Winners across the 16 classes and 24 divisions were cheered at Middle Harbour Yacht Club this evening as they received their trophies and Helly Hansen prizes for the feats in the Club’s seventh running of the Sydney Harbour Regatta, which boasted 237 boats.
For some victors, yesterday’s performance put them into the box seat going into the final day, but for others, the pointscore was so close that final races made it or broke it.
Warwick Rooklyn did not put a foot wrong, winning all six races in the increasingly popular Melges 24 one-design sports boat. His nearest rival this weekend was Kevin Nixon and his Accru crew, which features his wife and children.
Try as they might, none could scramble quickly enough to beat Rooklyn, who has been sailing his whole life, courtesy of his late father Jack, of Apollo and Ballyhoo fame. The Eastern Suburbs sailor is keen to see others join the class he loves so much.
“Middle Harbour Yacht Club do an awesome job just to cater to so many classes on Sydney Harbour and we all enjoyed it – and to win six from six – it can’t get better; we’re over the moon,” Rooklyn, the owner/skipper of Bandit said.
“We’re blessed to come together as a team. Going to the Melges 24 World Championship in Texas has helped us understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses. We came back with a lot of knowledge about the boat,” said Rooklyn, who has had an excellent season with four wins from four regattas, including taking out the National Championship in January.
“Conditions were testing all weekend; the morning light shifty breeze yesterday was hard, then the light north easterly left a lot of wash and made it choppy on the course – it was a very good event.
The larger Melges 32 One-Design was dominated by Tasmanian entry 2 Unlimited Seven Star, owned by Greg Prescott. In his absence, the boat was steered to five wins from six races, by Sydney Farr 40 guru and MHYC Immediate Past Commodore, Martin Hill.
Olympian, Bobby Wilmot from Sydney, was on mainsheet and there were three Tassies aboard; Darren ‘Twirler’ Jones, who has called Sydney home for many years, Mark Jeffrey and Ollie Nicholas. And although the crew had not sailed together before, they dominated from go to whoa and are thrilled to be heading to the National Championship at Pittwater next Friday as ‘the boat to beat’.
Ollie Nicholas admitted he was surprised by their domination in the hot fleet: “It’s been good to come up to Sydney and sail with a good bunch of blokes and to finish this well – we had no idea how we’d go – to win so many races was a bit of a surprise,” he said.
Interstate entries were big winners in a few divisions this weekend. Rob Hanna brought his recently purchased TP52 Shogun, up from Victoria for the IRC windward/leeward racing off Sydney Heads.
At the forefront of the Royal Geelong Yacht Club yachtsman’s mind was to even the score with Marcus Blackmore's TP52 Hooligan, which beat Shogun V by three points to lift the Rolex Trophy in December. Hanna was not disappointed, scoring Division A victory in four out of five races, with Hooligan finishing five points behind in second place. Game, set and match!
Division B also went to a ‘foreigner’, with the David Lambourne/Barry Cuneo Farr 40 Lambourdini/Envy Scooters from Queensland coming up trumps, their Race 3 win sealing the deal in the four race series. They were thrilled with their unexpected win.
In Division C, a second Victorian boat came up with the goods. David Ellis trucked his Archambault 31 Penfold Audi Sport from Melbourne to Sydney with high hopes, but unsure of his potential in a hot fleet that included two-time Audi IRC Australian champion, Peter Sorensen and his Sydney 36CR The Philosopher’s Club.
Ellis, from the Royal Yacht Club of Victoria, was thrilled to win the series with three wins from four races. “Sailing in Sydney is very different to sailing on Port Phillip, so we were more than happy to beat the likes of The Philosopher’s Club and L’Altra Donna (Andy Kearnan’s Summit 35 from Sydney), they were always going to be hard to beat,” he said.
“We got Peter Shields to truck the boat up, because we didn’t want anything to go wrong with the boat and he always does such a great job,” said Ellis, who is originally from Sydney and felt the need to “test ourselves against some of the best IRC boats around.”
Ellis did not let the flukey breeze which started at 6 knots in the ESE and eventually bent around to the northeast and increased up to 12 knots by afternoon. Nor did he and his crew let the delay of over an hour while the race crew waited for the breeze to settle, get the better of them. Due to delays on both days, Division 2 and 3’s series was cut from six to four races.
The Victorian yachtsman said that although they had recently won the Club Marine Series at home and the Victorian IRC Championship, he was still unsure of his place in the scheme of things. That is not the case anymore. “I have a great crew and boat, and I feel lucky for that. It was also great to sail against one of my early mentors, Nev Wittey, who I saw on L’Altra Donna.”
Ellis said he could not let the weekend go by without saying, “I want to thank Middle Harbour Yacht Club and its commodore, Julie Hodder, for their hospitality and for making us feel so welcome. We’re heading back to the Club tonight to enjoy the festivities.”
The Cavalier 28 NSW Championship was sailed in conjunction with the Sydney Harbour Regatta and was won by Greg Purcell and his Scuttlebutt crew from the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron. As expected, the racing was tight all weekend, but Purcell had that extra bit of oomph that won him three out of five races and the Championship from Dancelot (Charles Pearse) and Centaurus (Craig Mitchell).
“We had a pretty amazing couple of days on the Harbour,” Purcell said. “The Club did a great job with the courses, there were 13 very keen crews racing and it was tight racing throughout the Championship,” he added.
In PHS Division 1 Non-Spinnaker, Trevor Bailey and his Beneteau 45 Carbon Credits overcame a challenge from Gunther Schmidtlindner’s Lyons 46 Austmark to claim the spoils by four points.
The Austmark crew were gracious in defeat. On board, helping the owner to second place, was two-time Olympian Nicky Bethwaite, the first Australian woman to sail at the Olympic Games (Seoul, 1988).
“After the terrible weather we’ve had, was the weekend magic,” Bethwaite said. “It couldn’t have been better – light and shifty and then spanking winds that let us all pick up our heels and run both days – we’ve had a ball.”
Bethwaite’s crew from the 1998 Olympics also sailed the Sydney Harbour Regatta, in the Yngling class, in which she also contested the 2008 Olympic Games in. Gojnich, a mother of two girls, finished fourth overall after being unable to sail yesterday’s three races. However, her trio of second places today showed she still has what it takes. The winner was Hamish Jarrett (Miss Pibb). Both competitors are from Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron.
Julie Hodder, the commodore of Middle Harbour Yacht Club, commented this evening: “This was a fantastic regatta for Sydney Harbour, competitors, yacht clubs and spectators. It’s a time when all yacht clubs get together and celebrate how lucky we are to have the best sailing facilities in the world.”
Mariner Boating’s Trevor and Maggie Joyce were on hand to hand over their generous donation of a trip for two in the 2013 ‘Italian Job Yacht Rally’ along the Amalfi Coast, valued at $15,000, including international airfares and domestic transfers. The only stipulation being the winner had to be at tonight’s presentation.
Brad Newton from the yacht Toybox, a Middle Harbour YC yacht, won the prize. It was Newton’s lucky night, as only minutes earlier he was drawn as the winner of $1500 worth of Helly Hansen sailing clothing.
The company held a fashion parade showing the latest Helly Hansen sailing gear and the country blues band, The Wolverines, played to their appreciative yachtie audience throughout the night.
Wolverines drummer, John Clinton, also sailed the regatta with his Beneteau Holy Cow, with its standout cow patch headsail.