Sydney yachtsman Marcus Blackmore's Hooligan has won the Grand Prix Division of Audi Hamilton Island Race Week. Blackmore’s sleek, gun metal grey-hulled TP52 had the series in the bag before today’s scheduled Molle Islands Race, which wasn’t sailed given the wispy puffs of only 3 knots from around the compass in the Dent Passage starting area.
The race committee hoisted the AP over A flag and the signal sounded across the marina advising all competitors there would be no further racing with all results at the close of yesterday final.
The cornerstone of Hooligan’s unrivalled success at this year’s Audi Hamilton Island Race Week and preceding regattas is, according to the owner/skipper, “a champion team will always beat a team of champions”
Hooligan was originally the Emirates Team New Zealand TP52 which twice won the highly competitive Audi MedCup circuit. Adolfo Carrau, yacht designer at Botin Partners, did the IRC conversion and found the winning formula; new keel and bulb, extended bow sprit and removing 800kg of lead out of the boat.
“Adolfo got it right, you never really know when you start fiddling with original designs,” said Blackmore. Not only did Blackmore adopt Team New Zealand’s hull, he also adopted their disciplined philosophy, having spent a week with them.
“The overriding factor is whether you have a good crew,” said Blackmore. “Our coach Victor Kovalenko set the rules early in the week and while there has to be a level of trust between a coach and the team, the crew were told that the second drink is one too many. They don’t call Victor ‘the medal maker’ for nothing.”
Hooligan’s top notch crew included Tim Wiseman, Ed Smyth, Laser World Champion Tom Slingsby, Richie Allanson, Jason Rowed and Stacey Jackson, among others.
“We did a lot of homework on ourselves, and ran the numbers on other boats, particularly Loki and Living Doll. We didn’t leave any stone unturned in our preparation,” Blackmore added.
Of their result Kovalenko added: “The winning combination of people and skills brought together lots of experience from different classes. Their performance was outstanding; they were always sailing right to the red line.”
Thanks to seven firsts, Hooligan finished the nine race series on nine points, incontestably out-classing last year’s grand prix winner, Stephen Ainsworth’s RP63 Loki, which was breathing down Hooligan’s neck on handicap until a torn mainsail at the start of Tuesday’s long race saw their chances slip away.
Loki finished second in Grand Prix Division on 19 points, third was Victorian yachtsman’s Rob Hanna’s TP52 Shogun on 23 points.
The culmination of the four-part Audi IRC Australian Championship 2011 and official prize giving will take place tonight at the award ceremony for Audi Hamilton Island Race Week where the silver spoils will be divided up among the divisional winners.
The new Audi-designed trophies will be awarded along with the grand prize of Audi's dynamic A1 for each of the three IRC championship-winning teams. The awards and prizes will be presented by Audi Australia managing director Mr Uwe Hagen along with Yachting Australia board member Matt Allen. TV personality and Audi Ambassador Catriona Rowntree will MC tonight’s gala event.
Darryl Hodgkinson’s Victoire had the IRC Class B series sewn up before today’s final scheduled Molle Islands Race, the Sydney plastic surgeon’s champion Beneteau 45 remaining on the dock while the rest wallowed about in light winds and drizzle in Dent Passage until racing was postponed. All Audi Hamilton Island Race Week results at the close of racing yesterday are now final results.
“We are elated,” said Hodgkinson this morning. “I did my first Race Week in 1997 and not only is this my first win, it’s my first podium placing. We had a very successful run, the conditions suited our boat and we really seized the moment.”
On the outcome of the Audi IRC Australian Championship, which will be announced at this evening’s official trophy presentation, Hodgkinson added: “the Championship and Audi Race Week go hand in hand; for our program the Championship is the reason we are on the island.”
Victoire will return to Sydney to resume its CYCA Bluewater Championship quest, including the final event, the Rolex Sydney Hobart, before heading to Port Lincoln Race Week and back up the east coast to Port Stephens for the end-of-season NSW IRC Championship.
The early part of Race Week brought sunny skies and fresh sou’easterlies gusting over 30 knots. A lingering mist settled over Hamilton Island yesterday is still disrupting some flights to and from the Island. The low cloud cover means the breeze has well and truly exited the course, down to a measly three knots clocking around the dial in Dent Passage which left the race committee with no choice but to postpone today’s scheduled final race.
A scoresheet showing one third, a second and five firsts has given Hodgkinson and his classy outfit, including former Yendys’ crew and now Victoire’s boat manager Danny McConville and tactician and helmsman Sean Kirkjian, the series victory with seven points. The nearest to them is Paul Clitheroe’s sistership Balance on 18 points.
Had they had an opportunity to sail today, Ray Roberts’ Farr 42 Evolution Racing might have been in the running for second in IRC Class B, instead they have to be happy with third on 21 points from a hotly contested division.
In IRC Class C, Matt Owen skippered the older generation BH36 Local Hero to a win over Peter Sorensen’s near sistership, the Sydney 36 The Philosophers Club from Middle Harbour Yacht Club.
“We only do one regatta a year with the boat so we are ecstatic,” said Owen this afternoon. “To get this result sailing against the big boys and the guys who race week in week out is testament to a great bunch of guys.”
Campaigned with a majority Canberra-based crew and flying the Canberra Yacht Club burgee, Local Hero has found good success at Race Week. Four years ago they made their debut, winning PHS division, the following year they finished third in division on IRC and for the past two years have won their division on IRC handicap. Local Hero’s on-water victory and timed trial in last year’s Audi Drive Challenge also saw owner Peter Mosely leave Hamilton Island a little heavier in the pocket, the keys to an Audi A5 Sportsback a new addition to his key ring.
In the Super Multihull Division Simon Hull’s New Zealand ORMA 60 TeamVodafoneSailing was the undisputed winner. The trimaran sailed up the east Australian coast to Hamilton Island and added a different and exciting dimension to what has traditionally been a monohull regatta.
Hamilton Island Yacht Club Commodore and America’s Cup regatta director Iain Murray knows first hand the potential of multihulls and embraces the concept of including them at Race Week: “We’ve seen the potential of multihulls with the America’s Cup and with TeamVodafoneSailing being on the course this week. Clearly it’s a direction the sport is liking; we look forward to expanding the multihull division at Audi Hamilton island Race Week."