Combined Clubs Long Distance Series - Yachting racing got off to a spectacular start today with Rolex Sydney Hobart contender Valheru and harbour racer War Games crossing the finish line just 19 seconds apart at the end of the 25 nautical mile Bay of Fires Channel Race.
The two yachts swept up the Derwent under massive spinnakers before a 15-20 southerly breeze just a couple of boat lengths apart from the John Garrow light to the finish off Castray Esplanade.
Valheru, Tony Lyall’s Elliott 43, is one of the seven Tasmanian yachts entered for the Rolex Sydney Hobart while War Games is a Farr 40 skippered by Wayne Banks-Smith. While the War Games races mainly against other Farr 40s on river courses, Banks-Smith plans to sail the yacht in this year’s Optus Launceston to Hobart Race.
Valheru and War Games sailed the course, down the River and into the D’Entrecasteaux Channel to a rounding mark off Bligh Point on Bruny Island and return, in the fast time of three hours and seven minutes.
The first eight boats finished within eight minutes of each other, at times almost surfing up the river as the strong wind kicked up choppy conditions.
'We had 39 starters, all but two finishing the race with the sports boat Storm Dragon breaking one of its twin rudders when the southerly gusted to 35 knots down the river,' RYCT Vice Commodore Roger Martin said.
The other retirement was the little boat Wayath, with skipper Allan Morgan advising race officials that ‘discretion was the better half of valour’ as winds gusted to 35 knots down the river in mid afternoon.
However, smaller and slower Group three yachts dominated the overall PHS results with first place on corrected time going to Steve Mannering’s comfortable Zeston 40 cruiser/racer Camelet Way from Neil Snare’s Young 88 Jigsaw and Peter Alcock’s Mottle 33 Kindred Spirit, skippered by Alastair Douglas.
Valheru placed 12th overall, War Games had to be content with a 22nd place on handicap.
Under provisional AMS rated handicap results, first place went to David Taylor’s Sydney 36 Pisces from 42 South (Mark Ballard) and Archie (Sally Rattle) with Whistler (David Rees) placed first under IRC ratings, ahead of Pisces and Philippa Calvert and Richard Scarr’s Auch.
The fleet started at 09:40 in a shifty north-westerly breeze, influenced by rain squalls coming down the mountain. Valheru won the start from a crowded inshore line while 40 South got a clear air at the outer mark as the fleet reached down the river at a fast pace.
The leaders were abeam of the John Garrow within 15 minutes of the start and from there on enjoyed a fast reach down the Derwent and into the Channel to the turning mark off Bligh Point.
Doctor Who, skippered by her veteran owner Roger Blackman led the fleet around the mark but was overtaken on the spinnaker run back to Hobart by Valheru and War Games.
Valheru crossed the finish line just two boat lengths ahead of War Games at 12:47:56, and they were followed only minutes later by the catamaran Slingshot, Doctor Who, Dump Truck, 42 South, Planet X, Whistler, Pisces and Masquerade.
The Channel Race is the first in the six races that will make up the Combined Clubs Long Distance Series this summer. A total of 53 entries were received, most of them entries for the Series, with 45 boats starting on a chilly and showery morning.
The first Combined Clubs Harbour Series day will be held next Saturday, 15 October, with the Derwent Sailing Squadron conducting the racing.