Hooligan comes out on top
The final outcome in Audi IRC Australian Championship Class A came down to today’s Molles Islands race and a victory was enough for a big comeback from fourth this morning to first by one point as Audi Hamilton Island Race Week closed in dramatic style.
Rob Hanna’s Victorian TP52 Shogun V placed second overall and Peter Harburg’s RP66 Black Jack finished third.
"We set ourselves the goal of back-to-back wins and to win the Audi Championship again," said a beaming Blackmore on the dock before he, crewman Don Cowie and tactician Stu Bannatyne took a cooling unplanned dip. "There are probably three of the best TP52s in the world here, it’s been fantastic sailing. In the end it’s about where you finish on the last day. Black Jack took nearly half the race to get us
back after a poor start. We learnt the importance of a good start early in the week, you’ve got to be persistent and never give up."
As well as the crew that nailed today’s win, Blackmore paid tribute to ‘"the three guys we threw off the boat today to lighten it up". With no more than 12 knots of ESW breeze on the instruments, minimal crew was an important part of the game plan.
Eight of Hooligan’s crew were on board for last year’s win.
On the Audi IRC Australian Championship prize, a new North Sails Code 2 spinnaker, Blackmore added,"‘a new spinnaker will be really useful".
Hooligan began the week slowly but came home strong, finishing with 24.5 points after nine races and seven days of intense duelling with the red hot 50 foot fleet. The steam vent on the pressure cooker didn’t release until the results were posted this afternoon, Hooligan had finished one point ahead of Shogun V, which has sailed an incredibly classy and consistent series.
"So close, yet so far," said a dejected Steve McConaghy, helmsman and tactician on Shogun V. "We gave it every opportunity; Hooligan kept us honest. We broke the outhaul three miles from the finish today and we couldn’t hold onto them, they are a talented team and you can never write them off. It was such a good regatta, by far the hardest I’ve done."
A thick fog settled over Dent Passage this morning delaying the start. The pea soup came and went allowing divisions to peel off in a northerly direction into the mist. By late morning the warm Queensland sun had burnt off the last of the fog, the perfect finish to an outstanding regatta.
Going into today’s race in pole position, Black Jack's Peter Harburg was praised by his contemporaries. "Talk about perseverance," said Gavin Brady, America’s Cup sailor and helmsman this week on Yendys. "Peter’s one of those owners that keeps coming back. He keeps investing in his boat and now he’s shown Black Jack is one of the best IRC boats in the world."
Three classes have competed solidly for a week for the glory of being named Audi IRC Australian Champion. The ultimate winner of class A, B and C wins a brand new North Sails Code 2 spinnaker emblazoned with the Audi IRC Australian Championship logo, the first time Audi has offered such a prize.
The standout feature of the IRC fleet was the sizzling match up among the five TP52s and the great energy between the crews of these 52 footers, which are gathering momentum in Australia like they have done in Europe.
Building on the impetus of a growing fleet, Marcus Blackmore says the Australian TP52 Association is planning three east coast events next year.
Like the Class A result, Darryl Hodgkinson and his Beneteau First 45 Victoire have successfully defended IRC Class B at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week.
For their effort the crew of the victorious Sydney boat have picked themselves up a brand new North Sails Code 2 spinnaker, which will be emblazoned with the Audi IRC Australian Championship logo.
"It’s been a very challenging regatta for us; the light breezes haven’t really been our ideal conditions. We had to work hard but we defended our position," said Hodgkinson.
Hodgkinson says he and his crew ran a similar program to last year. "We went to Airlie Beach first, to tune ourselves up then we came here and snapped down a few wins early, which was a good thing because as the week wore on the others got better and better."
Hodgkinson will gather up a group of his friends to celebrate 30th anniversary of Audi Hamilton Island Race Week. The crew of plastic surgeons, called SPS or Sailing Plastic Surgeons, can all sail and will join together in a multinational effort representing America, Germany, France and Brazil.
Hodgkinson plans to talk to Hamilton Island administration "to make sure they put on a big show," wanting to demonstrate to his colleagues"‘that Hamilton Island can do it just as well as Saint Tropez."
He needn’t worry, management has grand plans to celebrate Race Week’s 30 th birthday and 10 years of the island’s ownership by the Oatley family.
Hodgkinson will provide his boat for next year’s series and half of his regular, and the rest will be made up of sailing doctors.
Second to Hodgkinson’s Victoire by seven points was Robbo Robertson’s Beneteau First 40, Lunchtime Legend, scoring 22 points on the leaderboard.
Robertson conceded that "the conditions made it hard for our type of boat, but they gave everyone in our division a chance."
Third in the Audi IRC Australian Championship Class B on 34 points was Guilty Pleasures IV, a Sydney 32 skippered by Leon Thomas.
Australian IRC Championship Class C
Roland Dane’s Corby 36 Jessandra II gave the rest of the Audi IRC Championship class C players little opportunity to make an impression on the results sheet, scoring five wins from nine starts to finish with 12 points, five points clear of David Ellis’ well campaigned Archambault A31 Audi Penfold Sport.
A new Corby 36 Jessandra II sported a top crew including Race Week veteran and Rolex Sydney Hobart overall winner, Michael Spies, who was helming and is also involved in the race management side of this regatta, Angus Roxburgh and navigator/tactician Bryan Northcote.
Dane had only good things to say about this year’s Audi Hamilton Island Race Week: "It was unbelievable, I loved every minute on and off the water."
"It was a very tough regatta against the smaller boats, especially with the breeze dropping out," added Northcote.
Placing third in IRC Class C at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week on 29 points was Here’s Trouble, the Masrm 920, skippered by Paul Mitchel.
Dane had to fly out yesterday for a function associated with his motor racing team, leaving his crew to put the frosting on the cake.
Jessandra II had won its class before the start of the Molles Islands race however the interstate rivalry of the Hamilton Island State Challenge meant Dane’s crew took the opportunity to add some extra points to Queensland’s tally.
"With Black Jack doing very well yesterday the Queensland team was up there and we wanted to get ahead of our NSW counterparts," which has some humour attached as there is a mixed Queensland and New South Wales crew aboard.
The three-boat Queensland team has indeed won the State Challenge, beating New South Wales and Victoria.
Today’s Molles Islands race was dedicated to the ABC helicopter pilot, Gary Ticehurst, who was tragically killed last year in a flying accident near Lake Eyre, South Australia. Gary was well known among the sailing community from the decades he spent covering the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, just one of the highlights of his brilliant flying and media career.