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Fill the order book at the TP52 Southern Cross Cup

by John Curnow on 8 Feb 2013
Going around the hitch mark with Cougar II and Scarlet Runner. - TP52 Southern Cross Cup John Curnow ©
The design of the inaugural TP52 Southern Cross Cup stipulated close racing to ensure maximum enjoyment for both competitors and spectators alike. Add in a variety of results with places changing considerably from leg to leg, race to race, a little breeze, plenty of sunshine and you pretty much have the whole order book filled, right there.

The decision to have the vessels start about halfway on the course and require them to come back through the same gate on both the uphill and downwind legs certainly worked out well, as it meant they could not rely on huge angles and potential shifts. So too the downwind start that got an outing in the second of today’s three races.

For the first two races the pin end of the line was favoured and in Race Two, it was mainly the older boats that were over here and literally got the jump on the fleet. The exception here was Beau Geste and they quickly took the lead from Cougar II and then never looked back. In Race Three, Cougar II and Shogun V would be over, so it was around you go and have another try for both of them.

All in all, however, the racing was fair, clean and tidy, if a little late to get underway, with a lot for the crews to do on the short work to the top mark on the uphill start. Originally planned for noon, the first race went in to sequence at 1pm instead and from there, the Race Management team rattled off three races for the day.

In a way, the day belonged to two boats. Cougar II impressed with being in a lot of the right places a lot of the time and the Hong Kong entrant, Beau Geste. The latter would stand atop the leader board in the end, having recorded a second place for both Race One and Three and a win for Race Two for a total of five points.

John Cutler, the Tactician from Team Beau Geste said of their win in the second race, 'Always happy for it and pretty pleased, but there is along way to go and we need to be aware of the hot competition that is out here. It has been a little shiftier than we had probably been lead to believe. Leading from the front is always going to be easier', said John of their great start under spinnaker.

After their first win, Ian ‘Barney’ Walker said, 'Leading from wo-to-go felt really good and putting a decent lead in to the bank from the first time at the top mark helped, as we did not have all the downwind speed we may have liked.

The crew really have put their best efforts into it and we’ll see how we go from here.' Race Two would not be the same, for they were caught up in a bunch of vessels trying to get around the Committee Boat to begin their journey towards Melbourne’s CBD.

Matt Turner is calling the tactics on board Calm 2 for this regatta and he commented, 'We’re happy with it and certainly continuing to learn a lot about our vessel. We’ll have to work on the downhill start thing, as it that did not happen too well for us today, but don’t blame Barney (Ian Walker) for that.'

Calm would finish with the two bullets and a sixth, which they will hope to drop no doubt, should all eight races in the series be completed. The two first places and their sixth add together for eight points, one point ahead of Hooligan who are on nine from their day’s set of third places. At times they showed some of the speed from Geelong, but never for a whole leg and this is what set the adrift.

Perhaps not having the usual 15 souls on board for the more moderate breezes was an issue, so what will tomorrow bring with even fresher air coming down the course? One thing can be mentioned and that is that this crew are all very dedicated and skilled, so there will be something different occurring on the track for them tomorrow.

Cougar II sit in fourth place and it is a mark of their efforts for the second place in Race Two. Although three points further astern of the others, this GenIII vessel showed plenty of pace in the light airs today and seemed to be sailed with gusto and hassle free. Like some of the others, perhaps they too are seeing that consistency will win this regatta, as indeed it appears to be in many a fleet now, rather than a complete set of bullets (first places).

Scarlet Runner was very visible on the course and it seems a little strange that she only occupies fifth place. Despite the lighter airs which can suit them, Calm did not do as well as she can and sits in sixth place. This did not perturb the crew from the smiles once back ashore, so morale is not an issue for them. Equally, Frantic, who is in last place tonight, was not put off their game. They may take longer to get the spinnaker up and then down again, as well as being slow out of the turns, but you would not think they are having a bad time when you see them go by.

Shogun V did not have a good day at the office by anyone’s standards. They never showed some of that lightning off the breeze pace they exhibited so frequently in Geelong, recently and did have their foredecky up the forestay in between Race One and two, so perhaps there are some small issues to attend to. It is a long way to go yet and the promise of breeze tomorrow will ensure they have smiles again on their faces and set about rectifying the tally so far. Certainly their Skipper, the effervescent Rob Hanna, was still beaming after they had packed up and were mingling with the other crews.

Now looking at all the crews returning in after their day’s work, you got the impression that all felt it had been more than a success. The volume of crewmembers heading for the post-race drinks and chat was further evidence. Vice Commodore of the Sandringham Yacht Club, Kate Mitchell said, 'So wonderful to have happy sailors and spectators watching the close racing that occurred today. Just enough breeze to get the racing in and now the crews are enjoying the famed Sandringham Yacht Club hospitality. Sounds pretty good to me.'

The PRO for the TP52 Southern Cross Cup, Denis Thompson commented on the scenario so far saying, 'Look it was a shifty day out there with the breeze trying to work out whether it was going to be from the Sou’east or the Sou’west and neither really won, except when we got Race Three underway and it was from a far steadier 140 degrees and up to, just, 10 knots. When we first went out this morning and it was 220 and lucky to be four or five knots, so if you picked the flicks of say 30 degrees, then you could do really well.'

'The gate meant they could hold the shift better, as you had to hold a narrower line, but you need a lot resource to make a change to the course, so we’ll review this whole scenario moving forward. Close racing certainly was a feature of the day, so let’s see what happens tomorrow, when expect a little more breeze. I think the maximum for the downwind start will be 12knots true for the moment and we may look at a longer line for tomorrow and Sunday, but we’ll go and see what the owners want to do, as it is their regatta.'

If you are in Melbourne presently, you can see all of the action by simply coming along to the clubhouse at Jetty Road in Sandringham. To arrange your best vantage point, simply contact Sandringham Yacht Club directly on 9599 0999. They will do their best to assist any member of the public who wishes to see this great spectacle. Victorian club members can sign in at the Reception Desk and then go to Member’s Bar for the best views on offer.

Well done to all crews and the armada of volunteers running everything that made the day happen. Many thanks to Marcus Blackmore for providing his Protector support vessel for me to observe today’s racing and to John Biffin for driving it.

On behalf of the entire group, many thanks to Brighton Jeep and Coopers Brewery, too .See and for more information.

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