Hooligan with a day to spare
Marcus Blackmore’s Sydney-based TP52 Hooligan trumped the IRC Racing division at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week with one day to spare, earning yet another championship trophy and taking out a trifecta of overall wins at Hamilton Island.
The polished crew had the series sewn up before today’s final Lindeman Island Race, but relentlessly fought on and pulled a second spot out of the hat to finish on 11 points, well clear of Rob Hanna’s TP52 Shogun V from the Royal Geelong Yacht Club on 21 points. Third in division was Sam Haynes’ Rogers 46 Celestial on 22 points.
“We had an exceptional crew, probably the best I’ve ever had on the boat,” said Blackmore dockside.
He paid tribute to some of his team including new tactician, dual Olympic 470 gold medallist Malcolm Page: “Malcolm is relatively new as a tactician in boats of this size, but he proved his worth and was ably backed up by strategist Dan Slater.”
Conditions this week reminded Page of Qingdao in China, where Olympic sailing events were staged in 2008. “With the light winds and current, all those memories came flooding back,” said Page, who looks set to remain on the Hooligan program.
“Will Oxley was new on the boat, he was excellent,” Blackmore continued. “Terry Wetton our crew boss deserves a lot of credit; he makes the call on who sits at the back of the bus.”
Internationally renowned navigator Will Oxley spent his 17th Race Week adding his expertise to Hooligan’s quest for a third consecutive crown.
“This is my home regatta; I’d like to think I know the way around,” said Oxley. “Light winds made the tides all the more important. The guys I used to work with at the Australian Institute of Marine Science in Townsville have teamed up with the CSIRO to develop a 1km tidal model for the entire reef. We used that model to help us get a sense of what was going on before each race.”
Blackmore spoke of a course he did in India at an Ashram a year ago with Swami Ji and drew a parallel between yachting and the Swami’s teachings on bad luck. “He believes in Karma, but not bad luck. I think there’s an element of that in yachting. I think you can overcome bad luck with a good boat that is well prepared and Tim Wiseman is probably the best in the world at preparing boats.”
The comradeship aboard Hooligan is plain to see, “Some of the guys here are the same ones I raced with on my Mumm 36 15 years ago,” said the owner, recognising the core of his triumphant team.
But there was one thing missing this week for Blackmore.
“I can say how fantastic it is to win three in a row, to win the 30th regatta, to remember back to the first Race Week in 1984 when I won the arbitrary division, but something was missing for me this week and that was Stripey,” said the visibly distressed skipper, recalling the popular Queensland sailing journalist who passed away in April just days after his wife also passed away.
Bob Oatley’s 100ft maxi Wild Oats XI had a cruisy week leading the IRC Racing fleet around the island courses to claim line honours in all nine races. Oatley was on board for today’s final race and took the gun at the helm.
On their Rolex Sydney Hobart preparations, which includes installing a new lighter rig in October, skipper Mark Richards said: “We have a lot of sailing to do between now and Christmas.”
On the value of the Hamilton Island series in terms of lessons learnt Richards added, “We have always had a weakness in light air and never really had the time to put in. It’s been good to get a feel for that weak point and get on top of it.”
Wild Thing’s owner/skipper Grant Wharington is also taking home valuable wisdoms. “We had a fantastic week!” said the now Queensland based Wharington. “The boat has been performing better than we hoped upwind and not quite as well as we would have liked downwind so we have a few things to work on before Christmas.”
A 6 knot easterly, the result of a persistent high pressure system that is refusing to budge, meant only the IRC Racing fleet scraped through the tide gate at Lindeman Island in time, the other divisions completing the Lindeman Island race sailing a shortened course.