by John Curnow
Honestly, how much fun has the inaugural TP52 Southern Cross Cup been, and I have not even been sailing it. True, some may have liked more wind and it was certainly not as consistent as Melbourne’s Port Phillip is known for, but Race Management did manage to get all eight races in, which in turn allows for the one drop from the series scores.
Scarlet Runner blasts away under spinnaker. - TP52 Southern Cross Cup
Happiest of them all would depend on your criteria. The truly international, Team Beau Geste have won it, but then Frantic’s crew from Lake Macquarie/Newcastle have been relishing the regatta in true style like the days of old. Accordingly, it is up to you to determine which camp you will fall in to, however all the spectators in boats and on the Sandringham Yacht Club’s deck, along with the VIPs occupying that marvellous last crew spot on each of the vessels may well say they had the win.
All of this is the perfect outcome for a regatta structure that had been purposely designed to offer something for everyone and a whole heap of entertainment for sailors both on the water and off the water. In second place was Hooligan and Calm 2 would occupy the third place on the podium.
Coming home in to fourth, with a pair of bullets from the last two races was Rob Hanna’s reigning IRC Australian Champion, Shogun V. As usual, the very affable Rob was ready for action this morning and all too aware of their lack of performance to date. Unperturbed, Rob was prepared and set for battle, so with the wind climbing as the day wore on, you could see that the crew’s desire to put their all in to a last ditch effort. Cougar II from Tasmania would pip local entrant, Scarlet Runner for fifth, with another local, Calm, taking seventh and Frantic getting eighth.
Preparation for the day’s first race commenced at 1055hrs in a Nor’easter with an average around 10knots on an axis of 165 degrees. A little further out in to the Bay it would be a tad stronger, but the lifts were to be found closer in to shore and they brought a lot of holes with them, as well.
Calm 2 would win that start, but Hooligan looked promising up at the boat end in a cleaner breeze. Shogun V had flown through the pin end of the line, but as they worked up to the top they would not get through Calm and tacked underneath. Cougar II would have rights and place over Shogun V and then tack out again to let Frantic through. The right side of the course was clearly favoured, so Hooligan saw the best of that and lead them all around the top for the first time. Beau Geste, Calm 2, Cougar II and Shogun, with Scarlet Runner, Calm and Frantic making up the pecking order.
Beau Geste would make up ground on the first run, as too Shogun. Eventually, Beau Geste would lead them around at the bottom, with Hooligan next, then Calm 2, Shogun V, Scarlet Runner, Cougar II, Calm and Frantic in that order. Beau Geste would extend their lead from that point to 56 seconds at the top mark for the second time, with Hooligan also putting some distance on Calm 2, who were a further minute astern. Shogun made up a bit a bit of ground to be the shaker and mover and close to within four boat lengths of Calm 2. Completing the chain would be Scarlet Runner, Calm, Cougar II and Frantic.
The breeze would soften a little on the second run, as Hooligan stepped out a little from Calm 2. It was all Beau Geste, however and they got the bullet for Race Six, 52 seconds ahead of Hooligan and Calm 2 a further 1’34' behind them. 'The breeze had more holes in it than Swiss Cheese and the shiftiness just won’t leave us. Once you get in front it seems like you get clearer air and punch in to the next breeze on offer and step ahead again', said Jason Van Der Slot of Calm 2.
After the first race it was evident that there were more white caps in towards the centre of the Bay, which had a real 15 knots blowing, but a lot of knocks and lifts to work through in closer to shore. At 1220hrs Race Seven got underway and it was the fabled downwind start. The course was set at 165 degrees axis with 0.9nm to the bottom and 1nm from the ‘centre’ gate back to the top and where we were it was a 12 knot breeze by now.
Beau Geste got the best of the very clean start and then ran off with it, too. The order around the bottom was Beau Geste, Shogun who had been very placed at the start, then Calm 2, Calm, Scarlet Runner, Hooligan, Cougar II and Frantic. This type of start also keeps the fleet very tight and after the rounding they all went in left to the shore in a procession.
