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The many and varied ways of attending the Beneteau Cup on Sydney Harbour

by John Curnow 30 Oct 02:31 PDT 25 October 2019

Buying a Beneteau from Flagstaff Marine could well be the easiest component when it comes to your participation in the annual Beneteau Cup on Sydney Harbour. Having just completed its 28th year, this event is not only a cornerstone for the famous brand here in Australia; it is the undisputed benchmark for others to follow.

Two skippers from this year's event have now attended over 20 of them, with John and Kim Clinton on their Oceanis 50, Holy Cow, probably edging out Greg Newton and his Oceanis 45, Antipodes, by one or two years in the tally. What these owners exude is the delight of sailing a Beneteau, especially so as they are now on to much later craft than they started with.

Speaking of craft from years gone by, Bob Swan's First 30.5 from back in the middle 80's took the mantle on the day for both oldest and smallest. This did not preclude them from taking out Non-Spinnaker Division B after the two races of the day were completed, however. This was to the utter delight of Bob, whose enthusiasm is endless, and he is always thanking his crew for their time, as well. Each year he brings Elusive Spirit down from Gosford, just like others bring theirs from Cronulla and Wollongong, Pittwater, or up the Parramatta River.

Some of the other 23 vessels attending the Beneteau Cup might also have that patina of age to them. Note that this neither hampered their fun on the day, such as Philippe Maes' Oceanis Clipper 36 Centre Console, Libertine, nor precluded Stephen Phillips' Beneteau 38s5, Big Blue, from winning Non-Spinnaker Division A.

Then completely at the other end of the scale, you had Phillip Holt's Oceanis 38.1, Shorland, which is just two weeks old. Yet there was one vessel that was new last year when it left the factory in France. Her owners even collected her there, then sailed around the Mediterranean, across the Atlantic, through the Panama Canal, thence into the South Pacific, and home to Sydney. Emir Ruzdic and Xin Li got back at 0500hrs on the day of the Beneteau Cup, totally true to their word from 18 months ago when they set off.

Theirs is a tale of dedication, perseverance, enjoyment, sightseeing, and accomplishment. In a way, a lot like the qualities that Graham Raspass and Micah Lane from Flagstaff Marine assist their customers to deploy. So from half way around the world, and to a timeline set to the day exactly, amongst so many other things, it is little wonder they are the 2019 Beneteau Cup winners.

Co-owner of Flagstaff Marine, Micah Lane, kept in contact every fortnight with them during the voyage, having also been present for their maiden sail on, Hugo. "Emir and Xin are just fantastic. Emir bought his first Beneteau, just 21.5 feet long, a little while ago, and has always demonstrated his tenacity to achieve his goals. When they said they wanted to buy a new Oceanis 41.1 Performance and bring it back to Australia there was never any doubt. They are a mark many can set their own compasses by."

There were other newer vessels also in Non-Spinnaker A like Gareth Jones' Oceanis 41.1, Belle Époque, and Peter Berger and Rob Wearn's Oceanis 38.1, Jannelly. Yet it would be in the Spinnaker Division where Arthur Lane's Oceanis 51.1 First Line, Wilde Rush, David Boekmann's Oceanis 46.1 First Line, Bombolo, and Eric Frank's Oceanis 46.1 First Line, Bliss, would do the most miles, and have a mini battle royale.

Bliss raced around the track and was first over the line, but when the calculations had been done, it would be Antipodes that won, with Bliss in second place, and Bombolo in third. Showing just how quick these newer, seventh generation vessels are, they not only went right up into Manly, before returning to back to Clarke Island off Darling Point, they also managed to lap just about everyone else as they set off on their second lap, and secured that achievement by the time they came back down Sydney harbour to cross the finish line.

Race Officer, Steve Kidson from the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia got all three divisional starts away cleanly, both times, and set terrific courses to not only let the owners enjoy their craft, but be right in the thick of the action, no matter whether they were out in front, or taking things at a more leisurely pace. Special thanks must go to Paul and Pam Wood, who put his Beneteau Swift Trawler 30, Lindos, on call as the Committee Vessel.

Now if there was plenty of variety in boats that attended, then it seemed only fitting that there should be a similar smorgasbord with the weather. And wasn't there just that! There were winds from the Nor'west off Darling Point, Nor'easters up at Manly, and by the time it was done, there was even a Southerly, with the noticeable drop in temperature that came along with it.

Nothing seemed to have enough power to hold sway, however, with the 'change' mainly only good for some artsy type images, and the total confusion on behalf of the wind, which could not decide if it was a strong 17 knot thrill ride, or a sub-four knot driftathon determined to make mark roundings even more precarious.

Completing the overall results now, and in Non-Spinnaker Division A, the winner was Big Blue who sailed strongly, then Belle Époque, with Hugo in third place. As mentioned, Elusive Spirit won Division B, with the Oceanis 321, Elara, in second place, and then Craig Bolton's Oceanis 34, Flying Circus, in third.

Elara's Steven Mullie commented before the start, "We bought the boat in 2014, and a couple of months later we signed up for the first Beneteau Cup here on the harbour. Pretty sure came last that first time, but we have been coming back to this one, and also the one on Pittwater, as they are great events. We won two years after first coming here, and we also have two third places, so we need to secure second, which is our goal for today." Of course, this is exactly what they achieved. Mullies' business,, specialises in all things to do with electric propulsion for small to medium sized boats, including torqeedo outboards, and flexible solar panels, the latter they have generously donated as prizes in the Beneteau Cup.

Kevin Gray from the First 33.7, Eu de Vie, is another who has taken to these regattas with gusto since first attending. "We have done five years now, times two, as we also love the Pittwater Cup in May. It is the venues, and the events, as we don't normally race in either of these impressive locales. Normally we are out of Drummoyne, and love the variety these regattas bring, and all the other Beneteau owners."

"We also love that if you have more than two boats it is a race, and in a mixed fleet you'll never be first across the line, but here we get to match race against boats of a similar size and speed capability, leaving it to us to see if we can punch above our weight. It is a no reef day today, we are going to power on through it", Gray said before heading out.

Evidently, all of the loyal, enthusiastic, and cheerful Beneteau owners want more, with the requests flooding in to add Sail Port Stephens to the agenda of the two existing events on Pittwater and Sydney Harbour. Speaking of which, the Pittwater Cup will be on May 9, 2020, so set it aside now, get the crew sorted, and be ready to enjoy some of the most relaxing sailing going around...

Reflecting on this opportunity, Graham Raspass commented, "We'll see. Flagstaff Marine has been a long-term supporter of the event, and we'd love to find a way to make it happen at this burgeoning regatta. Of course, it also fits in very nicely with our new base at the delightful Soldiers Point that James Faulkner heads up."

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