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Nothing can interfere with the Beneteau Pittwater Cup

by John Curnow 16 May 2023 00:38 PDT

The 2023 Beneteau Pittwater Cup marked the 22nd running of this popular event. Beneteaus from Sydney Harbour, Gosford, Lake Macquarie, Newcastle and Port Stephens often attend, and this year would be no different. However, no matter which way you look at it, there was perhaps one vessel that stands out.

The irrepressible Ivor Burgess was there with his crew aboard his current Beneteau Oceanis 45, Still Dangerous. He and a lot of the crew are part of very exclusive club that have attended all 22 of the infamous Pittwater Cups (Covid interrupted like everything else). The difference this year was that Ivor's son, Andy, was on the helm. Always beaming, and perpetually witty, Burgess Snr reflected afterwards, "It took me 11 years to win my first Pittwater Cup, and Andy got it the first year he was steering."

In a way, this sentiment effectively describes the whole day at the host, Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club in Newport. Some years may be similar, some may not allow the fleet to complete the full course around Lion Island, others could make you feel Summer was still in full swing, and just a few definitely had all the hallmarks of Winter firmly embossed into their fabric. 2023 could well be remembered as Multiple Choice E - all of the above.

At around six in the morning the rumblings were ominous. The rain thereafter was more than simply damp, and so with precious little breeze on offer, the overarching feeling was that this was either going to be a very short day with an Answering Pennant over A, or one long, wet slog.

Still, by the time coffee, and then quintessential Champagne and breakfast was on offer, the sun was decently exposed, and as long as you looked North, the world was rosy. Good thing we were headed off in that direction, and even a reasonable attempt to close things down just as the boats assembled for their various starts just after midday was to be short lived, as Huey (the God of Wind) deemed that the fleet should be bathed in light, and as an added bonus, be afforded the opportunity for a downwind start with spinnakers flying (mostly).

Thus, we were off, and the South to Sou'easterly breeze hung in all day at pretty benign pressures. Seeing as this is Pittwater, it of course also meant there were significant holes to find as the 'strength' went up and down range.

In terms of the Beneteau armada, they ranged from 27 to 50 feet, and across all the Oceanis, Sense, and First model ranges. It was perhaps one of the most modern of recent times, with the vast majority less than 15 years old. At these events it is not unusual to see Beneteau's legendary reliability displayed in craft over 35 years of age, but this one was to be about new.

The first of the new, slick, and highly sought after First 36s was out racing. Only weeks old, Shot Duck, would end up on the podium in the Spinnaker Division. Another is on the way, as too the first of their bigger sisters, the new First 44. So come Christmas time, this new generation of the famed First range will be well represented in the Great Southern Land.

Graham Raspass from Flagstaff Marine, the Beneteau agent, was helming the Oceanis 46.1 First Line, Bombolo, in the Spinnaker Division. "It was definitely a long day, but just how enjoyable was that!"

"We certainly do have some terrific patches of water to sail on here in Australia. It is always a delight to get our Beneteau owners and crew out here, no matter whether they have done every regatta, or this is their first. The joie de vivre of these events is so very Beneteau, and it is great to see all our family enjoy their time on the water, and then later on ashore at presentations. We are also fortunate that our sponsors provide such great Skipper's gifts and lucky door prizes. From sail cleaning to apparel, knives to sail bags, Champagne to rig checks - we've got it covered."

In terms of final results, it was Aeolus that got the best-dressed tag to go along with their ability to be geed up by just about anything going on in close proximity, and all day they remained just as bright as the colours of their kite against the more-often-than-not gloomy skies. It is true that they were challenged by Puff in the smiles category, but Puff's intent to take out the Spinnaker Division was fairly evident from the get go. Equally, the kite trimmer aboard Matt Doyle's Sense 50, La Troisieme Mi Temps (rough translation 'The Third Half' as a rugby reference) may well have displayed more desire visibly, but alas, it was not to be their day.

And so to those all-important results. In the Spinnaker Division it was Puff who grabbed the silverware, and weren't they happy about that. Their table literally erupted at the announcement of the news. In second place was the new First 36, Shot Duck from Lake Macquarie. La Troisieme Mi Temps collected third place.

In the Non-Spinnaker Division, as indicated, the mighty Still Dangerous occupied the top tier. Highlighting just how much fun new owners can have, second place went to Michael Goodwin who was steering the Oceanis 40.1, Balmoral. Providing the very much-required local intel for 'Shiftwater' (as she can be known) was Flagstaff team member, Michael Coxon.

Goodwin was certainly in good hands there, for his Sailing Master just happens to have no less than four JJ Giltinan titles (unofficial World Championship) in the flying 18-footers, and a Melges 32 World Championship amongst his significant accolades. In third place was another 40.1, Boomerang, also with a renowned Flagstaff team member on board as Sailing Master. This time it was two-handed legend, Campbell Geeves. Graeme Roberts, also from Flagstaff Marine, was on a third Oceanis 40.1, Knot a Diamond, and they were all in firing distance of each other for the entire day. No cannonballs, just plenty of quips.

Matt Doyle was also kind enough to loan us his terrific Lomac 660 tender to be our photographic boat. Thank you very much... It's well made, stable, stylish, and quick RIB, especially with the 200hp Suzuki that adorned the transom.

Sydney Harbour will hold the next Beneteau Cup regatta later on in October, so please look forward to that announcement in due course.

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