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New boats to face tried and true in Melbourne to Devonport Rudder Cup

by Di Pearson/ORCV 23 Oct 2023 22:35 PDT 4 November 2023
Arcadia has enjoyed her share of wins - Melbourne to Devonport Rudder Cup © Dave Hewison

Over 30 boats are entered in the Ocean Racing Club of Victoria's (ORCV) 195 nautical mile Melbourne to Devonport Yacht Race, otherwise known as the Rudder Cup, due to start on Friday 4 November at 6pm off Queenscliff in Victoria.

The Rudder Cup is Australia's oldest ocean race and among the entries in 2023 is Joker X2, Grant Chipperfield and Peter Dowdney's latest double-handed offering, which he will again co-skipper with Peter Dowdney. The pair won the Double-Handed component of the 2020 race, with Chipperfield's previous yacht, Joker on Tourer.

Double-handers have long been eligible to win the race overall and this year is no different. However, Chipperfield concedes, "This will be our first major offshore test on the boat together."

Joker X2 is a J/133 measuring 13.3 metres, larger than the Victorian's previous yacht, Joker on Tourer, which was 12.5 metres.

"We've been doing a lot of work to the boat and getting used to it. We've been training and doing some short races as we prepare for offshore double-handed races," Chipperfield shares. "It's a big boat," he adds.

"We bought it around Easter and have been converting it for double-handed racing. I've been doing a bit of solo stuff in light airs when Pete's not available, just to get to know the boat.

"We're feeling comfortable with it now. We didn't want to jump straight into offshore racing until we were. Our plans include all the ORCV offshore races, ending the year with the Melbourne to Hobart, to give us more sea time.

"We'll spend the next two years racing and training for the 2025 Melbourne to Osaka Double-Handed Yacht Race," Chipperfield says of the 5500 nautical mile double-handed race.

Joker X2 has been pacing and tuning up against another Rudder Cup entrant and fellow J/133 in Jason Close's Patriot. The difference is that Patriot (Jason Close) will do the race fully crewed.

"We're happy with our progress against Patriot and we're looking forward to having her there as a benchmark," Chipperfield says.

There are five other double-handed entries for Joker X2 to compete against: Maverick (Rod and Tyson Smallman); the 2020 line honours victor Lord Jiminy (Kevin Curtis/Jim Oosterweghel); Blue Water Tracks (Grant Dunoon/Neville Rose); Spirit of Downunder (Rick Whitehouse/Marty Bennett) and Spirit of Freya (Joanne Harpur/Tom Doherty).

Another entry of interest is the brand new Toecutter. The latest Robert Hick design and build, she is co-owned by Brad Bult and Hick, who is in the skipper role. The Hick 10 (33 footer) only hit the water last weekend and will make its offshore debut via the Rudder Cup.

Hick built the boat at Laverton where he also built the mast. Hick is a renowned Australian yacht designer/builder with a penchant for smaller yachts. Among his race winners, Hick most famously designed and built the 1998 Sydney Hobart winner, AFR Midnight Rambler.

Bult, who has co-owned all the previous Toecutters, has also played a part in the new boat: "I've been working on it for the last 10 months, while Doug Miles and Paul Cannon have been working on it for 18 months."

"This (the Rudder Cup) is more of a shakedown to see how the boat goes. We're looking forward to it. We're hoping for a heavier race, so that we break anything that might be inclined to break. We'll sail the yacht to Sydney in early December for the Sydney Hobart then we're headed to South Australia for the Adelaide to Port Lincoln Race."

A solid entry list also includes the likes of Vertigo (Tim Olding) which took line honours and won the race overall in 2021, Nigel Jones and Cam McKenzie's Ginan, the runner-up in the 2022 Melbourne Hobart, Paul Buchholz's Extasea and Peter Davison's Arcadia.

View the entry list here.

For all information on the Rudder Cup, including race entry, please visit: www.orcv.org.au/devonport

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