Hooligan runs aground
Marcus Blackmore’s stellar Audi IRC Australian Championship opening bout turned a little sour this morning when his Sydney-based TP52 Hooligan ran aground off Port Henry soon after the start of the distance race out to mid Port Phillip and back.
The current IRC champion stuck fast in the sand for at least 15 minutes while the crew tried to backwind the sails to turn the nose of the boat back out into deeper water. Eventually the boat was freed and a very sombre crew set off to begin their long chase.
According to the crew, the only damage done was to their pride. With one allowable drop in the IRC Championship, today’s mishap may hurt but won’t wreck Blackmore’s chances of a third consecutive Championship win in Class A.
Hooligan ended up fourth across the line and third on handicap to still be leading the series with a four point advantage.
Jason Van Der Slot’s TP52 Calm 2 picked up a handy Class A win in today’s 51 nautical mile race. While they won’t catch Hooligan in terms of time on the water, Van Der Slot and his right hand man, helmsman Barney Walker, are hoping to creep up in the results and be waiting in the wings should the Sydney crew make a mistake, just like today.
“Our aim for this regatta was to learn more about the boat and sail like-for-like boats,” said Van Der Slot this afternoon.
Rob Hanna’s Shogun V placed second in the race standings, a headsail issue costing some time as they ran bareheaded out in open water until a replacement was hoisted.
“Action packed” is how Shogun’s tactician Steve McConaghy described today. “We were blast reaching doing 17 knots with heaps of water over the deck.”
The quality Audi IRC fleet started upwind off the Royal Geelong Yacht Club, the turning mark bringing them close in shore for the fancy of spectators before they set kites and headed down the channel in a 10 knot westerly breeze.
Like a slalom course where competitors must stay inside the poles, the fleet, from the 66ft Black Jack to Harold Clark’s Farr 1104 Invincible from Tasmania, weaved their way out of the channel guided by the markers, Hooligan the only one to skate too close to the edge.
Where Hooligan ran aground in the mud off the Alcoa smelter, locals say farmers used to walk their cows and sheep across the sandbar to Avalon at low tide to graze them on the other side of the bay. That was before dredging opened up the inner harbour for shipping back in the 1890s.
Race officer Greg Sinclair was providing regular updates from the IRC course and when the forecast SSW front finally made its presence felt, conditions changed dramatically, from 10 knots at the start to gusts of 30 out of the south making things “nasty” offshore as the fleet headed to mid-Port Phillip.
Peter Harburg’s RP66 Black Jack was the first boat to poke its nose back into the Hopetoun channel for the finish of the Audi IRC Australian Championship distance race this afternoon.
The Brendan Garner-skippered Beneteau First 45 Senna was boat of the day in IRC division B, finishing with an overall win and now third on the series pointscore behind Ikon and Reverie.
Senna is a new boat for Chris Manton and today was the freshest conditions it’s seen since launching four months ago.
“We were able to hang in with Ikon and Reverie and our navigator got it right at one of the turning marks, whereas some boats turned too early,” said the smiling skipper. “Plus I think we were the only Beneteau not to wipe out!”
The crew saw 34 knots on the instruments and were able to capitalise when they brought the breeze to the flyers, such as Ginger, hitting a top speed of 12 knots. It might seem caterpillar pace compared to Hooligan’s 20 knots of boat speed but it was enough to seal the win with a lot less water over the deck.
In IRC Class C Roger Hickman’s Farr 43 Wild Rose and Grant Botica’s Adams 10 Executive Decision were having a hell of a battle coming into Corio Bay after their 30 mile race. Executive Decision pipped Hickman to consolidate their quest for a hat trick of wins at the Festival of Sails, a gutsy effort given they only had six on board today with two knocked down last night by illness.
“While we have developed her into a light air boat, we seem to be able to handle any conditions,” said Botica this afternoon. “Today we had all the crew on the stern and we were doing 16 knots, it was a wild ride. Josh White drove the boat and I just hung on.”
Tomorrow sees the return of windward/leewards.