Yendys takes handicap prize
It’s been a slow Audi Sydney Offshore Newcastle Yacht Race and following Wild Oats XI’s line honours win shortly after midday today, only Loki, Lahana, Yendys, Quest, Pretty Fly III, Ragamuffin and The Stick - in that order on line – had finished the race as at 8.30pm.
Geoff Ross’s Yendys (NSW) is the provisional overall race winner under IRC while Bob Steel’s Quest (NSW) is second overall and provisionally positioned to win the Blue Water Pointscore (BWPS). Only Ed Psaltis/Bob Thomas’ AFR Midnight Rambler can spoil the party, but needs to finish the race by 10.29pm this evening to steal the crown in the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s prestigious series.
With Yendys’ owner/skipper Geoff Ross away on business, Chris Nicholson skippered the Reichel/Pugh 55 to its win. “Geoff was on the phone to us this afternoon and he’s really happy we that we’ve provisionally won,” Nicholson, said late this afternoon.
A world-class ocean racer, Olympian and three-time world champion in the 49er skiff, Nicholson, from Lake Macquarie, paid tribute to the Yendys crew this afternoon: “Geoff Ross is a fantastic owner and he’s put together a great crew.
Nicholson praised navigator Will Oxley saying: “Ask him 100 questions and he’ll have all the answers ready – he’s world class.”
Nicholson said of their race: “It boiled down to the ramifications of the strong current inshore versus the sea breeze – they both had risks and we managed the risks well.” The Yendys crew saw a peak of 17 knots early in the race, which was momentary and they sailed in 16-17 knots just before midday – all of it on the nose.
“It was a really tactical race and we were passing boats that got on the wrong side of the current and I reckon they’ll be out on the course for another day,” Nicholson said.
Currently, Yendys leads the race overall under IRC from Quest, Loki, Ragamuffin. Stephen Ainsworth’s RP63 Loki has beaten Ragamuffin overall by a mere four seconds – four seconds that would have meant a tied BWPS first place for Ragamuffin with Quest. However, Steel would have won on countback due to his provisional second overall in today’s race.
Coming into the Audi Sydney Offshore Newcastle Yacht Race, Ragamuffin led the BWPS on 15 points, with Quest on 16, AFR Midnight Rambler on 17, Yendys on 18 and Loki on 19. It could not be closer and made for a great climax.
It’s not the first time Steel has found himself in the position of sitting it out and waiting to know if he has won. “It happened in the 1995 Hobart race, and we ended up second. It happened again in the 2002 Hobart and we won, so we’ll wait again and see,” the pragmatic Steel said at the Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club this evening,
“I’ll be delighted if we’ve won – I’d be very happy,” commented Steel, who said the Quest crew had literally match raced Ragamuffin from start to finish, the two TP52s from the CYCA trading places throughout the race.
“Syd was leading last night, but when I came on deck this morning, we were in front of them. As we came up to the turning mark for the Hunter River, he overtook us on the inside and looked quick downwind, but we caught him up – it wasn’t over till we crossed the line.”
Steel, who with his long-time sailing master Mike Green jointly won the CYCA’s Ocean Racer of the Year award in December, said he and Green “are a fine partnership. We go back a long way.”
The original fleet of 25 has had to battle light headwinds and a strong current for most of the race, making it a thinking race for tacticians and navigators alike.
Looking squarely at an overall win until the closing hours of their race, Ainsworth bemoaned, “The weather beat us again. The best I can say is that it was sunny and warm,” he laughed.
“The breeze faded this morning – until then we were well in front – but it crapped out at Port Stephens. Each time we found ourselves in no breeze inshore, we had to go out again. We didn’t do anything wrong.”
Ainsworth, from Sydney, told how they passed the 30 metre Lahana. “We sent a crew up the mast and he spotted Lahana parked inshore, so we knew not to go there. That’s our only consolation – we passed her,” he said, disappointed that what looked like an overall win has eluded them at the 11th hour.
Singlehanded round the world sailor David Adams navigated Lahana to third on line. “After our slow start we quickly picked up offshore, then we tore a headsail in lousy 8 knots! We were looking fantastic until someone put a hole in the course.
“To add insult to injury, we had to watch Loki sail through us,” said Adams who told how the breeze “went incredibly light and the best we got was 12 knots around midday.”
Breeze increased to approximately 15 knots from the northeast off Nobby’s Head at approximately 4.30pm this afternoon, which will have the effect of bringing the remainder of the fleet home a little faster than was originally thought.
The rest of the fleet remains at sea, with the next yachts not realistically expected until after 11.00pm this evening in the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia organised Audi Sydney Offshore Newcastle Yacht Race.