by Di Pearson
90-year-old John Walker and 85-year-old Tig Thomas will once strut their wares this weekend as the two of Australia’s most decorated sailing legends battle it out with the sport’s young guns in Saturday’s Seven Island Race of the annual Sydney Short Ocean Racing Championship at Middle Harbour Yacht Club.
SAILING - Sydney Short Ocean Race Championship 2009 - 29/11/09: PEARL 2
Entries are still a work in progress for the Seven Islands Race thriller, but John Walker (90) and Tig Thomas (85) will not be too bothered by their younger sailing contemporaries, as both have a wealth of experience on their side.
The old (pardon the pun) proverb goes: ‘old age and treachery will overcome youth and skill’.
On Saturday, the theory will be tested, when Walker, a veteran of 25 Sydney-Hobart races (the last in 2008 when he was a young 86) and Thomas, a twice past MHYC commodore, who is famous for his Half-Tonner ‘Plum Crazy’ (as the name suggests, it is a deep purple), which he won the Dunhill Half-Ton Cup in 1972 and set a record in the 1975 Sydney Hobart for the fastest yacht under 9.5 metres, will hit the race track.
SAILING - Sydney Short Ocean Race Championship 2009 - 28/11/09 ph. Andrea Francolini picture description: JOHN WALKER
In a pursuit start off MHYC, the yachts will wend their way to various islands east and north of the Harbour Bridge and return and finish off the host club where a beach side party will occur to recount the tales of the day; Walker, with his Peterson Three-Quarter Tonner called Impeccable, and Thomas with his Carter 33, Highland Ghost.
Thomas, who also represented Australia overseas with his Plum Crazy, and Walker, still like to get amongst it and are as competitive as ever. Joining the two is another race veteran, Col Wildman who can count 43 Sydney-Hobart races on his card and will sail his Beneteau 43, Oarsome.
Among the younger crews they will take on are Andrew Parkes and his X-412, Exeme, Colin Pitstock’s Delphia 40, Shazam, Steve Plante’s Beneteau 35s5, Twitcher and Robert Hunt’s Adams Offshore 350, Attitude.
Also highlighted this weekend are some of the form boats this season, which will race in the Premier IRC and ORCi categories, and those in the Beneteau First 40 Australian Championship.
Division 1 features a nice mix of some of the best names and best designs around. Rob Hanna has come from Victoria with his TP52, trying to better his Rolex Sydney Hobart result of last year by sharpening up the crew work on Shogun V, the newer of his two TP52’s
Others heading to Hobart with the same thoughts in mind include past MHYC Commodore, Ian Box with his new Toybox 2 an X-Yacht 44 and Darryl Hodgkinson with Beneteau 45 Victoire, the reigning Blue Water Pointscore champion. Then there is Paul Clitheroe, who wants to have his Beneteau 45, Balance, in top form for the French crew who will race her to Hobart.
Division 2 is flush with Beneteau yachts eager to be the inaugural Beneteau First 40 Australian champion. Wailea (Neil Padden), Just-a-dash (Phillip Dash), Bennie and the Jets (John Griffin), Queenslander Lunchtime Legend (Robbo Robertson) and Flying Cloud (CYCA Commodore, Howard Piggott) are among those buoyed up for the weekend ahead.
In Division 3, the man to beat without a doubt is the local, Peter Sorensen, with his much capped Sydney 36cr The Philosopher’s Club. However, Sorensen will have to get past Roger Hickman (Wild Rose) one of the most competitive and experienced yachtsmen around. His Farr 43 may be the boat to beat.
Others who could upset the apple cart are Steve Hatch’s M, a sistership to The Philosopher’s Club, a further sistership in Jack Stening’s, Stormaway and Warren Miller’s Summit 35, L’Altra Donna, which already has a few trophies.
All classes in the Championship will be on the start line Saturday ready for the start gun at 10.00am in Middle Harbour, which will send the fleet on its way in the Lion Island Race, north of Sydney, and return to Middle Harbour. The race will be held in conjunction with the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s Ocean Pointscore Series.
On Sunday, the yachts will contest two races; at 12.00pm the starter will send them on a short ocean race on a course to be determined by the weather on the day, followed by a windward/leeward sprint to start as soon as practicable after the ocean race in the vicinity of the Manly and Macquarie Circles, to be decided by conditions on the day.
The SSORC courses are designed to test boats on every level, from the passage race, to a shorter ocean race, to the windward/leeward course, which will show to advantage those crews whose sharp sailing handling techniques are up to scratch.
An official presentation is scheduled for 5.00pm at MHYC on Sunday 25 November following racing.
All information on the Sydney Short Ocean Racing Championship, including Sailing Instructions: Sydney Short Ocean Racing Championship
Helly Hansen is offering participants of the SSORC and the extended yachting community 20% off their latest range of Helly Hansen Sailing Gear at the Chatswood brand store (345 Victoria Ave) or online at Helly Hansen