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IRC National Championship at the Festival of Sails – Deep Purple

'Reverie, as seen from behind the bow wave of a ship entering port. - Audi IRC Australian Championships'    John Curnow ©

You know – smoke on the water.

As a direct result of the bushfires raging across a lot of Southeastern Australia, smoke and that real BBQ flavour permeated just about everything as we sat in Geelong waiting for racing to begin.Perhaps it is fitting, given that Australia Day is being celebrated this weekend, but with racing for the 2013 Audi IRC Australian Championship starting today, we need a little less smoke and a whole lot more fire to get the blood surging. Naturally, this could not be more dichotomous from what our dedicated fire fighters require.


It would seem that 2 to 12 knots is not going to get the games going at strength, but alas, it will mean that those wanting to claim any of the great prizes on offer will have to work for it.

Now the prizes are certainly worth working for. Each of the three divisions has prizes for first through to third. First receives a brand new Audi branded spinnaker, second gets to dine at their choice of one of the Eastern Seaboard’s best restaurants and third gets decked out in Audi Sailing Sport apparel.

Quayside early in the morning was a great place to be. - Audi IRC Australian Championships -  John Curnow ©  

Crews settled in to keeping the vessels light and few even thought they may be left dockside, but as the breeze just climbed in to something more appropriate, it seemed they would all go out sailing.

If there were favourites, they weren’t showing it around the quay. Rather, there was a sense of camaraderie evident as people caught up with other sailors. Indeed, there are people from every state of Australia present across the nearly 320 vessels, the bulk of which will arrive in tomorrow’s passage race from Melbourne.

Col Anderson of Doyle Sailmakers probably best summed up the joie de vie around the quay before racing, when he commented of the truly effervescent Rowan (Disco) Leaper, ‘Disco is the expert on everything!’

Out on the track for the first of three races for the day, Race Officer Greg Sinclair, sent Division One out on a 2.2nm course out to 090degrees. Divisions Two and Three would head in the same direction, but only for 1.5nm. After the first run, this would be shifted to 085 and then 080 degrees would be the axis for the second race.

Division Two leaders come back down the Corio Bay course under kite. - Audi IRC Australian Championships -  John Curnow ©  

The TP52, Frantic was caught sitting above the line and got an Individual Recall. They would also be over two minutes late for the second start, as well. Without doubt, the fastest vessel on the line was Hooligan, but this was before the super-quick Black Jack got wound up and set off in to the wind.

The south or right side of the course was definitely the favoured side. Perhaps this is why Shogun V ducked the fleet early to head off to Spray Point. In the Division Two start, Reverie had a lot of trouble getting around the boat end and had to wait for the traffic to die down before she could actually make way.

It was also interesting to note that the displacement vessels of this division all had their crew on the leeward rail in the five to six knots that was present, whereas the flyers in Division One all had theirs atop the windward rail. As the day wore on, the breeze would go to 8s and then 12s from the ESE to East.

At any rate, those that went in did do better than those hanging out. John Williams’ TP52, Calm, did the best of them all, yet it was certainly hard yards for everyone there as they had to work for any gains.

Black Jack goes around the top mark in race one and then race two, race three....... - Audi IRC Australian Championships -  John Curnow ©  

Black Jack would easily be first around the top mark, which had been set for them at 2.2nm from the bottom. The TPs would file in after that, led by Hooligan, Calm 2 and then Calm, the latter came in on port just before the mark to shoot the tube. Shogun did not have a great beginning, as they had been caught too far right in the bottom corner, where it had gone more than little soft.

Black Jack took Ginger with 0.3nm to go on the first run, remembering that Division Two had to do just 1.5nm. Black Jack would come in a little more than hot and then had to quickly get rid of the kite to make the southern gate, with the keel still slightly canted.

