Skandia takes passage race

However Grant Wharington's supermaxi fails to break record for Geelong Week Passage Race

Saturday January 24th 2009, Author: Di Pearson, Location: United Kingdom
It was a lumpy and bumpy start in high winds that sent the 423-strong fleet in the Passage Race on their way to Geelong after starting off Williamstown on Port Philip in Melbourne when the Minister for Sport and Recreation in Victoria, James Merlino, fired the start cannon from Pelicans, a 73 New Ocean motor cruiser.

Grant Wharington’s 98ft super maxi Skandia flew through the start as she charged towards Geelong, but it was not such a smooth passage for others. Officially, Skandia finished the 34.3 nautical mile race at 12.08.57pm, missing their race record of 1 hour 40 minutes 7 seconds by close to an hour.

St Kilda AFL player of 10 years, Michael Roberts was aboard for his first sailing experience. “It blew a solid 25 knots on the nose all race. It was pretty good going, although we were a bit nervous in the channel – it’s narrow and a bit shallow,” Roberts’ said, continuing: “We had a pretty good race; the boat handled it well.”

Roberts’ told how fellow AFL player Gerard Healy, who played for Melbourne Football Club and the Swans for the ride too and helped him through the race and gave him some sailing tips. Healy, a Brownlow medal winner, has competed on Skandia many times and his sailing experience includes a Sydney Hobart race.

On coming ashore, Wharington said: “We beat the whole way in 20-28 knots – it blew in a straight line so there wasn’t much tacking. The course was shortened outside of Port Henry in the Channel. Because of the breeze, it was too dangerous finish of the Club (host Royal Geelong Yacht Club). It’s going to be a long and difficult day for a lot of the fleet.”

The next boats to finish the race following Skandia were, Black Jack (Peter Harburg, Qld) second at 12.23.12, Loki (Stephen Ainsworth, NSW) at 12.28.52, Limit (Alan Brierty, NSW) at 12.32.47 and Wot Now (Graeme Wood, NSW) at 12.49.54.

Provisionally, on corrected time, Loki leads the overall pointscore for the Passage Race from Wot Now, Limit, Black Jack, Skandia and Audi Centre Melbourne.

Back at the start, a number broke the line and had to turn back and restart, among them Melbourne’s Michael Hiatt and his Living Doll, the current leaders of the IRC Audi Series, who finished the Passage Race in eighth place overall.

Tony Donnellen’s Shamrock was another Division 1 yacht that broke the start. Then shortly after the cannon was fired, Ninety Seven, Alan Saunders’ Farr 47, and line honours winner of the tough 1993 Sydney Hobart race original owner Andrew Strachan, was seen minus a headsail returning to the Royal Victoria Yacht Club, her race over.

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