Festival of Sails 2014 - Even in his absence Australian sailing icon Lou Abrahams has proven unbeatable, inspiring his Sydney 38 Challenge crew to their fourth national title win at the Festival of Sails.
Challenge claimed the nine-race Morris Finance Sydney 38 One Design Class Australian Championship with a 10 point lead over Brenton and Jen Carnel’s Phoenix in second place and Zen, skippered by Gordon Ketelbey, in third place.
It was a hotly contested day on Geelong’s Corio Bay, with just 45 seconds separating the top five Sydney 38s in race eight today and the top three positions shuffling right up until the end of the final race.
On top of that, Challenge skipper Chris Jackson had the pressure of driving Abrahams’ yacht and also filling the shoes for the team’s usual helmsman Mark Bulka, who yesterday was named the Contender dinghy world champion.
While all these factors made Jackson’s victory sweet, he admits that winning it for Abrahams was most rewarding.
'We did this for Lou,' Jackson said. 'He has a presence on board even when he’s not here. We spoke about his motivational talks before racing and then when we finished we called Lou and passed the phone around to every crewman, he said ‘well done’, and I think it lifted his spirits to know we’d had success.'
It’s the fourth national title for the team, with crewman Peter Milne, Ian Taylor, Rowan Simpson and Rowly Richardson crewing for each of the wins.
With the class nationals moving to Adelaide next year, the Royal Geelong Yacht Club Commodore Iain Murray, who skippered Cinquante to fourth place, said it’s sure to be a battle royale.
'At one stage in this regatta the race official came on the radio and said ‘there’s a minute and five seconds between first and last at the top mark’, it’s just that close,' Murray said.
'The one design is attracting a lot of experts, most crews have a paid sailor on board now, and it’s really upped the ante.'
Racing continues in several other divisions including the Fuso Trucks Multi-Hull Series, which has come down to the wire.
Malcolm Richardson’s Nacra 36 Malice and Chris Williams’ Sea Cart 30 Morticia were on equal points at the day’s start, but it is Malice who will go into tonight’s twilight race with a near unbeatable edge of four points.
Malice claimed its fourth win in race six today and hopes to continue that streak into the seventh and final race of the series tonight.
The battle for third place is just as close with Shaun Fishley’s Frassld, a Corsair F31, holding just a two-point lead over its larger counterpart, Michael Du Vallon’s Patronus, a Prescott Whitehaven 10.7.
The Optimum Time Racing Series Divisions one, two, and three will also continue racing, but they’ll round out their series tomorrow.
Tony Kirby’s Ker 46 Patrice has maintained its lead in Racing Series division one IRC, just a point and a half ahead of Gary McNally and Brian McMaster’s GP42 Black Betty, which is also only a point and a half ahead of its closest counterpart, Matt Allen’s Carkeek 60 Ichi Ban.
In Division two the Beneteau First 45s hold the podium spots, with Shining Sea skippered by Andrew Corletto on top on 10 points followed by Bruce McCracken’s Ikon on 12 points and Alan Woodward’s Reverie in third place with 21 points.
With five wins David Ellis’ Archambault A31 Penfold Audi Sport leads division 3 IRC and looks likely to claim victory with just one race remaining. Jason Close’s Beneteau First 35 White Noise is second, ahead of the Sydney 36cr Wild Side, skippered by Martin Vaughan.
The final races of the 2014 Festival of Sails will start at 1025 on January 27. A northerly tending easterly and gusting between 10 to 15 knots is expected.
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by Danielle McKay
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10:49 AM Sun 26 Jan 2014GMT
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