There were plenty of thrills and spills in the final day of the Farr 40 Australian Championship which concluded yesterday on Sydney Harbour.
The yachts planed down the Harbour with broaches, involuntary gybes and spinnakers flagging, crews struggling to maintain control over their yachts. Kokomo (Ivan Wheen) and Estate Master (Martin & Lisa Hill) both showed finesse in the challenging conditions, however it was the reigning World Champions aboard Transfusion (Guido Belgiorno-Nettis) who sailed their boat flawlessly to win the Championship with a near-perfect scorecard.
The fleet enjoyed spectacular conditions, with sunshine and flat water, a solid 20 – 25 knot breeze, and the Harbour Bridge as a stunning backdrop. The first race kicked off at 12.00pm, with Lang Walker’s Kokomo (helmed by Ivan Wheen) leading the charge across the start line and towards the Western shore. The entire fleet followed with some close tacking duels up the left hand side of the course. After two laps of the Harbour, Transfusion managed to claw their way past Kokomo and win the race, with Estate Master placing third.
Race Two was an exact replica in similar circumstances – the fleet revelling in the superb sailing conditions upon a relatively quiet waterway, with the start line laid off Potts Point and a long beat straight up the Harbour. The Queenslanders aboard Lambourdini / Envy Scooters (Howard & David Lambourne) showed good form early on in the race, setting a cracking pace. Transfusion took their fourth bullet of the series, with Kokomo second and Estate Master third.
It was the final race of the series that really pushed everyone to their limits. Jeff Carter’s Edake (helmed by Mark Griffith) took a gamble up the Western shore, whilst the rest of the fleet split and went to the East. Tactician Evan Walker’s wager paid off, as Edake rounded the mark in first position and cleared the rest of the fleet approaching on starboard. A chaotic scene followed, as Transfusion dipped the top mark to perform a penalty turn, while the rest of the fleet barged around the mark, four abreast, amazingly with no collisions.
Thundering down-wind in the building breeze, boats were skating across the course and zigzagging to avoid the fleet of 18-foot skiffs that were making their way up the Harbour in the opposite direction. A big gust hit the fleet and caused Kokomo to do an involuntary gybe, with Forty (Sam Hill & Steve Barlow) planing alongside forced to make some fast manoeuvres, to narrowly avoid their stern. With less than ten boat-lengths separating the entire fleet from first to eighth place, the bottom gate was approaching fast.
Hooligan (Marcus Blackmore) made a clean rounding and was first to the top mark. Transfusion battled their way up the beat, recovering from last position after their penalty turn, to round in third place. This time it was Kokomo’s turn to do a penalty turn as they hit the mark during the final rounding. Hooligan extended their lead toward the finish, crossing the line first, followed by Estate Master and Transfusion.
Youngster Jack Cuthbert aboard Hooligan admitted that it was a thrill to cross the line first in the final race. Just 13 years old and weighing in at 35kgs, the super-flyweight is the youngest sailor in the fleet and barely heavier than the spinnakers he is in charge of retrieving and packing. He and fellow sailor Max Voss (member of Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club’s Youth Development Squad) have both been incorporated to the largely professional Hooligan team, and were ecstatic after the excitement of the day.
Back on-shore, protests were heard and the final results tallied. Transfusion was declared the Farr 40 Australian Champion for 2012, with Kokomo placing second overall and Estate Master third. Easy Tiger (Chris Way) was awarded the Corinthian trophy, with special prizes presented to the newcomers to the fleet, Forty and Lambourdini / Envy Scooters.
'It is nice to get the title back from our friends the Italians (Nerone) who won the Nationals last year' stated Belgiorno-Nettis. 'Nathan (Outteridge) did a wonderful job doing tactics for us, and we had good mojo on the boat. It really is a great fleet to sail in, the camaraderie is just excellent, and I have a fantastic crew. It is nice to have Goobs (Iain Jensen) back on the boat again – along with Nathan, we have a really great team.'
Outteridge and Jensen are the current 49er World Champions - Outteridge also the current Moth World Champion, and a recent nominee for ISAF World Sailor of the Year. 'Going in to the last race, we knew that we would be able to win if we just kept Kokomo close to us.' Outteridge commented. 'We kept trying to bump Kokomo to the right of the course, and ended up involved in a marginal incident with them and Estate Master, so we decided to do the penalty turns. Some other boats ended up in protests today and we didn’t want to finish the day in the (protest) room. Then we were in last position, so it was a tough climb back to third position from there. Luckily we like a challenge.'
Outteridge will soon head to Naples for his position with Team Korea as helmsman for their America’s Cup program. Meanwhile, the rest of the Transfusion team will be preparing for their next Farr 40 event in July, when they tour to Newport to contest the North American Championship, followed by the Rolex World Championship in Chicago.
Full results Australian Farr 40 Championship here
by Erin McKnight
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5:42 AM Mon 5 Mar 2012GMT
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