Photo: David Brogan/

Old School delivers today's lesson

Mark Griffith's crew scores three bullets at the Rolex Trophy One Design Series

Saturday December 10th 2011, Author: Di Pearson, Location: Australia

Mark Griffith and his Old School crew cleaned up at the Rolex Trophy – One Design with three bullets from three races on another day of light winds in the nine race series being hosted by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia off Sydney Heads today.

Sailed on the Manly Circle in similar conditions to yesterday, although on flatter seas, Griffith extended his series lead over Gordon Ketelbey’s second-placed Zen by 15 points, while Martin Cross’s Risk is in third place, a further five points adrift.

Although the racing was close, Griffith and his crew from the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club on Pittwater, dotted all their ‘i’s’ and crossed all their ‘t’s’, leaving no stone unturned and minimised their mistakes.

Old School’s tactician, 1996 Olympian, Steve McConaghy said early this evening: “We had reasonably clean starts and we were able to get out of jail by staying out of trouble and playing the shifts well up the beats.”

Old School’s crew has been training together for a couple of months now and have three goals in mind; to win the Rolex Trophy and the NSW Championship, which is being sailed in conjunction with the series. The final box to tick will be to win the Pittwater-Coffs Harbour Race, once McConaghy has finished the Rolex Sydney Hobart aboard Ragamuffin.

“The crew work was good today and it’s getting better – all the training’s paid off - we’re starting to really gel,” McConaghy said. “I had one of my better days - we were on fire,” added McConaghy who has South African Bruce Savage aboard, whom he sailed against at the Olympic Games.

With a third place in the opening race of the Rolex Trophy his worst result, it seems Griffith can do no wrong, and with one day of racing and three races remaining, it appears nobody has the legs to beat the Northern Beaches boat.

Once again, the minor placings were shared around the rest of the nine-boat fleet, including Bruce Foye’s The Goat. The former rugby league player also scored a second place yesterday, but like the rest of the fleet, is having a mixed series. As defending national champion in the class, he would be disappointed, but tomorrow is another day.

The three-boat Farr 40 class shared the spoils today and although Guido Belgiorno-Nettis and his Transfusion crew still lead the series, it is only by one point to Martin and Lisa Hill’s Estate Master. Kokomo is just a further point in deficit after Lang Walker breathed new life into the boat, winning Races 4 and 6 today, with Estate Master taking the gun in Race 5.

Walker has noted British sailor, Adrian Stead, calling tactics for him, who explained the difference between their trio of third places yesterday compared with two wins and a second today: “Despite there only being three boats, it is very close racing. We got two first beats right today,” he said.

Stead also conceded: “We made a few changes; tweaked the rig and we were more decisive. There were moments where we slipped through both boats today. The goal was to improve – and that’s what we did. Now we hope we can keep up the momentum.”

Stead will sail the remaining three races with Kokomo tomorrow, then he jumps aboard Marcus Blackmore’s TP52 Hooligan for the CYCA’s SOLAS Big Boat Challenge and the Rolex Trophy – Rating Series starting next Thursday.

Meanwhile, aboard Estate Master, America’s Cup tactician Grant Simmer had other commitments this weekend, so stepped off and Kiwi whizz, Cameron Appleton, stepped on, making an easy transition and helping the boat to a win.

Three windward leeward races were sailed in both classes today and brought out the best and the worst in some, Transfusion’s crew unable to find their form of yesterday, and many in the Sydney 38s could not keep up the momentum for more consistency.

With fickle and unsettled winds saturating the course area, Principal Race Officer Denis Thompson was unable to send the two fleets on their way at the appointed time of 11.00am, instead waiting until 12.30pm when a light east-sou-easterly settled enough.

“Race 4 (the first of the day) was sailed in 5-6 knots. By Race 5, the wind had gone further east but it was still light, similar to yesterday,” Thompson said of the course he set on the Manly Circle. “The only difference is the sea is smoother today,” he added.

By Race 6, the last of the day, the Sydney 38s enjoyed winds of 7-9 knots; the best of the day.

The Rolex Trophy – One Design Series finishes tomorrow. Rain and stronger winds are expected and Denis Thompson is aiming to get three races in. The prize giving will be held straight after racing at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia.

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