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2019 Bird Island Race lives up to its reputation

by Cruising Yacht Club of Australia 1 Dec 2019 11:25 PST 1 December 2019
Craig Neil and Bob Steel's Quest pushing their Rolex Sydney Hobart winning yacht and showing the newer entrants that they are still one to watch. © CYCA / Hamish Hardy

The Bird Island Race, shortest in the Audi Centre Sydney Blue Water Pointscore (Audi Centre Sydney BWPS) at 85 nautical miles has concluded with most of the race living up to its reputation as the drag race in the series.

Strong and gusty southerly conditions propelled entrants out of Sydney Harbour and throughout the majority of the race before winds subsided to a mere whisper as crews closed in on the finish.

The standout of the weekend was two-time Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race winner Quest, taking out first in both IRC and ORCi Division 1. Owned by Bob Steel and Craig Neil they were excited to show the newer of the TP52s that they are still as competitive as ever.

"It has been good to string one together, we have had a few rough races leading into this with a few things not going our way with wind and weather conditions. We were lucky today in that respect, the teamwork was great, everyone is getting used to their roles and their positions with it all coming together," Said Neil.

"It was a good run out the heads and then offshore was really exciting, it was awesome. Really exciting ride, boat went well and good to come out with no damage or breakages."

With this being the final offshore race in the series before the Rolex Sydney Hobart in its 75th running, the team are feeling good with the preparations and excited for the upcoming milestone race starting on boxing day.

"We are definitely going to Hobart, that is the grand final for us this year so it's great to have some shake down races leading into it. They have been hard, there has been some hard downwind sections and tough upwind beats so it has been good all round testing conditions," said Neil.

Division 2 IRC and PHS saw the return of Western Australian Anthony Kirke and his crew on the Farr40 Enterprise. Kirke is no stranger to the east coast offshore racing scene with Enterprise competing in the 2018 Audi Centre Sydney BWPS and winning Ocean Rookie of the Year at the CYCA Ocean Racer of the Year Awards in that season. Once again Kirke and the Enterprise have made the long trip from Western Australia to Sydney to prepare for the this year's Rolex Sydney Hobart with the yacht only splashing back in the water the week prior to the Bird Island Race.

St Jude skippered by CYCA Vice Commodore Noel Cornish AM put on a strong performance sitting atop Division 2 across many of the Handicap ratings for a large period of the race. However, with the fading wind in the later stages of the race the conditions did not favour his yacht which thrives in the heavier upwind conditions. The team unfortunately slipped to second in IRC and PHS but were able to hold off Enterprise in ORCi to claim the top position in Division 2.

The 50-foot fleet were strong across PHS Division 1 with Julian Farren-Price's Cookson 50 About Time just holding off the charge of two TP52s, Quest and Stay Calm Hungary. About Time had to retire from the previous race of the series but were able to display their fine form in this race and relishing in the conditions.

Click here for full list of results.

The next race in the Audi Centre Sydney BWPS will be the sixth and final race, the iconic 628 nautical mile Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race taking place 26th December. It can be followed through the official Rolex Sydney Hobart website.

More information at

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