Tasmania yacht races.

It was early January before Fraser had the opportunity to set foot on his boat again, then he had to scramble to have the boat measured and weighed for an IRC certificate which is required to compete in the Audi IRC Series at Audi Victoria Week. It normally takes a fortnight to get an IRC certificate from the Royal Ocean Racing Club however Fraser and a number of other owners were able to fast track the process. Dry White’s paperwork finally arrived last Thursday, just two days out from the start of Saturday’s Melbourne to Geelong Passage Race.

'It was tight,' admitted Fraser. 'I had contemplated plan B which was racing in the cruising with spinnaker division.'

Tactician Rohan Veal, a state, national, European and world International Moth class champion, and the three Victorian Dryden brothers, Simon, John and Ian, combined brilliantly with the rest of the crew for Dry White’s first taste of salt water, scoring first on AMS handicap and fourth overall in the Audi IRC Series Class B of Saturday’s passage race.

This afternoon the crew of Dry White and the rest of the Audi IRC Series Class B and C boats are racing two windward/leewards in a building sou’easterly sea breeze, with gusts over 25 knots and white caps on Corio Bay. Some had the wobbles up on the downwind legs, including Fraser and his crew whose learning curve suddenly inclined when they spectacularly Chinese gybed the boat in a gust, laying it flat with the kite flogging.

Barry Kelly’s Archambault M34 Concealed Weapon, the first in Australia, going through its paces - Audi Victoria Week

Audi Victoria Race Week is the official Australian launch pad for another new boat, the international one-design racer, the Archambault M34.

The first Archambault M34 in Australia was bought off the plan by Newcastle yachtsman Barry Kelly and named Concealed Weapon. It arrived in the country just before Christmas and was prepared for Audi Victoria Week before the 12 hour drive to Geelong on a trailer.

Concealed Weapon is a sports-bred carbon fibre racer with a hull weight of just 2600kg – including 1050kg of lead ballast – and packs 71 sq metres of sail upwind, plus a massive 130 sq metre spinnaker made by Ian Short who prepared the sail inventory.

The yacht was conceived for Europe’s ‘Tour De France’ race, replacing the Farr 30 after 12 years on the circuit after winning an international design competition against 22 other submissions.

Concealed Weapon made short work of the downwind sprints this afternoon and was looking very much like a weapon the brochure promises, throwing up plenty of white water and sitting comfortably on 16 knots of boat speed in 20-22 knots of wind.

The Archambault design has had a major impact on the Audi IRC Australian Championship, Audi Victoria Week being the opening event, with Rod Jones winning two of the four championships with two different Archambaults called Alegria.

Audi Victoria Week Website