Strong line up for Australia Offshore Keelboat Championship

Di Pearson previews this weekend's racing starting from Williamstown

Thursday January 16th 2003, Author: Di Pearson, Location: Australasia
Australia’s oldest yacht club, Royal Yacht Club of Victoria, will host the Australian Yachting Federation’s Australian Offshore and Keelboat Championship starting this weekend and finishing on January 23.

This regatta will help mark the 150th Jubilee celebrations of the Club, and up to 80 boats are likely to take part in a mixture of round the buoy races, and a round the bay passage race, starting Saturday January 18, on Port Phillip Bay at Williamstown.

One yacht will be crowned Australian Offshore Champion, and upwards of 70 yachts are expected to take part, making for a spectacular sight on the Bay over the next week.

The Customs House Hotel IRC Division will feature some of the hottest yachts in Australia at the moment, headed by recently crowned Rolex Sydney-Hobart race winner, Quest, the Nelson Marek 46 owned by Bob Steel from NSW.

She will be the boat to beat, having won the inaugural Sydney-Newcastle race in 2002, and the Hamilton Island under IMS in 2001, and IRC in 2002.

Other prominent yachts include South Australian entry Secret Mens Business (Geoff Boettcher), Victorian Sydney 38 entries, Lou Abrahams Another Challenge, which recently finished 3rd overall in the Sydney-Hobart and Bruce Taylor’s Chutzpah.

Sydney big boats, Ray Roberts’ Farr 52 Hollywood Boulevard and the Stan Zamanek/Julie Hodder/Peter Sorenson/Mark Gray owned Volvo 60, Magnavox 2UE will be worth watching.

The strength of many competitors will depend to some extent on the weather conditions during the series.

The 2002 IRC defending champion, Loki, a Swan 48 owned by Sydneysider Stephen Ainsworth, will be looking for heavy ‘Swan’ weather, she is a proven heavy weather performer.

The 96-year-old 'antique' yacht, Eun-Na-Mara, Nick Chapman's Fife-designed classic
metre-boat from Melbourne's Royal Brighton YC will perform strongly in flat water
This classic 50 footer won the 2001 IRC titles in a major upset at Hamilton Island in 2001.

Robert Hick’s Hick 31 Toecutter, well placed in the 2002 Nationals, showed recently in the Hobart race, that in light conditions she can surf through her much larger rivals on the runs and will be hard to beat.

Cadibarra, Nigel Jones M4 from Victoria is quick in most conditions, as is Ninety Seven, a Farr 47 recently purchased by Melbournite, Chris Dare. A known performer, she took line honours in the gale swept 1993 Sydney-Hobart race, and continues to race successfully.

In this strong fleet there are many other boats that could win the title.

Ticket of Leave, a Beneteau 40.7 skippered by Kevin Wood, Commodore of Sandringham Yacht Club, has been bridesmaid in the 2002 Adelaide titles, in the 2002 Hogs Breath series and the 2002 Hahn Premium titles a week later to Quest. Wood is determined that a win is on the way at this regatta, having placed better than most of his rivals at other regattas.

Locally, Terry Oakley’s Clubman, a Super Clubman 30 will take on Godzilla, a Robert Hick 9m owned by Peter Henkel and Laurelle, a Jutson Austral Super 30 owned by Ray Borrett.

A strong showing is also expected for the Stormy Australia Adams10 Division, including Victorian entries, Graeme Paul’s Adams Den, Norm Edwards’ Hullabaloo and Ashley Stevens’ Rage.

Previously staged at Hamilton Island and Adelaide, this third running of the event will see trophies awarded for both IRC and IMS divisions. In addition, trophies will be presented for AMS, PHS and JOG divisions, and Adams 10.

The Club has recently completed extensions and now boasts a dining room, with out-door undercover and lawn dining. With a travel lift, hardstand with two cranes and a well-protected marina, it is well placed to cater to visiting boats. The yard provides a vast range of marine services, with a chandlery close by.

Williamstown is the home of the RYCV, and is a historic seaport just 20 minutes from the CBD, enjoying tremendous shopping, dining, watering holes, and cafes serving some of the world’s finest coffee. Williamstown and the City and surrounds also offer great sight seeing.

An enthusiastic Commodore, Colin Johnson commented, ‘January is a fabulous time to visit Melbourne, the weather is glorious, and sailing conditions are excellent. We thank the AYF for giving us the chance to run this event. It will be great to have all of these boats in fierce competition, then return after a hard day on the water to enjoy our club, and help us celebrate our 150th birthday.’

The Australian Offshore Keelboat Championship is supported by: Austock, Marine Safety Victoria and Sail Melbourne.

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