Melbourne to Geelong passage race - Surprise victory for Morticia

Festival of Sails 2014, Melbourne to Geelong passage race
Teri Dodds
In the Festival of Sails’ 2014 Melbourne to Geelong passage race today, Friday 24th January, the featherweight trimaran Morticia fought above its weight to claim a surprise victory against much bigger and more powerful rivals.

Weighing in at just 900 kilos the pure carbon 30-foot racer was built by Formula one car manufacturers in Europe, and it performed like one once the southerly change revved-up the 230-strong fleet across the 34 nautical mile course.

Morticia’s skipper Chris Williams said they were in fifth place with about 15 nautical miles to go when a sloppy eight knot sou’easterly breeze finally clocked around to the south, building to near 20 knots.

The Sydneysiders clawed back competitors, including the then race leader Ichi Ban which is double the size at 60-feet, before sailing to a line honours victory off Royal Geelong Yacht Club in a time of 4 hours, 7 minutes, and 54 seconds. The race record is 1 hour 40 minutes 17 seconds.

'We virtually doubled our speed, going from about 8 knots to 16 plus in a matter of minutes,' Williams said. 'We went up on one hull, reduced our drag and used our righting moment to just take off.'

Fellow multihull Malice, skippered by Mal Richardson also edged ahead of Ichi Ban in the dying miles to finish second across the line, two minutes behind Morticia.

Ichi Ban crossed the line in third place and as the first monohull to reach Geelong skipper Matt Allen will pick up one of two Telstra line honours trophies, a decoration that will also be awarded to Morticia. From the outset Allen predicted it would be a small boat race. And that’s just how it played out.

'It was pretty slow, and at times frustrating,' Allen said. 'We did more sail changes in this race than we did the entire way in the Rolex Sydney Hobart.

'But once we got that 50 degree shift to the south it was much better, only by that time the light stuff had cost us too much and it was impossible to win [on handicap].'

Flying the flag for the locals was Victorian yacht Veloce skippered by Phil Simpfendorfer, whose Sandringham Yacht Club crew claimed the Lou Abrahams Trophy for the overall IRC win.

It was one of those rare moments when a wrong makes an oh so sweet right. Simpfendorfer jumped the start and was recalled, but that only served to ignite the fire in his belly and drive the 44-foot yacht to victory.

'I’m a pretty competitive beast, so it fired me up more,’’ Simpfendorfer said. 'We just kept calm, went back over the line, popped the code zero, that’s our get out of jail free card, and worked our way back.'

Racing will resume on Geelong’s Corio Bay tomorrow morning where more than three hundred yachts and 4,500 sailors will compete across 14 classes. Local boat Beats Workin skippered by Denis Collins is expected to round out the fleet and cross the finish line before 1900 AEDT.

Event website: click here