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Racing the winds of paradise

by Mick Gwilliams on 23 May 2011
Mick Gwilliams
Sixteen yachts contested the first three races of the Exemplar Clipper Cup in far north Queensland over the first weekend of Port Douglas Carnivale. The largest fleet to contest a race in local waters for quite some time comprised 10 local boats with five visitors from Cairns and one from Townsville.

It was the visitors proving to be the boats to beat as Kaizen 2 (Bruce Clark) from Cairns sailing a J24 claimed handicap wins in both windward leeward races on Saturday with 2009 winner John Gould’s Farr 38, Farr Better (Cairns) taking the handicap honours in the long passage around Snapper Island and Low Isles on Sunday.

The all girl crew of the Sydney 32, Groove (Belinda Cooper) from Cairns sailed consistently well to score two seconds and a sixth to put them at the top of the leader board on ten points. Second overall is Kaizen 2 (13) with defending champion Skulduggery, a one off trailer sailor skippered by Doug Ahola also from Cairns tied in third with a Farr 1104, Magic (Doug Ryan) on 15.

With cash prizes for the first ten placed boats on offer at the presentation this Sunday night the competition is fierce as crews not only vie for the $3,000 first prize but also to ensure a place in the top ten.

Gordon and Cheryl Wellham of event major sponsors Exemplar Coaches and Limousines said that the weekends racing was a fitting spectacle reflecting the spirit of Carnivale.

Race Officer John Graham faced with the task of handicapping the small but extremely diverse fleet came up trumps with his provisional ratings narrowing the difference in the range of corrected time to elapsed time between all boats in race one from 1:27:43 to 0:22:10 or 25%. By race three the difference in corrected times was just 9% of the range of elapsed times paving the way for a tight contest for honours in the final three races next weekend.

With three races still to run and only 15 points separating the top 10 boats well over half the fleet is still in contention to have their name on the coveted Clipper Cup trophy that now resides at Port Douglas Yacht Club.

Many sailors around the world may recall the original and subsequent series from 1978 in Hawaii that first ‘raced the winds of paradise’. Since 1995 the trophy has been the flagship event of PDYC, the humble haven in the tropics, a classic Aussie yacht club that epitomises the character of the relaxed tropical lifestyle. Sixteen boats is a small fleet by most standards but a great step towards the glory days of ’95 for the club furthest north on Australia’s eastern coast.

With as diverse a single division fleet as you’ll find anywhere matching a Bavaria Cruiser, a Spacesailor and a Seawind cat against J24’s, a Thompson 7 and a Nacra 36 all in contention with various Farr’s, a Hanse, and various other known performers like the Sydney 32 and the Adams 10.

Racing resumes on May 28th, concluding May 29th.
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