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Sydney Harbour Regatta - A carnival of sail

by Di Pearson on 10 Mar 2012
Dark Star and Cone of Silence go head to head - Sydney Harbour Regatta hosted by Middle Harbour Yacht Club, Mosman. Saltwater Images
Sydney Harbour Regatta, hosted by Middle Harbour Yacht Club, is being held this weekend. 237 boats are competing, from the grand prix 66ft Reichel/Pugh designed Wild Oats X down to the historic 18 foot skiffs and vintage yachts, which turned a few heads today on Sydney Harbour.

While the grand prix IRC classes thrashed it out in two windward/leeward races held just north of Sydney Heads, the remaining IRC yachts and a PHS Division contested an Ocean Passage Race. The remaining 14 classes sailed on the Harbour with the Bridge and Opera House as their backdrop, under a sunny sky, something there has not been much of in Sydney lately.

Unique to NSW’s largest regatta, were two boats skippered by gentlemen in their eighties. At 86, former America’s Cup helm Gordon Ingate steered his former Olympic class Dragon, ‘Whimsical’ (RSYS). In the PHS division, 89 year-old well respected former ocean racer, John Walker (MHYC), was at the helm of his Peterson three-quarter tonner, ‘Impeccable’.

Making their racing debut were two brand new Mc38’s, Cone of Silence, skippered by Mike Green and Dark Star, skippered by John Bacon. They are the latest in technology from McConaghy Boats in Sydney. The two sailed in the PHS spinnaker division where the eight other entries in Division 1 were dying to race the two debutantes.

'We can’t wait to get out there and see how quick they are; it’ll be interesting racing them,' said Olympian Gary Geitz, skipper of Vino, a Farr 36, which leads PHS Division 1 courtesy of a pair of second places in front of former America’s Cup trimmer, Andrew Parkes’ X-41 Matrix (MHYC).

John Bacon, who purchased one of the first Mc38 off the production line and came ashore with a big smile on his face. With Cameron Miles at the helm, Dark Star (RPAYC) is third overall after winning Race 2. Sistership, Cone of Silence (CYCA), skippered by Mike Green, is fourth overall after finishing the day with a pair of third places.

'It’s like a big Melges 24,' Bacon declared of his new boat. 'This is our first regatta and we’re really enjoying ourselves. Our next goal is the IRC Championship at Hamilton Island,' he said. 'It’ll be a year before a one-design class has developed, so in the meantime we’ll truck the boat to a few regattas, including the Nationals in October.'

Miles added: 'The boat’s awesome; exciting and good fun. It’s good to see a one-design that’s fun to sail. They accelerate so fast the rig shakes.'

Mike Green was just as enthusiastic: 'We got to 18 knots boat speed – does it get any better than that?' he asked.

As expected, Warwick Rooklyn was the boat to beat in the Melges 24 One Design class. Rooklyn (CYCA), the reigning national champion, cleaned up with three wins from three races in the varying 5-19 knot winds that swung from the north-east, to east, then south-east throughout the day. The new South Australian title holder, Kevin Nixon and his family crew on Accru (RPAYC) are second overall.

In the Melges 32 fleet, it was hard to get past Greg Prescott’s 2 Unlimited Seven Star from Tasmania, which is being skippered this weekend by gun Farr 40 owner, Martin Hill, who dragged Olympian and fellow Farr 40 sailor Bobby Wilmot along for the ride to trim mainsheet, and world champion one-design sailor and coach, Darren ‘Twirler’ Jones to call tactics. The crew pulled a win either side of a second place for an early series lead.

'It was fantastic; we were doing 15 knots in 19 knots of breeze and in a building easterly we went so fast downwind – you can really stretch out downwind – and we did,' Hill said this afternoon. Having his first ride on a Melges, the Middle Harbour YC sailor described steering the boat as 'light and responsive.'

Of the regatta in general, Hill, the past commodore of the host club said: 'It’s great to see such a hot and huge fleet out on the Harbour – it’s a real carnival of sail.

Meanwhile, the sports boats division put on a great display, first off ahead of the two Melges fleets on the Harbour. While Zippier, Andrew Waugh’s Thompson 8 (SRBYC) came up with the goods to lead the series, Michael Tarrant’s Thompson 7, Zip (RPEYC) did not fare so well when she had a massive broach that scattered the boats in her near vicinity.

In the IRC Grand Prix division, Rob Hanna’s recent purchase, the TP52 Shogun V (RGYC) from Victoria cleaned up with two wins over Marcus Blackmore and his TP52 Hooligan, who most unusually, had to play second fiddle with two second places in Division A.

Nearly two minutes separated the pair in race one, but in race two, the margin had been reduced to just over one minute. Loki is currently third overall. Wild Oats X (Bob Oatley) to line honours in race one, but Black Jack (RQYS), with Mark Bradford skippering, bounced back to win line honours in race two. There was little in it between the two in both races.

In Division B, Philip Dash has sailed his Beneteau First 40 Justadash into first place with a third and win in the two races completed. Paul Clitheroe’s Beneteau 45, Balance (CYCA) is second overall, with a second MHYC boat, Exile (Rob Reynolds) in third.

David Lambourne and Barry Cuneo bought their Farr 40 Lambourdini/Envy Scooters from Queensland to Sydney for the Farr 40 Nationals and decided to stay on and get in some match practice at the Sydney Harbour Regatta ahead of the Brisbane Gladstone Race at Easter.

The Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron entry is being skippered by Cuneo at this event and he and the crew were happy with their fourth overall in Division B this afternoon after skipping over the line first for third on handicap in race one.

Cuneo, who sponsored the yacht with his Envy Scooters company, said late today: 'This is our first time here. We were keen to test ourselves outside of Queensland and we’re pleased so far. Our only disappointment today was dropping a headsail over the side - we had a couple of sail handling issues, but we’re looking forward to tomorrow,' he said.

Another yacht owner who has brought his boat from interstate to get a taste of some serious competition is David Ellis with his Archambault 31, Penfold Audi Sport. So keen was Ellis, he trucked his boat to Sydney.

Ellis, who has been a big winner in his local waters, need not have worried about the competition at all. He and the crew lead Division 3 of the IRC windward/leeward series with a win and a second place over two-time Audi IRC Australian champion, Peter Sorensen (MHYC), who sailed his Sydney 36 CR the Philosopher’s Club to second place with a fourth and a win. Andy Kearnan’s super competitive L’Altra Donnna (CYCA) is third.

After racing, crews returned to the beach party at MHYC and kicked back to sounds from the group Atomic, while enjoying a barbecue and a few drinks.

The final day of racing in this two-day event is due to get underway from 11.30am on Sydney Harbour tomorrow, Sunday 11 March.

The Sydney Harbour Regatta is sponsored by Helly Hansen and Sydney Ports Corporation. Helly Hansen, which has supplied great prizes for the regatta, will put on a fashion show on the final evening after racing.

Event website

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