The Morna Cup is one of three short ocean races conducted each summer by the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron. A softening nor’easter and a strong set gave the faster yachts a winning advantage today.
Merlin, a 15.2m Kaiko-design, skippered by Joseph Earl, won the Morna Cup, which is decided on Performance handicaps, while the IRC division went to Bob Steel’s TP52 Quest, repeating Steel’s IRC win in the Gascoigne Cup.
The Morna Cup is a sterling silver cup presented to the Squadron by a former Commodore, Sir Alexander MacCormick in 1913 and named after his famous yacht of that era, Morna.
Sailed today over a 20 nautical mile windward/leeward course with the start and finish at Watson’s Bay, the race began in a 10-12 knot nor’easter but by mid-afternoon the breeze had dropped to 8 knots, with the last yacht to finish crossing the line just under nine minutes before the time limit. Two others failed to make the cut.
Quest led the fleet around the course, as she did last month in the Gascoigne Cup, the first of the Squadron’s three short ocean races each summer, finishing the course in 2 hours 41 minutes and 29 seconds, followed seven and a half minutes later by the former Volvo 60 Southern Excellence, skippered by Andrew Wenham. By contrast, the last boat to finish, Stormy Petrel, took 4 hours 52 minutes and 44 seconds.
Merlin sailed an excellent race to finish just over two minutes astern of Southern Excellence, close enough to displace the first two boats on PHS corrected time and win the prestigious Morna Cup from Quest by a close 1 minute and 34 seconds.
Third place went to Warwick Sherman’s GTS 43 Occasional Coarse Language 2, which beat Tim and Edward Cox’s DK43 Minerva by just 52 seconds on corrected time.
Under IRC ratings, Quest placed first overall, beating the Ker 40 AFR Midnight Rambler (Ed Psaltis and Bob Thomas), third place going to Occasional Coarse Language, Merlin dropping to fourth.
Seven yachts nominated for next month’s Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race contested the Morna Cup, with AFR Midnight’s second place in the IRC division the best performance of those heading south on Boxing Day.
Victoire (Darryl Hodginson) placed fifth on IRC after losing ground restarting following an OCS recall. Minerva, owned by Rolex Sydney Hobart race committee chairman Tim Cox and his son Edward, placed sixth overall, (Edward will be skippering the boat to Hobart) while Paul Clitheroe’s Balance placed ninth.
The Goat (Bruce Foye) placed 10th, Southern Excellent 18th while the 1988 Sydney Hobart winner Illusion (Jonathan Stone) was 20th on corrected time. Quest is not entered for this year’s race.
Illusion placed fourth in IRC scoring for Division 2, with first place going to Alex Brandon’s consistent Zephyr Hamilton Elevators, second to Out of Sight (Matt Wilkinson) and third to King Billy (Philip Bennett).
Division 2 saw Sean Barrett’s Outlandish win from Out of Sight, King Billy and Illusion.
The Morna Cup was also part of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s Grant Thornton Short Ocean Pointscore with the top placings identical in both PHS and IRC scoring. Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron website