Photos: Guido Brandt

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Ichi Ban leads the charge inshore at the Geelong Festival of Sails

Saturday January 25th 2014, Author: Danielle McKay, Location: Australia

New yachts Patrice and Ichi Ban are bringing their older counterparts to their knees in the grand prix racing series at the Festival of Sails, claiming two spots on the podium on the second day of racing.

Tony Kirby’s four-month-old Ker 46 Patrice sits atop the Optimum Time Racing Series Division 1 IRC leaderboard after scoring two emphatic wins from three windward/leeward races today, while Matt Allen’s three-month-old Carkeek 60 Ichi Ban finished third overall.

In second place is Black Betty, which makes owner Gary McNally’s massive 3,500km trip across the Nullarbor Plain from Perth to Geelong all the more worthwhile.

It was unchartered water for Patrice and Ichi Ban today, neither yacht having competed in an inshore racing series since their baptisms late last year.

Kirby said it was nerve-wracking hitting the water today with the prospect of finally finding out just what his carbon-racer was capable of: “We got faster as the day went on. It was very close racing. It certainly won’t be over until the final day. I think if we can keep together and keep learning the boat we can only go faster from here.”

In the Optimum Time Racing Series Division 2 it was necessary to win three of three races to claim the top spot among a fleet that is arguably the hottest-under-the-collar of all on Geelong’s Corio Bay.

The skipper who made the three wins possible was Bruce McCraken aboard his stunning Beneteau 45 First Ikon. The defending Audi IRC Class B national champion reckons it came down to his crew’s team work, and lots of concentration on a course with southerly winds gusting in excess of 25 knots and shifting 40°:  “You can’t get any better than that. We’ve been together now for three seasons and the crew’s pretty much been the same, plus seven of us are related so it creates a good mix. But you can’t take anything for granted, it’s fierce out there, which is great because we’re all competitive and it drives us.”

There was a different kind of pressure on the shoulders of the Morris Finance Sydney 38 One Design Class Australian Championship winner, Challenge. Skipper Chris Jackson was asked to step into the role in the absence of Mark Bulka, who today won the Contender World Championship.

Jackson did Bulka proud, jumping from third this morning to first overall on the points ladder despite blowing the spinnaker in the last race of the day.

“There’s a bit of pressure for sure when you’re stepping into the shoes of a world champ,” Jackson said. “I wondered if it might all be lost when the chute blew up into bits. The heart was in the mouth, but we just reacted quickly and kept on going.”

Jackson credits a lot more than just crew work for the team’s success; citing the yacht’s owner Lou Abrahams, Sydney Hobart veteran and racing stalwart: “It was just fantastic we were able to give Lou that news and I think that’s why the boat’s so well sailed, because everyone’s sailing for the one special person.”

Penfold Audi Sport, skippered by David Ellis leads the Optimum Time Racing Division 3 series on IRC, followed by Jason Close’s White Noise and Timothy Fox’s The Red Boat.

Meanwhile in the Fuso Trucks Multihull Series Malice and Morticia continued their fierce on-water slug-fest today, with Malice breaking the pair’s two-way tie with a line honours win that shot them in to the lead overall on corrected time. Shaun Fishley’s Frassld rounds out the multihull podium.

The multihulls and Racing Series division 3 will wind up tomorrow, while divisions 1 and 2 will complete their series on Monday.

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