Ocean Racing Club of Victoria’s 2011 Winter Series - Large, powerful, high and low pressure systems have dominated the barometric picture over Melbourne for days. So it was really no surprise when Winter finally arrived for the last race on Port Phillip.
A pool of super cold air brought very chilly, stiff Sou’westers out for the 0830hrs start. It was so grey in parts as to be thinking you might need a miner’s lamp on, just to see your fingers. Alas, you only had to wait a few minutes or move to another part of the Bay and you could be in beaming sunshine. One thing you never had a doubt over, was that with that cold air mass hanging over you like a chill vest used by sports stars on hot days, shorts were always going to be off the required gear list.
459 sailors aboard 63 vessels in three divisions was the recipe. It only got modified slightly leading in to the day, with just three vessels announcing they would not be taking part. The grey and threatening morning was enough to have a few more not make the start as well. Gear damage accounted for another three, with XLR8 the first to go with a broken headsail tack fitting, then Herbie Racing Team and FullyN’Pushing, both of whom uffered mainsail issues and withdrew.
Continuing with threes, there were three starts to match the number of divisions all of which raced on different courses to reach the same end goal at Geelong. In Division One both the Line Honours favourite, Goldfinger and Mille Sabords were on the wrong side of the line when the gun went. Division Two was an all-clean affair, whilst three vessels in the Cruising Division, being Reckless, Escapade and Streetcar all showed a little too much exuberance.
Goldfinger may well have been On Course Side for the start, but it did not stop her from taking Line Honours for Div1 at 13:38:14. From seven starts in the series, she has taken six, which is a wonderful effort. It was also great to see Dennis Hambleton's Alibi get up for Div2 Line Honours at 13:39:05 and as a result, the crew won all three classes within the division; International Rule Club, Australian Measurement System and Performance Handicap System. Bundaberg from the Royal Geelong Yacht Club took out Cruising at 14:00:23.
Racing in large waves, cold breeze and even rain was the theme in the end, but when the breeze went soft as the hours slid towards darkness and slowed the last few boats to almost nothing, it must have been very frustrating. Not that you would know from the crews who occupied the clubhouse, as the laughter and merriment won over.
Other winners and place getters in various divisions on the day, were vessels like Schuss, The Secretary, Laurelle, Addiction, Hush, Kerina, Dionysos, Pretty Young Thing and Spirit of Downunder.
Lord Warden Trophy winners - INSX - Melbourne to Geelong - John Curnow ©
However, the great result came from INSX who won the Lord Warden Trophy for the third year running. This prize is for the crew and vessel that attain the lowest points during the series and is a true mark of their skill across many conditions. Going in to this last race of the series, Toecutter 2 held a slender lead, but it was not to be their day. Ultimately, Toecutter 2 would tie for second with Jazz Player and Lou Abraham’s Challenge would take third place.
Above and beyond it all are the smiles you see from the crews and the warm conviviality on display wherever you look. That just has to be good for sailing.
Biddy Hu II was one of the large cruisers out for the run to Geelong. - Melbourne to Geelong - John Curnow ©
Lou Abrahams’ Challenge, with Lou in the pushpit. - Melbourne to Geelong - John Curnow ©
Jazz Player tied for second in the series overall. - Melbourne to Geelong - John Curnow ©