Scarlet Runner to the fore
It was Victorian Rob Date’s Reichel Pugh 52 Scarlet Runner that eventually snared the overall win in the Grand Prix division after scoring consistently throughout the series, including today’s fourth, third and first places. Scarlet Runner finished just one point ahead of Sandringham Yacht Club mate Alan Whiteley’s TP52 Cougar II, which was leading on points going into the decider.
"We are happy chappies. You don’t get many wins so you have to enjoy them," a smiling owner/skipper Rob Date said at Docklands this afternoon.
Their day wasn’t without incident, a broken runner causing them to spear off downwind in race four while they recovered it. Amazingly they clawed back lost time, rounding the top mark in very good shape and in the company of the TP52s.
In the final shortened race, a diminished fleet elected to keep kites in their bags for the last downhill slide to the finish gate but even without their spinnaker, Scarlet Runner managed 21 knots of boat speed.
Scarlet Runner’s tactician Graeme Taylor admitted that this was “the best big boat racing I’ve done in Australia. All the boats have got different personalities, it was just awesome fun.”
“One little mistake and you lose three places. It’s like one design racing,” Date added in reference to the quality fleet of 50 footers racing at Audi Victoria Week.
Under overcast skies race three of the series and the first race of the day began in a soft breeze that flicked left and right of north.
In the IRC Grand Prix division Geoff Boettcher’s South Australian Reichel Pugh 51 Secret Mens Business 3.5 survived yesterday’s protest to go into the deciding day the clubhouse leader but a fading wind at the finish of this race hurt the RP 51 and favoured the bigger boats, which managed to squeeze the last out of the northerly.
There was a hiatus in the schedule between race three and four as the sou’east breeze teased around the edges of the course area but a short time later the northerly fought back with gusto and the course was re-set to north north westerly.
“The whole regatta has closed up” said Living Doll’s owner/skipper Michael Hiatt after the first race today while waiting for the breeze to settle and awaiting results. The handicap win went to his Victorian Farr 55 from the Royal Yacht Club of Victoria, the largest boat racing in this division.
The two divisions, Grand Prix and Production, set off on a NNW course in race four, the breeze building from 10 to 25 knots between the start and the second windward beat while in the third race the wind peaked at 43 knots with many choosing not to sail the final shortened course.
Secret Mens Business 3.5 returned to the dock early with a broken backstay, which is being fixed overnight, while others suffered sail damage, including the Production division winner Terra Firma.
Cougar II sailed a brilliant race four, beating the rest of the division over the line and on corrected time but Scarlet Runner, the six month old racy red 52 footer, pipped them on the final scoreboard with a race five win to close out the series.
Looking forward, Date plans to make a decision on his boat’s racing program after Audi Victoria Week finishes at Geelong. If Scarlet Runner does well on IRC he may follow the Audi IRC Australian Championship with the next event the Audi Sydney Harbour Regatta in Sydney in March. Otherwise he’ll take the boat to Adelaide for the Adelaide to Port Lincoln race and series.
Audi Docklands Invitational Production division winner Terra Firma also sailed a consistent series, the Sydney 47 from SYC beating the Rolex Sydney Hobart winner Two True (Andrew Saies) from South Australia by three points.
“It’s always good to go into the last day not in front. You set your task and you know what you have to do,” said Bartels dockside this afternoon. He credited the win to his crew with a special mention to tacticians Ian ‘Barney’ Walker and Jeff Casley for playing a key role in today’s tough shifting conditions.
As far as the concept of a separate division for like boats, Bartels says the idea has plenty of merit. “It’s about making it fair for boats that can plane, and those that can’t. I think it will go from strength to strength.”
Principal race officer Denis Thompson described today’s extremely changeable conditions as “four seasons in one. We had a bit of everything.”
The IRC boats fleet will join the rest of the 335 strong fleet for tomorrow’s 34 nautical mile Melbourne to Geelong Passage Race which starts off Williamstown at 0930hrs. The Lou Abrahams trophy will be awarded to the IRC winner and for the first time they will also pick up an $8000 carbon wheel donated by McConaghy Boats
Audi Victoria Week will then continue at Geelong through to Australia Day, next Tuesday 26 January.
Tomorrow’s forecast is for south westerly winds 15 to 25 knots tending south to southwesterly 15 to 20 knots around dawn then tending southerly 10 to 15 knots by early evening.