The 2012 Audi IRC Australian Champion, Marcus Blackmore and his TP52 Hooligan, will reign for less than five months before being challenged at the next championship, that is to take place at the Royal Geelong Yacht Club in January as part of the annual Festival of Sails.
'We only get to savour the glory for a few months...we’ll have to win it again,' quips Blackmore. He has every reason to speak so boldly given Hooligan has dominated at every Australian regatta for the past two years, a second their worst result.
Hooligan won the Festival of Sails IRC grand prix division in 2010 and Jim Farmer and Chris Meads’ New Zealand fifth generation TP52, Georgia, built from the same mould as Hooligan, swept to victory unrivalled last year.
The 2013 Audi IRC Australian Championship will be top heavy with TP52s as shortly after the Festival of Sails the class will host the first of a three-part Australian east coast circuit from Sandringham Yacht Club.
Peter Harburg’s Reichel Pugh 66, Black Jack, gave Blackmore, of Blackmore’s vitamin empire, a real scare at the 2012 Audi IRC Australian Championship, raced as part of the Audi Hamilton Island Race Week in August. Harburg was tipped to win the Championship, until the final race delivered Hooligan outright victory by a single point from Shogun and consigned Black Jack to a gut wrenching third.
'He who makes the least mistakes wins, and that was telling at Hamilton Island,' surmises Blackmore. 'We kept going over the week and with a little bit of luck...boom! We were in. To win the championship like that was pretty neat, probably the best win I’ve had'.
'When we come to Geelong we’ve got to be careful to avoid the situation we had at Hamilton Island Race Week where the TPs fought one another and Black Jack took off on its own,' he cautions himself and his class mates.
Black Jack’s skipper Mark Bradford is looking forward to the even conditions and flat water of Geelong’s Corio Bay, and another shot at the TP52s, which have affirmed their IRC dominance in the past couple of years.
'We are one of the few IRC boats to have come so close to a TP,' said Bradford of the final Hamilton Island scoresheet, the upshot of the costly IRC optimisation undertaken by Harburg, a Queensland property developer, for exactly that outcome. Before Geelong, Harburg and his crew have to finish the Rolex Sydney Hobart unscathed. 'First we have to get through the Hobart without gear failure' Bradford added.
Showing their keenness, the first four entries for the Audi IRC Australian Championship are TP52s, including Shogun, Hooligan, Calm (Williams / Van der Slot) and Calm 2 (Jason Van der Slot).
Organisers are anticipating seven or eight TP52s at the Australian Championship, including 'four of the best TP52s in the world' tips Blackmore, plus other high performance Australian and international IRC yachts.
The four day Audi IRC Australian Championship, starting Thursday January 24th, will form part of the annual Festival of Sails regatta which is acclaimed as the southern hemisphere’s largest annual sailing festival.