Halfway back up the work, Shogun V had nailed it by going right in towards the club, collecting a massive lift and streaked ahead. Calm also came out from the beach well and caused both Scarlet Runner and Hooligan to tack under her once she went back on to Starboard. Shogun would lead them around with Beau Geste in second and then Hooligan in third. The breeze was flicking right by now and Shogun V stood apart form the others by having her headsail up as a staysail on the run.
At the bottom, there would be a minute separating Shogun from Beau Geste, Hooligan was in third and Calm 2 in fourth. By races end, Hooligan would overtake Beau Geste for second, with Calm 2 still in fourth, and then Scarlet Runner just leading Calm, Cougar II and Frantic home.
Speaking with Rob Hanna on the water, he said 'That’s that race done, now we have another to come, but this helps to fire us up even more and keen to get fourth out of it all. Let’s hope the breeze stays in. The lift out from the shore was really terrific and boy did it help.'
The last race was set off at 1330hrs on an axis of 175 degrees for the same overall length. Everyone was very early for this, especially Cougar II who earned themselves an individual recall for their efforts. Hooligan got squeezed out at the boat end and had to go around for another crack at it. However, this would work well, for they went out to sea in the new and stronger breeze, whilst it remained lighter inshore. Shogun would think the same and went out there too, whilst Beau Geste only just cleared Frantic as they crossed on the way.
Hooligan returned on Starboard tack to be in the lead over Shogun and Beau Geste, whilst all others had to give way to Frantic, also on Starboard. At the top, Shogun gybed early to go inside Hooligan, Calm 2 and Beau Geste and off to sea. At the bottom, Shogun had it all their way, with Calm 2, Beau Geste and then Hooligan arriving thereafter. This was to be the finish Rob Hanna and the crew were after and they recorded 19 knots on the way back down to the finish, a little later on, when the breeze would be making low 20’s from pretty much 180 degrees now.
The spectator craft returned to the course for Races Two and Three. One of the most notable was Mark Richards, who was out observing the racing from one of the Palm Beach Motor Yachts his factory in New South Wales has delivered to Melbourne.
Rob Date of Scarlet Runner said of the regatta, 'Yes it has been a great time. It is always good to sail as if it is One Design. There is a real break between the really new vessels and the older one, but the competition is really great, with the racing being close for a lot of the time. Perhaps the maths can have a day of Performance Handicap introduced to see if that changes the equation up and make it really interesting.'
The newly appointed Class President, Terry Wetton commented, 'I am over the moon and many thanks to Jason (Van Der Slot) for really getting us underway. We have a lot of owners and crews here who have not raced this closely with others, boat on boat, since they bought their boats. Everyone has said it has improved their sailing. We have not seen 52’ crews mingling like this for a long time and so this element is really working for the whole community too.
'We can look at any other options for racing, as we are driven by the owners, so reverse grids, handicaps and anything else is up for consideration, as long as it improves fun and is what they want in their regatta.'
Event PRO, Denis Thompson, was another person very happy to have witnessed all this racing. 'We have had lots of variance in direction, strength and holes, as we saw with all the Sou’easterly stuff. Today, the crews had worked on their tactics for the downwind start that we deployed in Race Seven, so it was clean and for quite a few of them, they arrived with the spinnakers up and almost at full power.'
'What a tremendous job my on water team has done and it has worked well. The shorter courses has meant we have kept them to about 50 minutes and so we got all three races in today and had them back at the clubhouse before 3pm, in time for the celebrations around the prize giving. Looking forward to another great session here at Sandringham at the end of April.'
Well done to all the crews and the armada of volunteers running everything that made the regatta happen. Many thanks to Marcus Blackmore for providing his Protector support vessel for me to observe all the racing and the very amicable John Biffin for driving it.
The TP52 Southern Cross Cup is all made possible with the generous assistance of Brighton Jeep and Coopers Brewery. See syc.com.au and transpac52.org/home for more information.