In the week leading up to the Vintage Yacht Regatta most of the 35 skippers had their attention firmly centred on the weather forecast. With gale force winds and torrential rain predicted the chances of yet another Queensland Cruising Yacht Club (QCYC) event being blighted in 2011 was beginning to look like a reality.
Achernar II - Vintage Yacht Regatta
Thankfully, by the time the fleet began to arrive at the Club on Friday things were improving and in the end, despite the lack of some sunshine for the photographers, many of the competitors agreed that it had been some of the best racing conditions the Regatta has seen for many years.
The regatta, in its 36th year, is a highlight of the classic yachting sailing calendar and attracts a large fleet of beautifully turned out vessels from yesteryear and this year’s entry list was no exception. As ever, it was going to be a hard task for our judge, Brian Richardson, in the 'best presented' categories, which include the converted Albert Jeays Trophy.
Away from the marina, whilst most yachts were vying for handicap trophies, such as the Ted Rice Shield, the rivalry was equally fierce for line honours victory, and the Deagon Slipways Trophy and Australia wide Boat Sales Trophy. The highly popular formula of long and short courses developed last year to keep all the yachts close together had received a further ‘tweak’ with two races on both the Saturday and Sunday, with a triangle course in the morning and sausage shaped course in the afternoon.
Race one started in a good breeze. At the front of the fleet and Division One, it was a welcome return to the event for 'Spirit of Koomooloo' (Mike Freebairn) having won her division in the 2010 Sydney to Hobart being chased by the Tasman Sea Bird 'Pagan' (Peter Kerr). In the Modern Classic’s division 'Sassy' (Philip Lazzarini) was setting the pace whilst on the short course the Nordic Folkboat 'Tern' (Carmen Mira) and 'Seamist' (Graham Elliott), a Flying Fifteen began a weekend long battle for line honours.
Meanwhile, in the middle of the pack, the Clubs’ Corsair was struggling to learn the course to start with but pretty soon figured it out and went on to prove competitive in the lighting breeze, ultimately cross the line and marking the first ever race finish for its crew Clem Collins (sailing with Zoltan Szabo).
Race two was supposed to be a windward leeward course but a wind shift during the start procedure resulted in a tight reach, broad reach course which ironically proved to be a real hit with many of the skippers. The start itself was one that will no doubt enter the Regatta history books. After race one where the majority of the fleet was noticeably line shy, the crew on the start boat, 'West Moon', were expecting something a little more competitive but got rather more than they bargained for! In a classic demonstration of six into one doesn’t fit, the committee boat end of the line became very congested a few seconds before the gun with a number of boats clearly hoping to sneak around the barging buoy. As the gun went, the leeway boats harden up and the space closed; half a dozen of the larger yachts, with a couple of the dinghies stuck in-between for good measure, concertinaed up and ultimately into the start boat amid much grinding noise and shouting. West Moons’ skipper, Herb Prendergast, joked after the start that someone must have hung a For Sale sign on the boat between the races given the number of skippers that came in for a closer look. If that was the case, no–one bought although one of the yachts did take a small piece as a souvenir!
Following the drama of the start, the race itself was a calm affair although with the emphasis on reaching speed a number of yachts shot up the leader board. In particular, 'Achernar II' (Steve Lugge), 'Desire' (Ian Fraser) competing in her first regatta and the gaff rigged 'Four Winds' (Gary Bradshaw) all put in top five performances.
For the evening’s entertainment, 'Who Killed Kenny' performed in the marquee and despite the rain which began just as the yachts reached port had many of the crews on their feet.
Sunday dawned with more breeze and promised the fleet an excellent days racing. Perhaps because of the dramas at the start of Race two or perhaps due to the excesses of the evening before, line shyness was once again the theme of Race Threes’ start.
Noticeable performances in Division One came from the S&S 'Balamara' (John Richardson) who finally managed to get the better of 'Spirit of Koomooloo' and 'Pagan' on handicap and 'Tequila' (Steve Walker) who started the day with a brand new and very loud set of sails which, despite Steve telling anyone who would listen that they would slow him down, moved him up the leader board nicely.
In Division Two, the real story was the Robert Spray 'Rozinante' (Bruce Scammels) who came from nowhere to win on handicap in Race Three and back that up with a second in Race Four.
Another significant improver was 'Inisheer' (Daniel Farmer) who discovered some boat speed that had been missing the previous day and started to make things uncomfortable for Sassy and the persevering 'Vegemite' (Peter Holm) in the Modern Classic division.
Race Four saw a return to the windward leeward course and unlike yesterday the course was a perfect beat. With the engine running on West Moon just in case, the start procedure drew near and dead on cue the action started. Thankfully this time around there was no contact but with five boats over the line there was still a fair amount of radio chatter as the offending yachts were called back.
In the big boats, 'Merry Mac' (Tony Holm) put in an excellent performance whilst 'Carouse' (Michael Franklin) finally got a handicap win in the smaller yachts having just missed out up until that point.
Once back in the marina, the entertainment continued where it had left off the night before and the main presentation was held. So often for presentations, a significant number of crews are not present to collect awards so it was great to see that every skipper in the fleet attended.
New for 2011 was the addition of a third day of racing, a pursuit race that finishes near the coffee pots so that visiting yachts can then head straight for home. Whilst many of the fleet decided to take the direct route home, those that did stay for the race were rewarded with a good breeze and, finally, sunshine. The course, designed to minimise upwind work, took the fleet around the bay on a two hour sail that was producing its fair share of grins.
With start times based on their performance over the weekend, the results of the pursuit race seemed to give a good indication of who had excelled over the previous four races. Pagan, who had had an excellent regatta tried hard but just couldn’t catch up whilst 'Bluenose' (Gerard Forde) who had won the ‘Spirit of the Regatta’ award the night before for sheer perseverance finally showed what she is capable of with a well deserve second place justfour4 minutes behind 'Blue Peter' (Gary Head).
Full results from the Regatta are available on the Regatta’s website.