Matt Allen’s four month old Carkeek 60 Ichi Ban has lived up to her name – number one in Japanese – winning line honours and being declared the overall winner of the Sydney Newcastle Race; the penultimate race of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s Ocean Pointscore Series (OPS).
Ichi Ban also secured the PHS division win and crossed the finish line off Stockton Wharf at 18:36:30, with an elapsed time of 8hrs, 36 mins and 30 seconds outside of the race record of 5hrs 26mins 15secs which was set by CYCA member Dick Cawse with Vanguard, with another 60 footer in 2006.
'It was an enjoyable race although a little damp at times,' Allen said happily last evening. 'We had three sail changes moving from our light air sails to medium, then to heavy and dropping back to medium. The breeze got up to 22 knots at times but had backed off towards the end of the race.'
Allen noted that there was more breeze offshore and those that had chosen the inshore route early suffered with a lack of breeze.
'There were a few wind shifts to play with and not a lot of spinnaker work but we had a nice spinnaker run into Newcastle Harbour. We managed to clear out from the rest of the fleet early on but we could see the old girl (Southern Excellence II, the former Ichi Ban, the Volvo 70) some of the time. Visibility wasn’t all that good,' he added.
Allen added that a few changes had been made to the boat since racing it in Geelong at the Festival of Sails, where he finished third in the IRC Racing Division 1. 'We were also able to try a few more systems out with the race being on the breeze,' he concluded.
Southern Excellence II was the second boat to finish crossing the line at 19:00:09, 24 minutes and 39 seconds behind Ichi Ban with Jim Cooney’s 83 footer Brindabella third across the line finishing at 20:37:08.
The new and the old Ichi Ban, Southern Excellence II, were split on the IRC podium by David Forbes’ Kaiko 52 Merlin, a regular OPS competitor, with Joe Earl in charge of the boat on behalf of Forbes.
'It was a great race – we picked a couple of good shifts and hugged the coast all the way. The breeze was quite shifty both in direction and strength – 18.5 knots was the top speed we saw and the lightest was 4 knots,' Earl said this morning.
'Offshore, the breeze was more north east with a little bit of current, yet inshore it was lighter and more northerly. We rolled the dice and went offshore when the nor’easter started to build. Phil Warburton our tactician and Richard Brookes our navigator worked well together and made all the right calls.
'The boat was well tuned and we managed to stay with Brindabella up until halfway through the course and were in front of Victoire prior to her retirement,' Earl added.
With both Ichi Ban and Southern Excellence II casual entries for this race, Kaiko took home the best points for the overall series pointscore with About Time and St Jude second and third respectively.
This result has Julian Farren-Price and his Cookson 12 About Time in pole position to claim his fourth consecutive OPS title. He holds a seven point lead over Merlin with St Jude (Noel Cornish) a further six points adrift. Farren-Price is also in prime position to take the ORCi division series win
Recalling the race, Farren-Price said 'The first 30 miles were great – we managed to get in front of our rivals Occasional Coarse Language Too and Midnight Rambler and were in company with Victoire.
'The breeze shifted all around from 2 to 19 knots but averaged out at about 10-12 knots. We had a lovely tack going into the coast and a very ordinary tack coming out – we hit some nasty swell.
'Merlin had a cracking race – when the breeze filled in from the north east they just took off and at the 1635hrs sked I thought we were in trouble (we had given them too much time),' Farren Price continued.
'I’m happy with our tactical performance – we picked the shifts well.'
About Time was the last boat to cross the finish line at 23:25:51 before the time limit expired with two yachts Wax Lyrical (Les Goodridge) and Long Time Dead (Matthew Fensom) unable to reach the finish line in time.
Given the late hour of their finish, Farren-Price and his crew opted to return to Sydney and were having dinner (or a midnight snack) of lasagna approximately one hour after crossing the finish line as they made their way home.
The 63 nautical race to Newcastle, the longest in the OPS, was sailed in a light and fickle breeze that was predominantly from the north but flicked between north, east nor’east and north east as the race wore on.
The fleet of 21 started off Manly at 1000hours on Saturday morning in 4 knots of breeze from almost due north, after Race Officer Denis Thompson was forced to invoke the insufficient wind start sequence.
This sequence had the fleet motor in the company of the start vessel MV Offshore in the direction of Newcastle, until there was sufficient breeze for the smallest boats to achieve an average speed to arrive in the Newcastle finishing area before the 0000hours time limit.
'There was a total glass-out in the Harbour with the rain taking the breeze away, so we motored until we could find sufficient breeze to get the fleet away. Just off Manly, the rain showers cleared and a light northerly breeze trickled in, and racing commenced,' Thompson said
'Another rain shower came through shortly after the start and killed the breeze with Samarkand the last boat to cross the start line.'
At the 1635hrs radio position sked, Ichi Ban was off Catherine Hill Bay and had a distance of approximately 15 nautical miles to reach the finish line off Stockton Wharf. Andrew Wenham’s Volvo 70 Southern Excellence II (the former Ichi Ban) was three nautical miles behind.
Quetzalcoatl (Antony Sweetapple) was at the rear of the fleet south of Terrigal and the crew had a long night at sea ahead of them battling to reach the finish line prior to the 0000hours time limit.
Aboard the finishing boat Wombat, moored in the vicinity of Stockton Wharf, Dianne Fitzgerald reported at 1730hrs, more light northerly winds yet the Bureau of Meteorology had issued a strong wind forecast of 20-30 knots for the evening.
'We’ll see if the forecast breeze comes through and pushes the fleet home. We’re all ready and waiting to greet them as they finish. The ‘Rum Runners’ are alerted and on standby to greet the boats as they tie up at Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club,' Fitzgerald said.
2013 Rolex Sydney Hobart winner Victoire, Darryl Hodgkinson's Cookson 50 was the first to retire citing time constraints and she would not be the last. In all, 12 yachts retired all citing time constraints as their reason with seven of the 21 boat fleet finishing the race.
Five yachts represented the race finishing club, the Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club: Marta Jean, Raging Bull (John Streeter), She’s the Culprit (the Culprit Syndicate skippered by Michael McDonald), Long Time Dead (Matthew Fensom) and Summersalt (Tim Gleeson).
The planned return Newcastle to Sydney Ocean Pointscore race (which was a non-pointscore race) was due to commence at 0900hours this morning with only one yacht, Southern Excellence II, approaching the start line.
The Bureau of Meteorology issued a strong wind warning with northerly winds of 20-30 knots predicted for the morning shifting southerly in the middle of the day. Andrew Wenham took the prudent option and withdrew from racing opting to motor home rather than risk the forecasted adverse conditions.
The final race of the Ocean Pointscore Series is the Lion Island Race, starting on Sydney Harbour at 10.00am on 15 March.
About Time leads both the IRC and ORCi division in the Autumn Ocean Pointscore Series, which includes all the OPS races from 26 January through until 15 March and concludes with the Sydney Wollongong race that will be conducted on 22 March. St Jude currently leads the PHS division.