Heading towards Barrenjoey in a light breeze Ginger went offshore while the bulk of the fleet stayed on the left hand side of the course, closer inshore, waiting for the wind to shift north as forecast.
“Based on the forecast we would have done that too,” said Ginger helmsman Gordon Maguire, “but we were listening to the race committee boats looking after the Rolex Trophy Ratings Series further offshore and they were saying the wind wasn’t shifting to plan and the right hand side of the course was turning out to be the favored side, with a couple of extra knots of breeze. It was a no-brainer. We couldn’t believe no-one else was listening in on what was, after all freely available intelligence.”
Ginger’s Rolex Trophy win has upstaged some of the most fancied entrants in the Rolex Sydney Hobart, which have been using the series as a final hit out before the Boxing Day start of the blue water classic.
Second place overall was won by Andrew Short’s maxi ASM Shockwave 5, though a costly torn spinnaker on the final headsail change of today’s passage race took some of the gloss off a determined fight back over arch rival Black Jack.
The start of today’s race was delayed for almost an hour as the fleet milled about inside Sydney Harbour waiting for enough breeze. In the end they settled for a light 6 knot easterly with 9 knots the best they were to see all day.
Peter Harburg’s Black Jack got the best of the start, flying down the western side of the harbour with ASM Shockwave 5 close behind and downwind. Grant Wharington’s Skandia chose the other, windward end of the line and found herself boxed in by smaller, slower boats. It was only after some agonizing minutes that the giant maxi was able to bear away, find some open space and hunt down the two frontrunners.
As Skandia finally surged past Black Jack, ASM Shockwave 5 put in a tack and quickly discovered that today a port tack was a slow and deadly affair. Within a dozen boat lengths her crew threw her back onto starboard, but it had been a costly decision. By the time the fleet tacked out through the heads ASM Shockwave 5 trailed Skandia, Black Jack and Loki.
Loki chose the eastern shoreline and while it appeared to cost her some boat speed early on, it allowed her to minimize the number of tacks she needed to clear North Head. With Skandia and Black Jack further out to sea and Loki clawing her way past the rocks at the foot of the North Head cliffs it was clear that on this light day picking the right part of the course was going to matter. Like Ginger, ASM Shockwave 5 gambled on the right hand side.
By the time Skandia surged back through the Heads toward the finish line off Watson’s Bay ASM Shockwave 5 had clawed her way past Black Jack, finishing second across the line despite her spinnaker troubles, and second overall on handicap for the Rolex Trophy Passage Series.
Another highly fancied entrant in the Rolex Sydney Hobart, Ray Roberts’ Cookson 50 Quantum Racing took third place in the overall pointscore for the Rolex Trophy Passage Series. Tactician Steve McConaghy says he is very pleased with the preparation of the boat in the lead up to the Boxing Day start next Friday. “We have been together now for two seasons and we are confident we are ready to win the Hobart.
“It seems we are seeing a lot of fresh northerlies and they are perfect for us. We think that we have the edge on the TP52s in hard running and reaching. Chutzpah could give us a hurry up but it’s all about crew work in 40 knots downwind.”
In the PHS pointscore for the Rolex Trophy Passage Series Ginger again led the field ahead of Tulip and ASM Shockwave 5.
The series has been a great morale booster for ASM Shockwave 5 and Quantum Racing as they look forward to Boxing Day.
The Rolex Sydney Hobart is still wide open.