by John Curnow
From Friday, February 8, something not quite seen in Australia before will take place. It is a new Grand Prix if you will, and fittingly the first round of the inaugural TP52 Southern Cross Cup is to take place in the home of the Formula One GP, Melbourne.
Once around the top mark, it is all action stations on board Hooligan. - TP52 Southern Cross Cup
There are to be eight 52-footers in the grand challenge. Seven of them are the famed Transpac 52s (TP52) and then there is one invited vessel, Rob Date’s Reichel-Pugh penned, Scarlet Runner. This particular craft shares her hull design with the TP, Artemis, which is another vessel of the class that so famously charges around the waters near some of the Mediterranean’s most glamorous ports.
Of particular note, is the fact that the TP52 Southern Cross Cup has been designed to offer something to all owners of 52foot vessels, no matter which generation of TP52 they may be, or if they actually sit outside the class. Michael Martin’s Frantic is the oldest TP in the fleet, with CougarII next, then Calm, with Scarlet Runner and Beau Geste about the same vintage. Newest of them all are the three that finished first, second and third at the recent Audi IRC Australian Championships in Geelong. In that order, they are Shogun V, Hooligan and Calm 2.
Unlike the cars, the Southern Cross Cup is not all about being a drag or arms race. Actually, there have been some significant aspects incorporated into the design of series to ensure that no matter who you are, you are racing for a prize. The first of these is that there will be an adjustment to your IRC rating to account for the age of the vessel.
Specifically, a 2007 vessel will receive a 0.004 bonus, but something from back in 2001 will receive a whole 0.010, with each year receiving the increments in between those numbers. This will go a long way to making it a real challenge amongst the crews.
Now yes there have been massive improvements in primarily the uphill speed of the TPs, as time has gone on. The likes of Shogun, Calm 2 and Hooligan will do nine and half knots to windward. This is amazing when you consider the 100foot supermaxis do 13.5kn in the same direction, at best. Off the breeze, the differential between generations of TP is still there, but perhaps not quite as considerable. It is with this in mind that the Race Officer can run a downwind start, which is something they could offer the fleet at say under 15knots of true wind. This alone will make for great viewing, but also ensure the fleet is closer for more of the race time, which will also add to the spectacle.
So this party is set to be a very important one, for not only is it inclusive for owners and sailors, it will offer something for spectators of all levels during the eight race regatta. Those that have witnessed Sail Melbourne will understand the choice of Sandringham Yacht Club as the host venue. There is a huge breakwater right in front of the clubhouse that has a full-length balcony from which to take in all the action and watch not only unbelievable sunsets, but also Melbourne’s CBD as the lights come on at dusk.
Kate Mitchell, Vice Commodore of the Sandringham Yacht Club, said 'Absolutely delighted to have such talent sailing talent racing out of the club over the weekend. It promises to be exciting and very enjoyable to watch, no matter whether you’re a full time sailor or just interested member of the public. Our members are thrilled to offer their facilities to these wonderful sailors and their fancy machines.'
'I am sure John Williams, Graeme Ainley and Jason Van Der Slot along with their crews of Calm and Calm2 will do SYC proud.'
The breakwater that forms SYC’s marina or their restaurant, Harbour View, can offer you a certain amount of viewing. However, if you contact the club directly on 9599 0999 to arrange your best vantage point, they will do their best to assist. Also, any Victorian club members can sign in at the Reception Desk and then go to Member’s Bar for the best views on offer.
Sandringham’s Boating Manger is ISAF International Race Officer, Athanasios (Sulis) Papantoniou. He said, 'We are really looking to this and bringing a piece of the Mediterranean to Melbourne, which will be a nice addition after we have just had the whole world come to see us with Sail Melbourne and the Sailing World Cup, late last year.'
'The downwind start is used a lot in Europe, as it is very exciting and obviously spectacular. Denis Thompson is the Race Officer for the Southern Cross Cup and between us we will utilise this great option when it is suitable.'
'Conducting the racing as close to shore and nearby the club as is possible will be our primary goal, so that everyone can get a feel for these wonderful machines and see what the awesome vessels and great crews are capable off', Sulis finished with.
One thing that also looks like coming to the party is the weather. The subject of many a conversation, there looks to be warm sunny days for the most of it with moderate breezes, mostly from the South. Waves will play apart as they will have the whole length of Port Phillip to build fetch and when it gets to 20-25knots on Saturday, they could make 2m. Of course, with the Bay, you always want to wait until you get there before you back the forecast in too much, but it certainly looks like game on for the racing.
Port Phillip’s reputation as a venue for World Championship and One Design racing is acknowledged the world over, so the TP52 Southern Cross Cup is certainly beginning in a good place.
Some souls will be lucky enough to be really amongst the party when they get to experience racing from on board one of the vessels. For the newer vessels, there is a limit of 12 crew on board, six of whom can be professionals. A thirteenth spot will be for an invited guest or sponsor.
The older craft have 14 crew positions and the fifteenth will be the invited guest. If they have sea legs they will be put to use, no matter whether they are on a newer or older vessel, as these craft deploy only manual winches and need each and every soul, plus their weight, for specific duties throughout the entire race. Equally, if they do get in the maximum three races after midday on each day, they will go home very tired, as an added and special gift from the TP52 Southern Cross Cup.
Brighton Jeep and Coopers Brewery bring the first round of the inaugural TP52 Southern Cross Cup to you. Guessing they will deservedly have a few of the prized extra crew spots allocated to them.
See syc.com.au and transpac52.org/home for more information.