by Di Pearson
Race 5 of the CYCA’s BWPS, started off Point Piper at 10.00am on Saturday in a weakening westerly. It was a big boat clean up in the Port Hacking-Bird Island Race overnight, with the Bob Oatley’s Wild Oats XI skippered by Mark Richards taking line honours at 20.50.41hrs last evening to create a record and finish second overall, while Wild Thing’s (Grant Wharington) second on line, nearly one hour behind Oats, was enough to hand it overall victory, while the new Patrice was third overall.
Wild Oats XI took line honours after re-stepping its new mast - Port Hacking-Bird Island Race
After crossing the finish line of the newly established Blue Water Pointscore 118 nautical mile race in a handy eight hours 51mins 41secs, Richards and crew kept sailing to complete their 24 hour non-stop ocean passage, a requirement of the upcoming Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. Both races are hosted by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia.
The Wild Oats XI crew would have been on tenterhooks, having only two days earlier re-stepped their new lightweight carbon fibre mast after a section was fractured. It gave the crew only Friday to get comfortable with the boat and rig. However, a race and extra miles later, Mark Richards was confident aboard the yacht this morning.
'We’ve still got a few bits and pieces to do,' he acknowledged this morning, adding: 'Don’t forget, we still have our other mast in great condition – so we’ve got time to decide between now and Boxing Day if we want to change it.'
Wild Oats shot off from the Point Piper start on Sydney Harbour yesterday and led the fleet out of the Harbour in a transitioning breeze. Richards avoided the transition, which pulled most of the fleet up in its tracks as the light westerly drizzled to nothing before the north-easterly filled in. Wild Thing stalled on the western side of the Harbour off Manly, with Sam Haynes’ Rogers 46, Celestial, overtaking it.
'Yesterday was a good achievement,' Richards said this morning. 'We’ve just got to get our confidence back,' he conceded.
'Conditions were beautiful - the boat was perfect upwind and the speed exceptional – we were averaging 8-12 knots in 12-16 knots of breeze. It all felt great. We took a few miles out of Wild Thing upwind, but they are very slippery downwind. If we get nor’ easters going to Hobart, they’ll do very well.'
Queenslander Grant Wharington was thrilled with Wild Thing’s overall win and the promise to come. 'We’re pretty excited. We’ve got a shorter rig, which is why we rate lower, which gives us time on the other super maxis once the handicaps are applied,' he explained.
Grant Wharington was thrilled with Wild Thing’s performance - Port Hacking-Bird Island Race
Wharington has added a shorter, heavier keel and a smaller rudder to the yacht. 'Doing that has got rid of drag, so we’re faster downwind,' he said.
'Half the race was downhill – to Port Hacking and on the way back from Bird Island and we were doing 15 to16 knots in a 14 knot nor-easter. Ricko (Richards) rang to congratulate us, which was pretty nice of him.
'Wish we hadn’t got caught in the transition on the Harbour though – and then a strop broke offshore. Both cost us, but that’s yacht racing.'
Both Richards and Wharington, veterans of the Rolex Sydney Hobart, are looking forward to the big race and to the SOLAS Big Boat Challenge on Tuesday, starting at 12.30pm off Vaucluse.
'We’re out of the water tomorrow to give the hull a good clean and we might get our rating down further before the Hobart. We’re really looking forward to Big Boat and the Hobart. We just need to stay in touch with the other super maxis going upwind, then if we get any downwind, we’ll be in good shape,' Wharington predicted.
Richards said: 'We’re really excited about the Big Boat and Rolex Sydney Hobart, '(Perpetual) LOYAL is the most impressive and powerful boat around, so we’ll have to sail a faultless race to beat them. They’ll have to do the same. All the big boats have their strong points…'
In only his third event, Tony Kirby has sailed his new Ker 46, Patrice, to third overall, coming fresh from winning the Sydney Short Offshore Championship last weekend. The 46 footer beat the bigger boats and its contemporaries overall after finishing sixth on line in good time, firming its Hobart chances somewhat.
Matt Allen debuted his brand new Carkeek 60, Ichi Ban, in the Port Hacking Bird Island Race and finished third on line and fifth overall, racing with a mix of regular and new crew members. Victoire, the Cookson 50 Darryl Hodgkinson purchased this year, was fourth overall.
Roger Hickman’s Farr 43, Wild Rose, continues to lead the BWPS after finishing the race seventh overall. His worst result to-date, it has been used as a drop and leaves him with an 11-point advantage over Phil Molony’s A40, Papillon and 14 points clear of third placed Victoire. The Rolex Sydney Hobart will decide the outcome of the BWPS.
Race 5 was the penultimate race of the Series, with the Rolex Sydney Hobart to decide the outcome. It was also the first of three in the reinstated Southern Cross Cup, first held in 1967 and last conducted in 2001, held every odd year.
The second event of the Cup is the CYCA Trophy – Passage Series, to be held over the weekend of 14-15 December, and culminates with the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. The 2013 teams are:
Australia: Ichi Ban, Wild Oats XI and Audi Sunshine Coast
CYCA Blue: Black Sheep, Brannew and Southern Excellence II
CYCA Gold: Balance, Celestial and Midnight Rambler
CYCA White: Patrice, Victoire and Wild Rose
After Race 1, Australia leads with 10 points from CYCA White with 11, and CYCA Blue and Gold on 30 points each.
Patrice in the light westerly just after the start - Port Hacking-Bird Island Race