Marcus Blackmore’s Hooligan, Darryl Hodgkinson’s Victoire and Peter Sorensen’s The Philosopher’s Club have been announced as the winners of Middle Harbour Yacht Club’s 34th Sydney Short Ocean Racing Championship (SSORC) this evening.
Following a Passage Race yesterday and three windward/leeward races offshore today, the TP52 Hooligan came out on top in Division 1, beating overnight leader Terra Firma, Victorian Nicholas Bartels Cookson 50, by one point after winning the final two races.
Hooligan, from the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club, has become ‘the boat to beat’; her latest claims to fame include being named the Audi IRC Australian champion in Class A in August and winning the 2011 Brisbane to Gladstone Yacht Race.
'Terra Firma gave us a bit of curry. They were leading us when the first race was abandoned today. Going into the final race, we were on equal points,' Blackmore said.
Blackmore, who had winning America’s Cup yachtsman, Grant Simmer, calling tactics, and other sailors of note, such as Richie Allanson aboard, admitted the crew work was a bit rusty. 'We’re not at the same level we were at Hamilton Island, but this regatta has been good to sharpen us up for the Rolex Trophy in a couple of weeks,' he said.
One of the regatta favourites, Stephen Ainsworth’s Loki, was forced to retire from today’s opening windward/leeward race, which was abandoned after Loki hit a mark that was being moved at an inopportune time, meaning the Division 1 yachts sailed three of the intended four race series.
The Reichel/Pugh 63, with noted sailing master Gordon Maguire at the helm, was travelling at 20 knots plus and could do nothing to avoid the moving mark.
Owner of the champion Reichel/Pugh 63, Stephen Ainsworth, said after retiring back to the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, where he is a member: 'Thankfully it’s ok – a couple of heavy rope marks. We blew out our No. 4 spinnaker earlier today too, so we didn’t want to risk further damage with other major races and the Hobart coming up.'
One of the main favourites to take out the Rolex Sydney Hobart overall win this year, Loki, which was leading the race on water at the time, was retired, her owner keen to assess the damage, advising race officials at the time, 'It’s prudent for us to retire.'
The best competition today came in the Division 2 yachts. Darryl Hodgkinson sailed his Beneteau 45, Victoire to a one point victory over MHYC entry, Rob Reynolds DK46, Exile and a further five points to third placed Paul Clitheroe’s Balance.
With three winners from the four races, and the finishes culminating in only seconds between the top boats, Hodgkinson, who is also an odds on favourite to win the Sydney-Hobart overall, said 'I am surprised and amazed we won.'
Sailing to a good on water lead over all of his opponents at the first windward mark in Race 2, Hodgkinson was overtaken at the windward mark the second time. 'We had a half broach,' he explained. 'It was blowing 27 knots from the west and Sean Kirkjian (tactician) asked to take the helm for the gybe downwind, because it was quite hairy.
'It all went wrong from there; the brace jammed, we laid over, the boom was in the water and Danny (McConville) who was below decks at the time, said he saw fish!'
However, luck was on Hodgkinson’s side. As he came into the mark on starboard tack, fellow Beneteau 45, Balance, came down with no rights and tried to slide inside Victoire to overtake him around the mark, forcing Victoire to change course. Clitheroe responded immediately, executing a 720 degree penalty turn, giving his rival the upper hand.
Victoire, which won Class B of the IRC Australian Championship in August, and has a big lead in the CYCA’s Blue Water Point Score, went on to win the race, and Race 4, the last of the series, at which point the wind had eased to around eight knots.
SSORC Division two overall winner - VICTOIRE - Saltwater Images ©
Exile won Race 3 between times, after ripping a spinnaker in the high winds that peaked at around 28 knots with big shifts and the pressure up and down.
In Division 3, the racing was just as close. However, it’s hard to beat the likes of skiff and yachting champion, Peter Sorensen, who has skippered The Philosopher’s Club to two IRC Australian Championship wins among his other victories.
‘Sorro’, a Middle Harbour Yacht Club member, said he had trouble keeping Andrew Hurt’s second placed Onya and third placed Jason Antill’s Even Finer at bay.
'You better believe it, the competition was tough – it was a hard series, especially today,' Sorrensen said. The westerly was hard to sail in downwind, there were lots of broaches and the wind was so up and down and shifty,' he added.
'This is a great regatta, there were four different winners in the four races – it doesn’t get any better than that,' Sorensen ended.
SSORC Division three overall winner - THE PHILOSOPHERS CLUB - Saltwater Images ©
In the small Sydney 38 fleet, Mark Griffith’s Old School, was the victor.
Full results at SSORC website