Victoire, Darryl Hodgkinson’s Beneteau 45, finished the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s 180 nautical mile race Cabbage Tree Island Race shortly before 1.30am this morning. Victoire won the race overall by a mere 56 seconds from Ed Psaltis/Bob Thomas/Michael Bencsik’s new Ker 40, AFR Midnight Rambler, which showed impressive signs of her long ocean racing potential.
With victory, Hodgkinson's chances of winning the 2010-2011 Blue Water Pointscore Series (BWPS) and the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race firmed.
For his IRC overall win, Hodgkinson, a member of the CYCA, which also hosts the Rolex Sydney Hobart and the BWPS, will have his name engraved alongside some famous names on the 49th Halvorsen Brothers Trophy.
Third overall in the race for the BWPS was the Ed Cox skippered DK 43, Minerva, while Loki, Stephen Ainsworth’s productive Reichel/Pugh 63, took line honours at 6.59.53pm last night on the Rushcutters Bay finish line. The Reichel/Pugh 63 completed the course only seven seconds shy of 24 hours and well outside Wild Oats XI’s 2010 record of 14 hours 13min 35 sec.
Prior to the race start, Roger Hickman, owner/skipper of the Farr 43 Wild Rose, predicted it would be a smaller boat race if the weather prediction held true. He was on the button, as the nor’ easter increased in strength from the early hours of Sunday, bringing the smaller boats home fast.
It did not suit Loki, which finished 21st overall, nor did it help the TP52’s such as Syd Fischer’s Ragamuffin. Defending champion Ainsworth, and nine-time winner Fischer, will find it difficult to overcome Victoire for the BWPS, with only two races remaining.
Although confident after his win, Hodgkinson was cautious about counting his BWPS and Hobart chickens before they hatched. 'There’s lots of great boats out there; we only just beat AFR, a fantastic boat and an experienced crew who have been sailing together for years, not to mention Loki and others,' he said.
Of the race itself, the Sydney plastic surgeon told of fog so thick they could barely see in front of them on Saturday morning. 'It was strange – spooky – I thought it would mean no breeze for a long time. We sat on zero and didn’t move for about one and a half hours yesterday morning,' he said.
Planning to round the island north of Port Stephens by 10 or 11am, Victoire did not round it until '12.30-1.00 o’clock,' after a stop-start ride on the beat up. 'Then we got the most steady breeze you could imagine; 18 knots of north-easterly. It was a dream ride home – champagne sailing – nice water,' Hodgkinson disclosed.
Victoire’s owner confessed that a huge barge had got in the way off Stockton on the way up the Central Coast, but had 'probably helped us win, because we couldn’t get across it, so we were stuck offshore, and on reflection, there was more breeze out than in.'
Although owner and crew were apprehensive going into the race, because they were minus their tactician Sean Kirkjian, Hodgkinson said everything went to plan. 'The crew worked above and beyond the call of duty,' he said.
'Sean does make a significant difference, he’s such a crisp decision maker, but it’s good to do a race or two without him, because it makes us work harder as a team and therefore makes us better.'
Victoire’s crew also used the race an exercise in safety drills for the upcoming Rolex Sydney Hobart. 'We all wore our PFD’s and personal beacons and practiced drills and also our watch system. We’ve left no stone unturned,' he said.
It was a slow old slog up the Central Coast, with Loki leading the 30-boat fleet. She was still nine nautical miles shy of reaching the Island at 8.00am on Saturday morning, according to Principal Race Officer Denis Thompson.
Thompson reported: 'At 8.00am (Saturday) Nemesis (Jeffery Taylor’s C&C 41) was sitting off Tuggerah. She’s only completed around 27-30 nautical miles of the course.' He remained positive for the fleet on hearing news of a strong wind warning. 'Looks like the nor’ easter will increase through the day to 30 knots. It means a fast run home under spinnaker,' he said.
In other results, Psaltis and his crew had their revenge under ORCi, pipping Hodgkinson to the post, with Tony Kirby’s X-41 Patrice Six third, while Murray Owen and Jenny Kings had the goods in PHS, sailing their Sydney 46 NSC Mahligai to a win for the 39th Woollahra Cup, beating Minerva and Peter Gregory’s Beneteau 47.7 Elektra to the punch.
All are Rolex Sydney Hobart entries, whose owners will be left feeling more assured after their good results.
In one of the most protracted Cabbage Tree Island’s for some time, the last boat home was Ted Tooher’s Beneteau F40, Chancellor, which finished just before 11.30am. Three boats retired; Nemesis, Mortgage Choice Rumba and Reverie.
The Lion Island Botany Bay Race is penultimate race in the BWPS, on December 3, and leads into the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, the grand finale which will decide the winner.
Full race results and provisional Blue Water Pointscore Series standings here