by Di Pearson
Terra Firma, the Victorian yacht that last raced at Hamilton Island has come out and beaten the big guns on the opening day of Middle Harbour Yacht Club’s 34th Sydney Short Ocean Racing Championship (SSORC) which started on Sydney Harbour just before 12.30pm today.
Sydney Short Ocean Racing Championship (SSORC) run by Middle Harbour Yacht Club.
Nicholas Bartels sailed his Cookson 50, Terra Firma to a Division 1 win over Marcus Blackmore’s TP52 Hooligan, Leslie Green’s Swan 601 Ginger and Stephen Ainsworth’s Reichel/Pugh 63, Loki.
Hooligan and Loki are two of the hottest boats in town; Blackmore’s boat winning Class A of the Audi IRC Championship decided at Hamilton Island in August, while Ainsworth holds the distinction of being the defending Blue Water Pointscore Series champion.
Bartels, who cleaned up all the pre-Hobart favourites, told today of 'a tough mission – lumpy seas – variable conditions – it was character building,' the Sandringham Yacht Club sailor said, admitting: 'It’s always good to have a win, especially against the competition we had today.
The Melbourne-based yachtsman said he had added a new suit of North Sails to his boat and scored North sail makers, Ross Lloyd (tactics) and Aaron Cole into the bargain for this regatta.
'Those small changes made all the difference,' Bartels said. 'We also did not get disappointed when things weren’t looking so good; we just kept working away at it,' he added.
Division 2 winner, Julian Farren-Price and his Cookson 12 About Time, are no novices to the podium. A watch maker, Farren-Price, also maintains his lead in the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s Ocean Point Score, as the SSORC is included in the series, in which he has scored three wins from five races, with five races to go.
'I woke up this morning and looked at the weather and didn’t want to go sailing,' the Eastern Suburbs sailor said. 'Looks like the weather gods like us after all, it was a lovely day’s sail We hooked into a north-westerly at North Head and decided to sail along the coast with Exile (Rob Reynolds, MHYC) and Victoire (Darryl Hodgkinson).
'Staying in close to shore – that was the race. We had a great run home in an increasing breeze,' he said.
About Time won from defending champion and MHYC yacht Exile, a DK46 owned by Rob Reynolds, and third placed Neat Eng. Wailea, Neil Padden’s Beneteau 40.7.
Division 3 was won by Matt Wilkinson’s Masrm 920, Out of Sight, from local sailor and Audi IRC Australian Class B winner, Peter Sorensen’s Sydney 36cr, The Philosopher’s Club.
Earlier weather reports were almost spot on; the big nor’ easter that gusted to 30 knots and heavy rained disappeared by 11.40am, replaced by sunny skies, but almost no wind for the original 12.00pm start.
Principal Race Officer, Denis Thompson delayed the start until just before 12.30pm, when the fleet was rewarded with a 10 knot northerly.
Three yachts stood out at the Shark Island start; Hooligan at the boat end, Ginger mid line and Loki closer to the pin.
Blackmore nailed the start, his tactician calling it just right as the bow pointed to the eastern side of the Harbour and headed into Watsons Bay where good pressure, with Loki and Ginger in hot pursuit. It was not an easy start, with an outgoing tide and 8-10 knot breeze
As the fleet headed out to a mark at Long Reef in the 17 nautical mile race, Hooligan was overtaken by Loki once the boats cleared North Head. The variable conditions were perfect for Rolex Sydney Hobart practice.
Around three quarters of the way up the work to Long Reef, the breeze started to gradually increase, the smaller yachts coming home in 20-25 knots to the Watsons Bay finish line, where Loki took line honours from Hooligan by just over eight minutes.
The SSORC is the opening summer season offshore regatta, and as such, has already attracted some of the country’s best racing yachts. The series continues tomorrow from 11.00am with two windward/leeward races planned for each division.
Full results, photos and more on the SSORC website