As the 46 boat fleet lined up in two divisions to face the starter’s gun on day 1 of the Commodores Cup at Sail Port Stephens 2012, patches of blue sky and sunshine appeared through the morning cloud.
LongTimeDead with developing water spout
The day was warm and the breeze, an easterly at four to eight knots, presented sailors with a tricky wind angle off the Fisherman's Co-op rock wall starting line. Today’s Division 1 course was the Three Islands (course 1), approximately fifteen nautical miles with Division 2 sailing a shorter twelve mile course.
The Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club's Farr 40 Long Time Dead, skippered by Steve Buckingham, won the Division 1 start with a well-timed run from the pin. Europa, David Mason’s Wauquiez C45, was just inside her followed by Graham Mobuckson’s Margaret Rintoul V. Behind them came the Adam Brown helmed Salona 44 Last Tango.
Dennis Cooper’s Sydney 36cr Amante was well positioned but George Snow's Beneteau Oceanis 50 Argo Blue was proving a little sticky in the light conditions as was Holy Cow, John and Kim Clinton’s Beneteau Oceanis 50.
In Division 2, the Micah Lane skippered Beneteau First 30 Boules was well towards the front of the fleet, just astern of Anthony Paterson's Beneteau 34.7 Tow Truck.
Boules chasing Tow Truck. Commodores Cup day 1 Sail Port Stephens 2012
The little Elliot 7 Aqueous Humour, skippered by John Kearney was well towards the back of the fleet, along with Peter Lewis helmed Lu Lu Belle (Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 37) with Wilson the basketball mascot appearing to be calling tactics.
As the fleet headed towards the entrance to Port Stephens the wind was gradually lifting, with heavy clouds both inshore and offshore. The start line sunlight soon disappeared as the leading boats headed around the northern Yaccaba headland towards Cabbage Tree Island.
While the Division 2 fleet just about staged a re-start at the top of Cabbage Tree, with Aqueous Humour making good gains on the bigger boats, the Division 1 leader Long Time Dead rounded Boondelbah Island and headed north under spinnaker, approximately two miles ahead of Tony Kirby's Patrice (X-41OD). Euphoria, Anthony Coleman's J133, was third in an eight knot building breeze and flat seas.
At the top of Cabbage Tree Island, George Snow tried a short cut in the lee of the island, which did not pay off. The Argo Blue crew watched as many boats passed her by.
Round the rocks. Commodores Cup day 1 Sail Port Stephens 2012
Len Payne's Lidgard 10.6 Kerinda from Royal Motor Yacht Club Toronto, very much faster than she used to be with a carbon mast and square top main, led the second start and behind her Tow Truck was just managing to hold off Boules, as they rounded Boondelbah.
Bradley Sewell's Melges 32 Breezin, with children onboard, was giving the bigger boats a hard time, well placed even though sailing without a spinnaker. Secret Men's Business 1 (Murray 42) skippered by Robert Curtis was inside another Lake Macquarie boat, John McNamara's Iota, the modified Farr 40 Irc, while behind them Margaret Rintoul V was winding up.
Under darkening skies and in a lifting breeze of 10-12 knots, the leaders headed towards Tomaree Head and the finish line back at Port Stephens.
Heading towards Cabbage Tree
The first boat home was Division 2's Kerinda skippered by Len Payne, followed by Division 1 entrant Matthew Fensom's Long Time Dead. Tony Kirby's Patrice Six was third, followed by Euphoria (Anthony Coleman). Anthony Paterson's Tow Truck (Division 2) was next, then Iota (John McNamara). Boules (skipper Micah Lane) followed, then Secret Men's Business 1 (Robert Curtis) and Margaret Rintoul V (Graham Mobuckson).
Dockside the Tamworth cattle farmer Payne was grinning. 'We avoided the potholes, everything went right for us today. The last time around Cabbage Tree we found a little ribbon of pressure right in close and made another valuable gain.'
Grinning too was Division 1 line honours winning helmsman Steve Buckingham. 'We had a great start, managed to find some nice shifts, did not get a drop of rain on us. Had a good fast race, she's a light boat and the condition suited her.’
The Division 1 handicap win went to Tony Kirby’s Patrice Six. Dennis Cooper’s Amante was second, with the Adam Brown skippered Last Tango third.
Kerinda took the double, winning Division 2 on handicap from Aqueous Humour, with Boules third.
Len Payne - Kerinda. Commodores Cup day 1 Sail Port Stephens 2012
Racing in the Commodores Cup continues tomorrow until Wednesday, with a scheduled start time of 11:00am. Sail Port Stephens 2012 concludes Sunday 22nd April.