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181st Festival of Sails Passage Race - MRV Master IRC & Hooligan's Maiden Victory

by Nic Douglass 26 Jan 01:36 PST 26-28 January 2024

The 181st Melbourne to Geelong Passage Race challenged the 200 strong fleet with high winds and a steep, confused sea state. The Port Phillip start line was busier than peak hour, the messy battle for the boat-end with the bulk of the fleet not spreading past the middle of the line and several boats overshooting.

The overall winner on IRC and winner of the Lou Abrahams Memorial Trophy was Frers 61 MRV, skippered by Damien King, with their finish just under 20 minutes behind overall line honours and Knot a Bull's Roar Trophy winner, Hooligan TP52, skippered by Marcus Blackmore.

Maritimo 54, skippered by Michael Spies, and Team Hollywood, skippered by Ray Roberts, were the clear leaders from the start, but it was the three TP52s in the fleet that quickly gained the advantage on line honours.

"We just avoided a major collision on the start line, we had to pull off a couple of miraculous manoeuvres to avoid getting tangled up in it. Once we got clear of those boats, yes it was a good start under the circumstances." said Ray Roberts, skipper of Hollywood, winners in IRC Division 1.

"We have done really well in our division, all of our team performed really well.

"There is a combination of our standard crew, Chapman and Gough, combined with Polish Olympic aspirants.

"We enjoyed the racing, it was pretty tough conditions, very gusty winds, in fact we had a really big gust coming towards the finish line that laid us flat, so we were glad to get over the finish line without any damage," he concluded.

There were others who didn't fare as well in the variable conditions, with significant retirements across the fleet.

"There were a lot of retirements, which we expected based on the conditions, that's Port Phillip in a sou'wester", said Principal Race Officer, Denis Thompson.

The race record of one hour 40 minutes and 17 seconds set in 2006 by Grant Wharington's super maxi, Skandia, was not at risk, however, Hooligan's finish time of 03:05:27 was far more swift than the past few years, with navigator Andy Green seeing 34.1 knots across the deck.

"It was the first race for the boat. I have owned two TP52's before, both successful. It's a whole different ball game with a new boat", said Marcus Blackmore of his new TP52, Hooligan which won line honours in its maiden race today.

"Smuggler sailed a great race today, they got a big lefty and came out in front of Secret Men's Business, and then SMB got them back. It's a great preview for what is to come for the next few days, and season across our TP52 fleet.

"It was a good start to our program, surviving the start line itself was one of the biggest tasks. We saw over 34 knots, and it was seriously choppy. The moment you hit a couple of those steep waves it knocks you back a bit.

"I had our Youth Development helm with me. Tom Dawson out of RPAYC, he steered more than I did actually. We have three Youth Development kids on board and Zoe Dransfield", he finished proudly.

The tough conditions meant results saw a big mix between divisions, with big gaps between finish times for the smaller boats as they battled their way home, and some results are still pending.

The Melges 24 National Championship, also being sailed as part of Festival of Sails, began on Thursday and continued today. With four races now sailed in the series it is AUS814 Accru, skippered by Kevin Nixon, leading by one point from AUS679 Banta, Skippered by Chris Links.

With conditions tomorrow looking similar from the west, racing is sure to be exciting as divisions split across windward leeward and short passage courses.

Full results for all divisions:

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