Audi Winter Series has become Australia’s largest ongoing series, with fleets averaging 140 plus boats last year. Every Sunday morning, crews can head onto the water in one of the 10 proposed divisions, including two non-spinnaker, and one-design scratch division.
Aeolus, the ruler of the winds in Greek mythology was napping for today’s Audi Winter Series and by late afternoon those struggling to reach the finish line from Manly were also in danger of nodding off in the balmy winter sunshine.
Even with a shortened course for all divisions, the last boat to finish was only 20 minutes inside the 4.30pm time limit, a huge demarcation given the first finisher was recorded a staggering three hours earlier.
There was another god on the Harbour today, Loki, the Norse god of mischief, returned from a minor winter overhaul in preparation for the northern program starting with the Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race at the end of July.
Last year’s Audi IRC Australian Champion Reichel/Pugh 63 has had the rig out and the standing rigging serviced and a couple of new sails have been added to the wardrobe, but otherwise Stephen Ainsworth and right hand man Gordon Maguire are sticking with the adage ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’.
Today’s light west north-west breeze was steady at 5-7 knots for the start before lightening off to 2-4 knots out of the west. Even then, Loki was looking ominous through the water while those weighted cruising boats with enough provisions to get them to Noumea slopped around in the wash and light airs, rockin’ and rollin’ as the jet cats, Manly ferries and jet boats criss-crossed the harbour.
To the amusement of the race committee, Peter Lewis, skipper of the comfortable Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 37 Lu Lu Belle signalled his reason d’être when he radioed mid-race unsure as to whether the course would be shortened and therefore his timing on warming the garlic bread to accompany his hearty beef stew (nice job Pete).
While offshore whale watching boats congregated, inshore the dazzling winter sunshine brought a large fleet of trophy hunters, regulars and casual entries out to play, as well as the odd sunbaker sans swimmers enjoying the mild conditions and an all-over dose of vitamin D.
With only two pointscore races remaining, crews in contention for the end of series silverware are scrabbling for last points with no let up for tacticians and navigators given the classic winter conditions of clear skies and morning westerlies that drop out as the day warms up.
Division D victor Steve Hatch’s Sydney 36cr M made its winning gain going the shoreside of Clarke Island, 'then it was a matter of keeping the boat speed up,' said Hatch, who was almost chased down by Hans Sommer’s Sommerbreeze but managed stretch out and take the gun.
'It was an interesting race as far as staying in the pressure, especially in a heavy keeled boat. We would have preferred 20 knots,' added Hatch, who last won a Winter Series back in the early 1990s crewing for Sean Kirkjian.
It’s also been a while between Audi Winter Series divisional wins for today’s Division A winner and clubhouse leader Bob Steel who after years of serious offshore campaigning, including two Rolex Sydney Hobart wins, is enjoying the pace of club racing with his slippery Farr TP52 Quest.
'We’ve come second and third in the last three years. Essentially we are just mucking around out there, but we do like trophies,' admitted Steel drolly.
Today’s divisions winners were; Quest (Bob Steel) division A1, Forty (Steve Barlow/ Hill) division A2, Mr Beaks Ribs (David Beak) division B, Into The Mystic (Jon Ross/Arthur Psaltis), division C, M (Steve Hatch) division D, Devils Lair (Barry Crook) division E, Perfect Match (Alun Lewis), division F, Young Obsession (Paul Stubbs) G, The Holy Gale (Jason Klass) division H, Elusive (Paul Billingham/Pete McGee) division J, Nemesis (Jeffery Taylor) division K.
The Sydney 38s kicked off the day’s proceedings, Larki Missiris’ Wild One taking its fifth win from eight starts and with a series score of just seven points is now beyond the reach of its one-design classmates.
Steve Hatch’s M took home double honours after Race 8, Audi Winter Series 2011 - Divisional D winner and the keys to an Audi for a week - Audi Winter Series Race 2011 - www.SailPix.com.au?nid=85171
Steve Hatch drew the winning ticket to drive the Audi A5 Sportback 2.0T multitronic for the week, his wife enquiring suggestively as to whether Hatch might have business in Brisbane this week. 'We’ll make the most of it,' assured Hatch this evening. Sydney 38 results Sydney 38 pointscore Race 8 results Series pointscore CYCA website