The hot nor’westerly breeze carrying the raised dust from central Australia meant the top mark of the IRC windward/leeward course was set just behind the breakers at Curl Curl beach in Sydney’s north where beachgoers were treated to an impressive display of power sailing led by Stephen Ainsworth’s Reichel Pugh 63 Loki.
With Gordon Maguire at the helm, Loki finished the series on nine points with a clean sweep of wins, five line honours and handicap victories from five races. They opted not to sail the sixth and final race as they couldn’t be beaten at that point.
With less than four weeks to the start of the Rolex Sydney Hobart, Ainsworth and right hand man Maguire couldn’t be happier with the boat’s form.
“It’s certainly a confidence booster going into the Rolex Trophy,” said the proud owner this afternoon after leaving the Geoff Ross owned and Bob Wilmot helmed Reichel Pugh 55 Yendys and Bob Steel’s 2008 Rolex Sydney Hobart overall winner, Quest, to duel for the two remaining podium places.
“It was a small but high quality fleet and our margins were convincing. Our tactics were good, we didn’t do anything wrong, and we might have had a bit of luck also.
“Today was very tricky, we were close inshore at the top mark and the breeze was moving around. It was easy to get things wrong.
“It’s not hard to turn from a rooster into a feather duster so we thought we’d quit while we were ahead,” said Ainsworth, referring to the fact they chose not to sail the last race.
Second in the IRC division 1 pointscore on 13 points was Ross’s recently modified Yendys and third on 15 points was the TP52 Quest.
Ross says the latest round of modifications, including a brand new keel, have transformed the boat, and he has more changes up his sleeve. “We have more to do before the Rolex Trophy, we are giving it our best effort.
“This was a great regatta. Three races a day on the Manly Circle is as good as it gets,” Ross added.
Div 1 boasted the likes of Tom Braidwood and Darren Senogles but the on board talent amongst the IRC division 2 fleet was equally noteworthy with plenty of respected sailors sprinkled among the crews.
Victorian yachtsman Ian ‘Barney’ Walker was mainsheet hand on the winning Terra Firma, Rob Brown, triple world champion and America’s Cup contender steered Peter Blair’s King 40 Canute into second place on the series table while revered Rolex Sydney Hobart yachtsman Roger Hickman finished fourth with his Farr 43 Wild Rose, edging out Nick George’s Pla Loma IV, with yachting legend Ron Jacobs calling tactics.
Top honours in IRC division 2 series went to Nicholas Bartels’s Sydney 47 Terra Firma on 14 points with Canute second on 18 points and Guy Stening’s Farr 30 Optimum third on 22 points from six races.
"It was a tricky series. With no drops you had to sail cleanly and consistently over the six races rather than looking glamourous for some of the races,” said Bartels this afternoon.
“The level of competition in division 2 was excellent, they were hard to beat. Being a little bigger we coped better with today’s layered breeze but also, we’ve optimised and we’ve put a lot of effort into getting everything right,” Bartels added.
Conditions were tough on the Manly Circle course area with marks re-set for division 1 during the first race of the day, a course change for both divisions in the second race of the day, and finally an entirely new course then a course change as the sea breeze looked like it might settle in from the nor’east before clocking north.
The race committee, headed up by Denis Thompson, recorded a maximum gust of 23 knots in the westerly and a minimum three knots.
The next major event on the IRC circuit is the Rolex Trophy Rating Series, to be sailed off Sydney Heads from 17-20 December 2009.
Full results here