The NSW Grand Prix sailing season climaxes at Sail Port Stephens 2011 when the 26 boat IRC fleet will face the gun in a six race offshore series across two divisions, starting at 11:30am today. Media wishing to cover the event should register online at www.sailportstephens.com.au or ring 0418441359
In a star studded field the outright favourite is Marcus Blackmore’s TP52 Hooligan.
Last year Blackmore, the vitamin and health products mogul, purchased Emirates Team NZ TP52, the 2010 World Champion. His team optimised her for IRC racing with excellent results.
Dockside yesterday Blackmore explained just why Hooligan has been sailing so well.
‘While people originally thought the TP52s were downwind boats we actually go fairly well upwind. Our boat has been going so well that there has been a request to review our IRC handicap so I had the opportunity or the necessity if you like, to write to the Technical Committee of the Royal Ocean Racing Club, who will review our handicap. I said I think one of the things that might have been overlooked in our results thus far, with wins in the Rolex regatta in Sydney and the Audi Victoria Week regatta, is that we have a top class crew on this boat. I have used some of the Team New Zealand guys who sailed on the boat as part of the Team New Zealand crew to help us get the boat up to speed.
‘I think a lot of people forget that the boat is two years old and so it was actually fairly well tried before we started racing. Everybody said it was amazing that we got the boat in the water one day and went sailing the next and won our first regatta, but we had some very competent guys onboard who had sailed the boat before and the boat was well set up when we bought it.
‘After this regatta Hooligan will head north for the Brisbane to Gladstone race, then she will come back for the Sydney Gold Coast race and we are really looking forward to going to Hamilton Island.
Tactician Grant Simmer has a strong opinion. ‘Hooligan appears to be the best IRC boat in Australia. World-wide there are plenty of late generation TP52s that have been modified for IRC that I think would be competitive. It just happened that Hooligan is the latest version of these in Australia at the moment. Lovely boats; TPs’ are great boats and they fit pretty well under IRC.'
Marcus continued. ‘It will be interesting to see how we go against the smaller boats. Smaller boats generally rate better than the 50 footers like us and Rob Hanna’s Shogun under IRC.’
Shogun is no slouch, she was third in the 2010 Rolex Sydney to Hobart race and as Hanna said yesterday ‘We go better with more breeze, so we will be hoping for more of that over the next three days.’
There are plenty of well known ocean racers in this NSW Championship series and under the IRC handicap system, winners can come from anywhere across the two divisions.
Close behind the two TP52s will be Gary Linacre and David Fuller’s Vamp, the Corby 49 will be helmed by another CYCA former Commodore Hugo Van Kretschmar.
Paul Clitheroe's Beneteau 45 Balance regularly sails above her handicap.
Warren and Kristy Buchan’s Sayer 44.5 impressed this week in the Sail Port Stephens 2011 Commodore's Cup.
Phil Arnall's Corby 43 Anger Management, once known as Full Metal Jacket, is a classy racer with wins at the Phuket Kings Cup and China Coast Series. She took line honours in the Newcastle to Port Stephens race last Sunday.
Peter Horn's King 40 Canute has been a regular podium player and Ichi Ban, the well sailed Farr 40, has to be a threat with Walter Lewin and Warwick Rooklyn onboard. It will be interesting to watch the Farr 40 battle between Ichi Ban, Jeff Carter’s Edake and Tony Lobb's PT 73.
Wild Rose was commissioned in 1983 as Wild Oats by Bob Oatley for the 1987 Admiral’s Cup. The well recognised Farr 43 has won many Australian east coast races and championships under Roger Hickman’s watch including the 1993 Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race and most recently the Sydney Offshore Newcastle race on handicap. She cannot be discounted in this series.
Sydney 38s proved in the 2009 Hobart race they can be a handful. Tony Levett's Eleni, Mick Hinchey's Not Swish, Mark Griffiths’ Old School, and Gordon Ketelby's Zen will all battle each other as well as the fleet for the honours.
Andy Kearnan’s L’Altra Donna or the Other Woman, is the new Mark Mills designed Summit 35, a little sister to Peter Horn’s King 40 Canute.
Anthony Paterson of Tow truck fame has made a habit of winning in small boats and the Archambault 31 Aroona will grow in water line length if there is a decent breeze.
Looking forward to today’s racing, Marcus Blackmore’s final comment was about Port Stephens. ‘I think the Farr 40s were probably the first big keelboat group to come up here years ago, sailing out the Peppers Anchorage. I just love coming here. It’s a great atmosphere, good little restaurants around the town.
‘I think Port Stephens is a special place to come, just to get out of Sydney for a change, and it is not far. It is a fantastic place for a regatta and we expect to see this one going from strength to strength.’
The IRC NSW Championship begins today, April 15th offshore at 11.30am and concludes Sunday 17th.
The ten race SB3 Australian Championship will commence at the same time, 11.30am in Port Sterphens Salamander Bay.
The Sail Port Stephens Trophy for Performance Racing yachts will start off the d'Albora Marina Nelson Bay wall at 12.25pm today.
Media wishing to cover the event should register online at www.sailportstephens.com.au or ring 0418441359
by Sail Port Stephens media
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9:13 PM Thu 14 Apr 2011 GMT
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