Today three IRC Division 1 boats found out the hard way where the name Surprise Rock came from. A mark of the 26 nautical mile Course 12, the Banyham Island Course, eventual line honours winner Shockwave-Club Marine bumped over the reef surrounding the Island while Quest and Michael Hiatt’s Living Doll took much harder hits.
A thrilling tacking duel in Dent Passage, where many races have been won or lost, played out this afternoon before Shockwave-Club Marine claimed its first line honours victory from five races.
With Black Jack bow down with her big Code 0 flying and closing the gap on Shockwave in the closing miles as the two rounded the northern tip of Hamilton Island, it looked like the 80 footer was going to be relegated to second. But once the maxi turned the corner into Dent Passage and her huge sails filled with the sprightly 12 knot sou’easter, she gathered speed and was able to cover the Peter Harburg skippered pocket rocket Black Jack in an exciting battle to the finish.
Most of the week the two have raced within throwing distance but today the Mark Richard’s skippered Wild Oats X couldn’t hang onto Black Jack, letting them slip through on the first upwind leg which is how the positions on the track remained. Steven David’s Reichel Pugh 66 Wild Joe had its best day of the regatta, rounding Banyham Island in second and finishing fourth over the line.
Unlike the outcome of this morning’s tug ‘o war between the Australian and South Pacific Cup teams on Channel 7’s Sunrise sports cross, New Zealand’s chances in the inaugural nine race series took a knock today with the Auckland based Bakewell-White 52 Wired unable to race while they waited on a part to be delivered on the 1pm flight.
Today the IRC and Performance fleets, bar the Performance Grand Prix boats which sailed two windward/leewards today on Eastern Course, had their first taste of the “navigators’ choice”, which is being trialled for the first time at the 25th anniversary Audi Hamilton Island Race Week.
Regatta director Denis Thompson is looking forward to the fleet’s feedback this afternoon to know whether “I’m in the penthouse or the outhouse”.
The cruising fleet provided the colour on the water today with Divisions 1 and 2 setting off on Course 11 (25.8 nautical miles) and Cruising 3 and non-spinnaker completing Course 10 (22.3 nautical miles).
With gentler conditions to the early part of the week when the prevailing trade winds tested the fleet, the four cruising divisions took the opportunity to enjoy a more relaxed sail, some with beer in hand for the long and gentle spinnaker ride across the north of Pentecost Island and in the company of pods of humpback whales frolicking in the stunning turquoise waters.
Tomorrow is the world famous Whitehaven Beach Race for the IRC Grand Prix and Performance Grand Prix divisions while the remaining divisions will enjoy their second lay day of the week.
IRC Grand Prix division 1 is the first off the start line tomorrow, beginning on Eastern start line at 10.30am. The forecast is for SE winds 10-15 knots reaching 15-20 knots.