Leslie Green’s newish MC38 Ginger had a wow of a time out there. her kind of conditions. - Audi IRC Australian Championships -  John Curnow ©  

Change of Course to 085 degrees was announced to fleet, with the MC38, Ginger, flying in to the gate in what has to be simply be described as her kind of weather. Ginger went to the northern gate and then out before crossing back over the fleet. Ginger would put just over 3 minutes on Equinox II in second place. Alas that would be about as good as it got for Ginger, who lead up until race two and then finished in third for the day. Perhaps a longer passage race tomorrow will let them stretch their legs out again.

By now it was a genuine 8 and then 10s from pretty much due East. So just as Ginger demolished Equinox, Black Jack put half a leg on the leading TPs. One of the worst things to see was how far Frantic was behind. Celestial beat them over the line, as too Invincible, the last boat from Division Three.

The course was reset to 080 degrees for Race Two and more puff even arrived at 1420hrs local, as the sequence got set up. This was ‘Hugely exciting!’ for the Melbourne-based, female photographer, Andrea Francolini. True, he was having a lend, which is how the now eight year old story of one journalist not only getting his place of domicile incorrect, but also his sex by birth, came about on board the media vessel today.

Frantic takes the stern of Invincible and in doing so becomes the last boat on the course to finish Race One. - Audi IRC Australian Championships -  John Curnow ©  

Unfortunately for Frantic, they were around 1.5 minutes late for the start of this race and there was a 10 to 15 degree knock further up the course where most of the leaders were. It did not hang in, so most chose not to get sucked in.
The Archambault A35, Archie, from Tasmania had a great start, with Ginger ducking and weaving along the line, but without doubt was the fastest accelerating vessel amongst that clan. The two Beneteau First 45s, Schüss and Ikon, were playing delaying tactics up the boat end and sistership, Senna, from Geelong said thank you very much and marched away.

Beneteau First 45, Ikon, comes in behind Farr 40 Local Mocean, who are human poling. - Audi IRC Australian Championships -  John Curnow ©  

Luckily for Ikon, they did not get to caught up in it all and managed to get a second for that race and thereby lead the Division Two table at day’s end. Another sistership, Reverie, would hold second and then Ginger sits in third place.
Division Three is all about the Adams 10, Executive Decision, who are really no strangers to being atop the podium. Could be time to send the measurements to North Sails for their new Audi kite they will win if they can hold top spot over the next three days. The venerable Farr 43, Wild Rose is in second place with Archie sitting in third. ‘Happy to be there, but there really is a long way to go and were only looking at doing a good job for the whole series, so don’t hex us just yet, please. So we’ll see how stacks up the end’, said Grant Botica of Executive Decision from the Royal Yacht Club of Victoria.

Wild Oats with the all-conquering Adams 10, Executive Decision crossing in front to go around the Northern Gate. - Audi IRC Australian Championships -  John Curnow ©  

TP52 Hooligan set about taking the AUDI IRC National Championship for the second time on seven months. - Audi IRC Australian Championships -  John Curnow ©  

At the pointy end of the fleet it is all about the TPs. Hooligan sits proud with three bullets for their day’s work. Well done. In behind Hooligan is Shogun V, who put the first race behind them and got into their racing to get a set of second and third places on the scoreboard. Calm 2 sits just three points astern of them and eight behind the reigning champ in Hooligan. Perhaps Black Jack can use tomorrow’s anticipated 52nm long race to climb up the standings.
PRO for the Festival of Sails is Denis Thompson, who said, ‘What a great day in the end! It was looking a bit soft early, but we got a perfect day of sailing from Hughie, which is awesome. Aiming for the big race tomorrow and we’re checking the weather, as there is a front due tomorrow and we’ll assess ashore before going racing after chatting with the Bureau of Meteorology and other weather experts.’

The Melges 24s, conducting their National Championship were out on Geelong’s inner harbour for the day, along with the Sports Boats and A Class Cats. The Audi IRC Australian Championship, as part of the Festival of Sails continues tomorrow, Friday, 25th January. See festivalofsails.com.au for more information.

Local Geelong boat, Senna, has a moment of frustration before the start. - Audi IRC Australian Championships -  John Curnow ©  


by John Curnow

  

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6:55 AM Thu 24 Jan 2013GMT


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