Loki v Limit
In two days’ time, Australia’s hottest yachts will take to the water for the Rolex Trophy Rating Series to contest six races over four days from 16-19 December to discover the 2010 champion.
Two days on, a second fleet contesting the Rolex Trophy Passage Series will hit the water for two days of offshore racing to find the best short offshore racer.
Formerly known as the British Trophy, so named after the historic trophy donated to the host, Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, by the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania, the Series was introduced by the CYCA in 1996 at the request of yacht owners.
The Rating series, which entails two days of short windward/leeward racing and ends with two days of longer passage races, is a rare opportunity to find the best all-rounder in what the experts regard as a good form guide to finding the form boat for the Rolex Sydney Hobart.
Last year, a battle went to and fro between Limit and Loki, when Alan Brierty’s Reichel/Pugh 62 proved the ultimate winner. But the competition between the two was so intense that Brierty, from Western Australia, came away with a victory of just one point. It will be swords at 10 paces again as the two go head-to-head for the second time since last year’s encounter.
Until yesterday’s SOLAS Big Boat Challenge, which Limit won overall from Loki by a mere 14 seconds over the line, which translated into a 43 second corrected time victory. Australia has not witnessed any other Limit performances in 2010, as Brierty chose to take his yacht outside of Australia where he has had some success.
After the disappointment of pulling out of the Rolex Sydney Hobart on the evening of Day 1 last year, Limit went on to win the Pacific Cup Fastest Passage trophy in Hawaii. A name-dropping crew including New Zealanders Gavin Brady, Rodney Keenan and Chris Dickson should hold her in good stead.
Limit’s lack of racing against some of the best IRC boats in Australia could still go against her in Sydney this week; only time will tell. Brierty admitted as much yesterday saying; “I’ve got no regrets that I took the boat out of Australia, but I was a bit worried, because I had no idea how we would go against the rest of the fleet. I feel a lot better after our win.”
On the other hand, Ainsworth and his RP63 are ready, having contested all the major events Australia has to offer and won most of them, including drumming up a new record in Flinders Islet Race in October, taking the trifecta along the way.
Victorious in all four races held so far in the CYCA’s Blue Water Pointscore series, Ainsworth capped off the season being named 2010 Audi IRC Australian Champion. With an ambitious crew headed by yachting great Gordon Maguire, Loki rates the firm favourite.
Rounding out the favourites are Melbourne entries Shogun, the TP52 owned by Rob Hanna, Michael Hiatt’s Living Doll and the Cookson 50, Terra Firma, owned by Nick Bartels.
Shogun was third in the Rolex Trophy Rating Series in 2009 and backed up for second in Division 1 in the Rolex Sydney Hobart. Victory at the NSW IRC Championship and IRC Division 1 at Sail Port Stephens make her a contender.
Hiatt’s Farr 55 has had mixed fortunes this past year. Her best results were third in the Audi IRC Australian Championship and fourth in grand prix division at Hamilton Island, while Terra Firma’s continuing strong results in Victoria, inclusive of her second place at Audi Victoria Week, put her in the running.
The unknown quantity is Rodd & Gunn Wedgetail, the former Yendys, which is now owned by Queenslander Bill Wild. Wild had a good year in Queensland waters with his former Wedgetail, and bolstered by a reliable crew headed by Kevin Costin and Kiwi name Rob Salthouse among others, the RP55 could be in the money.
Lahana is the big boat of the fleet. At 30 metres long, she will struggle to make an impression on the windward/leeward courses, but should come into her own in the Passage Races set down for the last two days.
Owners Peter Honan and John Millard have come up with a crew capable of anything. A number of old Brindabella crew; driver Bob Fraser, Andrew Jackson, Geoff Cropley with their ocean racing experience add top value to Lahana, as does navigator Carl Crafoord.
A separate series, the Rolex Trophy Passage Series, will be held over two days on the weekend of 18-19 December. Some of the best ocean going boats will thrash it out offshore as they put in training for the big race on Boxing Day.
As the popularity of this series grows, so does the quality of entries. The 100 footer Wild Oats XI and Ludde Ingvall’s 90ft Yuuzoo will provide great viewing. The former is Bob Oatley’s four-time Hobart line honours winner, while Yuuzoo took the honours in 2004.
The duo will be joined by another previous Hobart line honours winner and conventional maxi, Brindabella, now owned by Jim Cooney, who has revamped the yacht. Winner in 1999, the Jutson 79 was the last conventional yacht to take line honours. Lindsay May, who navigated Brindabella for her original owner, George Snow, re-joins the crew with the experience of 38 Sydney Hobarts behind him.
Matt Allen’s Jones 70 Ichi Ban rounds out the big boats. With second across the Hobart finish line in 2006, and third in 2007 and 2008, Allen, a past CYCA commodore, has just returned from a division win at the Phuket Kings Cup in Asia. If you add up the Hobart experience aboard; Allen (21), Spiesy (32) and Robert Case (25), they have to be considered a chance.
Of the smaller yachts entered, Chutzpah, Bruce Taylor’s Caprice 40 from Victoria, Tony Kirby’s X-41 Patrice Six (NSW), Colin Wood’s Cookson 50 Pretty Fly III (NSW) and Rob Date’s RP52 Scarlet Runner (Vic) are all rock-solid performers. If one was to have a bet, Scarlet Runner would be a good tip.