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2023 Beneteau Cup conquers the elements on Sydney Harbour

by Flagstaff Marine/John Curnow 30 Oct 2023 12:42 PDT 27 October 2023

They usually come from far and wide to attend Flagstaff Marine’s annual Beneteau Cup. The 2023 edition definitely continued that trend, and how! Since being created some 28 years ago, no one else has amassed 7400nm to be a part of it. Charles-Etienne Devanneaux and his crew of French offshore legends brought the very new Beneteau First 44, Lenny, all the way from Los Angles via the world famous Transpac race to Hawaii, thence on to Fiji, New Caledonia, and ultimately, Sydney.

It is as an impressive achievement as the list of accomplishments of the crew that includes Vendée Globe, Transat, and Figaro, as well as working in boat and mast building. Their happiness to be here and be part of the Beneteau Cup was matched by the ‘local’ crews, some of whom would have done in excess of 12 of the annual celebration of all things French.

Not one Skipper or crewmember had a long face, despite the inclement weather, where blustery 25 knot squalls swallowed the sun patches in a manner very much akin to Pacman. Yes it was chilly, and your gear came in layers, for the rain often drove in sideways. It made you feel like someone had opened a freezer door, reached in, and subsequently thrown a handful of drawing pins at you. Ouch.

Interestingly, some vessels, such as Horizon 3, got around the entire day without experiencing this delight until they were packed up and heading home. Lucky them… In the very least this just goes to show you how pocketed these little busters really were.

At any rate, you would not have known about these minor impediments, for the waves and smiles were as prevalent as the roundups. Sails probably had the worst of it, with many off for a trip to the sailmaker, and the odd one may even need retirement hereafter. Wilde Rush, skippered by Flagstaff Marine co-owner Micah Lane, retired from the first race. They burned back into the host club for the day, the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (CYCA), and came back out ready to play with a new one attached to the furler. It was a good thing conditions abated a little as the afternoon drew on, for the new sail was bigger.

Now it may have put CYCA Commodore Arthur Lane’s Oceanis 51.1 out of contention for the day’s honours in their division, which went to Greg Newton’s Oceanis 50 Antipodes, but that one move highlighted the entire fleet’s desire to look after boat and crew alike, as well as be a part of the fun of sailing in well and truly fresh conditions. In terms of the sailing, the overarching sentiment of the day was just how enjoyable it was, and that the courses matched the conditions perfectly, so well done Race Officer Steve Kitson and his crew for making it so.

The colourful and always effervescent Holy Cow would take second place in the big boat division, with the ‘import’, the First 44 Lenny, taking third place. Holy Cow’s John Clinton, and also Greg Newton used their acceptance speeches to not only thank the organisers, but also underscore the joy of ownership and genuine sense of being part of the Beneteau family that is so imbued into the overall culture of these annual gatherings. Serious sailing still exists, but inside the realm of friendship and enjoyment at the Beneteau Cup, which can so often be lost at other regattas, and Newton certainly highlighted this.

Bonus points also go to Howard Piggott’s Silver Cloud III for a tidy effort in grabbing the first reef, virtually on the go. This move depowered the big 50 to exactly the right point, and they not only had faster boat speed, they also definitely had better Velocity Made Good.

Flagstaff Marine Director, Graham Raspass and his crew on the Oceanis 38.1 Performance, Horizon 3 certainly had a blistering day. So much so that they won the other division. Alas, this is not allowed under the rules, so in a massive apology to his crew, Raspass fell on his sword and awarded the top prize to Craig Boulton’s Oceanis 34, Flying Circus. Steve Mullie’s Oceanis 321 (Elara) was second, with Peter Berger’s Oceanis 38.1 (Janelly) in third.

Indeed, the closest racing of the day was to be found amongst the 38s, with a couple of the 40s also making it hot, despite the Mercury barely able to make 18 for the day, and with windchill it was often more like 8-10 degrees Celsius. So many times at a mark rounding there would be often less than a boat length between them, so it was also good to see plenty of buoy room being allowed for.

Back ashore, Raspass commented, “It was wonderful day, and so very close as we went up and down the Harbour, from the Sow and Pigs back into Fort Denison. With the two allotted races completed, it is no wonder everyone is also a little bit tired, but we have packed a lot into the day, starting with the Champagne and croissant briefing that we held at 10am this morning.”

“It is always good to see so many of our owners and friends, along with the new faces they bring to be a part of these events, and it is certainly a big part of what I enjoy witnessing each and every year. After such an exuberant day I guess it is no wonder people still have the energy to keep going, even though it may be 10pm by the time we are all done.”

“As usual, we had big and small, from 27 to 51 feet, and 20 years old to brand new. No doubt we will have an equally as interesting fleet at our next event, the Pittwater Cup on May 11, 2024. See you all there.”

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