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2024 Prince Philip Cup at Metung Yacht Club - Preview

by Jeanette Severs 15 Jan 00:56 PST 23-28 January 2024

A strong fleet of Australian champion sailors is converging on Metung to contest the Prince Philip Cup, in a regatta on January 23-28.

The Prince Philip Cup is an Australian Championship regatta. It is contested between crews sailing International Dragon class yachts, which became an Olympic class yacht at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.

Metung will see one of the largest fleets of International Dragon class yachts and their crews compete - already 18 yachts are registered, and other sailors are expected to confirm their boats' participation.

Competitors are mostly Australian, but include British sailors.

Metung Yacht Club will host the PPC regatta, with sailing on Bancroft Bay and Lake King. This makes the racing readily accessible to viewing from the shore, and provides space on the water for people to watch without interfering in the sailing course.

One of the leading contendors is Nick Rogers, from Tasmania. Rogers has won the PPC more times than any other sailor.

Rogers sailed at Metung last year when he contested and won the Victorian Championship in this class.

Rogers has won 49 national and international regattas in his career, and 82 podium finishes. He has won the Prince Philip Cup 13 times, including 12 as helmsman, and will travel with his crew from Tasmania to compete at Metung.

Rogers' crew includes Leigh Behrens who has won nine PPC championships, including eight alongside Nick Rogers.

Last year, Rogers and his crew finished third in the PPC regatta, held in Sydney.

They will be up against the crew that bumped them into third place last year - Trio, a wooden Dragon, with Matt Whitnall on the helm and crewed by Michael Bartley and Peter Bevis.

Trio is a 57-year-old timber veteran of Dragon racing and is owned by Bartley.

Whitnall is a past winner of the PPC, in 2013 on Akula and in 2000 on Imagination, both times as helmsman.

He also skippered Trio to second place in last year's PPC, with his crew of Michael Bartley and Peter Bevis, who will be competing alongside him at Metung.

Bartley and his crew also won the 2022 NSW Championship sailing Trio, relegating Rogers to third place in that year.

They will be competing against the runner up for the 2022 Championship, Liquidity, and her crew including Richard Franklin on the helm.

Also in the competition is this year's NSW Championship team, Wicked II, a local yacht helmed by Fred Haes and with Adrian France and Will Crooke as crew.

Hugh Wardrop is bringing Riga to contest the PPC. Wardrop is familiar with Rogers' tactics, having crewed for him in 2004 when they won the PPC on board Leander.

Richard Lynn, a past winner of several PPC regattas, is bringing his yacht Gordon to Metung. Lynn won the PPC in 2010 and 2007 on board Puff, in 1995 on Red Baron and in 1988 sailing Aeolus.

He and his crew of Adam Brenz-Verca and Ethan Prieto-Low are considered front runners for taking out the PPC.

Prieto-Low was the 2022 Perth Youth Cup awardee and was in the team that won the Western Australian Championship in the Etchells class in 2023. He has also sailed with Sandy Anderson in Dragon class, and has a history of match racing Dragons around the world.

Brenz-Verca also has a strong history of match racing, and is a sailing coach for Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club.

Charles Stanton, Damien Daniel and Hugh Howard are experienced Gippsland Lakes sailors.

Stanton brought his boat, Amazing Grace, to Metung last year to contest the Victorian Championship, and raced in 2021 at Paynesville.

Howard and Daniel are local sailors.

Daniel, sailing Imagination, placed fourth in the PPC last year and is a past winner (twice) of the Victorian Championship.

Another past PPC winner, Sandy Anderson, is bringing her all-women crew, of Caroline Gibson, Deb Henderson and Susie Parker, from Western Australia to contest the PPC. Anderson won the PPC in 2006 and finished runnerup to Rogers in the Tasmanian Championship in 2020.

Anderson's Dragon, Plum Crazy, was sailed by her all-women team in the Victorian Championship regatta at Metung last year, and has been stabled locally ever since.

Anderson and her crew have since competed in the United Kingdom.

To compete in the PPC, Ian Malley will bring his yacht, Saphira, and his crew across the Nullabor from Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club to Metung.

The Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club has the largest Dragon fleet in Australia, and several of its members are contesting the PPC at Metung - including Malley and his crew, Anderson and her crew and Gerry McGann and his crew.

Malley has been sailing Dragon yachts for 20 years, and with crew member Graeme Farden's 40 years sailing in the same class, bring a very experienced crew to Metung. Their remaining crew for Saphira are Jenny Willis and Margot Matthews.

Stephen Locke (helm), Bradley Stout, Mark Cubitt and Wendy Campbell are another team driving Pennyfarthing across the Nullabor Plain. They will bring considerable experience to the championship regatta.

Cubitt sailed with Anderson when she won the PPC in 2006 and Locke performed well in another crew in 2019.

Sydney to Hobart veteran Alan Watkins will be sailing on Sea Joy, another wooden Dragon, owned by local sailor Terry Grundy. Watkins, Grundy and another local, Clive Bury, bring a lot of sailing experience in PPCs together in their crew.

There are some very experienced sailors among the officials recruited for the regatta.

John Whitfield has been an official for Australian Sailing for more than 25 years, including participating in America's Cup events and international match racing.

His sailing experience includes dinghies, catamarans, harbour and coastal racing, and two Olympic campaigns.

Whitfield has also been selected in the Umpiring and Jury teams for Olympic, Para-Olympic and America's Cup competitions.

Rob Ware has more than 60 years sailing expertise and backs that up with National and International judge roles.

John Spencer will be race officer for the regatta. Originally from England, his sailing career has spanned two continents and includes a number of Melbourne to Hobart races.

Spencer started race managing at Royal Brighton Yacht Club, and has been a race officer for the past eight years.

In the last five years, he has officiated at State and National Championship regattas across a range of yacht classes. Spencer regularly officiates for the racing at Gippsland Lakes Yacht Club.

This is the second time Metung Yacht Club has hosted the PPC. It successfully hosted the Australian Championship regatta only a few years ago, in 2018.

The International Dragon class is a three to four person daytime one design racing class, with a weight limit of 285kg.

The regatta combines the three-race series for the Ted Albert Memorial Cup with the eight-race series for the Prince Philip Cup.

The Ted Albert Memorial Trophy regatta will precede the Prince Philip Cup regatta, and be held as a series of three races on January 23.

Ted Albert was a keen Dragon sailor and was twice winner of the PPC.

In his business life, he founded the Albert Record label and went on to promote rock and roll bands and music from its infancy in Australia. Some of his star bands included the Easybeats and ACDC and singers included John Paul Young.

The trophy was donated by Ted Albert.

Fred Haes, president of the Australian International Dragon Association, is looking forward to a very well attended event at Metung.

"Metung is a popular venue because of its relatively flat seas and steady summer seabreezes," Haes said.

"Unlike Sydney Harbour, or other city harbours where the PPC regatta has often been held, Metung's waterways aren't congested with other boat traffic interfering with the race course.

"Spectators can also watch the race from the headlands, shoreline and spectator boats in comfort and safety, without interfering in the race course."

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