Living Doll claims line honours

Farr 55 wins Passage Race to Geelong at Audi Victoria Week

Saturday January 23rd 2010, Author: Lisa Ratcliff, Location: United Kingdom
335 boats faced the starters gun at 9.30am this morning in the 34.3 nautical mile Audi Victoria Week Passage Race from Williamstown to Geelong, with Victorian yachtsman Michael Hiatt and his Farr 55 Living Doll getting away quickly from mid-line, leaving the rest of the monohull fleet behind for the entire race to take line honours.

Hiatt crossed the Corio Bay finish line at 12.52.32, in the time of 3 hours 22 minutes 32 seconds, well outside the record set by Grant Wharington’s supermaxi Skandia in 2006 of 1h 40min 7sec.

Hiatt now has to wait to see if he has won the double - line and handicap honours. "I think Secret Mens Business might just have got us," Hiatt said this afternoon of Geoff Boettcher’s South Australian Reichel/Pugh 51 which finished at 13.005.15, closely followed by the John Williams/Jason Vanderslot skippered TP52 Calm at 13.03.00, Rob Hanna’s TP52, Shogun at 13.03.15 and Chris Dare’s Corby 49, Audi Centre Melbourne at 13.09.21.

Currently, Boettcher is looking strong for the overall win for the Lou Abrahams Trophy, with Living Doll second and Alan Woodward's Reverie, a Beneteau First 45 in third.

Back on Living Doll, Hiatt said they were happy to get off the start line well. "At least we didn’t break the start like we did last year and nice to stay on top. We enjoyed the conditions; it was mostly in the 14-15 knot range but we got 28 knot gusts at times."

A number of the big names were forced to re-start after jumping the gun early. Overall race favourite Scarlet Runner, a Reichel/Pugh 52 owned by Melbourne businessman Rob Date, fresh from her win in the Audi Docklands Invitational was one, along with Alan Whiteley’s TP52 Cougar, XLR8, Ray Shaw’s Reichel/:Pugh 46 and Terra Firma, Nick Bartel’s Sydney 47.

A fresh southwesterly wind was forecast for the race, but as the yachts lined up to start, the breeze lightened off to around 7-10 knots and through the race shifted to the south at 15 knots with a few rain showers thrown in. Michael Hiatt reported from Port Arlington: "We were getting up to 20 knots at times."

The start cannon to send the fleet on their way will be fired at 9.30am by Sir Rod Eddington, Chairman Victorian Major Events, with the five minute gun to be fired by Audi Victoria Week patron, John Bertrand AM.

Jock MacAdie and his son Hamish, top six finishers in the Audi King of the Docklands last evening, got off the line well with Shamrock, Tony Donnellan’s Reichel/Pugh. Both were still looking good in the early stages of the race.

Overall win

South Australian Geoff Boettcher and his Secret Mens Business 3.5 crew are already celebrating their provisional Division 1 overall win of the 34.3 nautical mile Passage Race at Audi Victoria Week this afternoon as they wait for confirmation.

“I wish I had that bottle of Moet here,” said Boettcher, who was with his crew at the Royal Geelong Yacht Club, which hosts the event. The businessman was unable to pick up his prize from the Audi Docklands Invitational as ‘secret mens business’ called him away.”This would be a great time to have a sip of champagne,” he said.

On a more serious note, Boettcher’s luck has not been the best over the last couple of years; his former yacht was holed in a collision prior to the opening race at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week in 2008 and the list goes on, culminating in a broken backstay in the Audi Docklands Invitational yesterday costing him a podium place.

“At the Docklands we realised we had the potential - but we’re not used to sailing in competitive fleets - we don’t have many grand prix yachts at home. We have to learn the game of how to be aggressive and how to take opportunities,” said Boettcher admitting, “We’ve had a bit of bad luck, but we’re not deterred."

‘Boettch’ confirmed that committed crewman and former America’s Cup navigator Steve ‘Reggie’ Kemp and match racing champion Michael Dunstan on tactics had hatched a race plan and stuck to it. “We planned to have a clean start and to stay on the left side of the course and we stuck to that.”

Boettcher, who won Division 1 overall at this event in 2007 to win the first round of the Audi IRC Australian Championship, continued: “We’re very happy that Living Doll did not get too far away from us and that we kept pace with the TP52s; it’s given us confidence for the races ahead. We need to stay focussed on the shorter courses over the next two days.

Currently, today’s line honours winner, Living Doll, a Farr 55 owned by Victorian Michael Hiatt, is second overall. Hiatt and his tactician Ross Lloyd were unable to put quite enough distance on Boettcher’s boat and lost out by 1 minute 38 seconds once the handicaps were calculated.

More photos on the following pages...

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