Thursday, December 17, 2009

Rolex Trophy Rating Series 2009 - Drama

Photos by Christophe Launay -

Two of the major players did not make the start line and two other highly fancied entries did enough damage to warrant pulling out of Race 2 of the Rolex Trophy Rating Series which started today on the Manly Circle just north of Sydney Heads.

A touch of start day nerves, some crew changes and lumpy seas all added to an interesting day of windward/leeward racing in the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia organised series.

Listed as starters, Alfa Romeo and RÁN did not turn up at the race course area. Neville Crichton, the owner of the New Zealand line honours challenger, instead decided to undertake crew training. The 100ft maxi was seen sharing Sydney Harbour with her main adversary for the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, Bob Oatley’s Wild Oats XI, prior to racing this morning

RÁN’s late Sydney arrival in the early hours of this morning after being off-loaded at Port Kembla following transportation from the UK by ship, meant there was too little time to prepare the 2009 Rolex Fastnet Race overall winner for racing today. The good news is, fellow competitors and spectators can expect to see Niklas Zennstrom’s JV 72 in action for the remaining three days of racing.

Meanwhile, out on the course area, the 12 remaining yachts sailed in two divisions on a lumpy sea that got rougher throughout the day in a 10-20 knot north to nor-easterly wind that gusted to 25 knots at times with the odd shift thrown in.

Rolex Sydney Hobart pre-race favourites Stephen Ainsworth’s RP 63 Loki (CYCA) and Michael Hiatt’s Farr 55 Living Doll from Victoria, were casualties of Race 2.

Loki, which finished Race 1 in second, was looking well placed when disaster struck. According to crew member Adam Barnes, they were at the top mark when they heard a loud bang. “We went below to check and found the shaft drive system had dropped – we don’t know how it happened yet.”

The yacht was taken immediately to Sydney City Marine where it will be hauled out of the water to reveal just how much damage has been done to the engine, propeller, gear box and bearings in the hull of the yacht. At this stage it is not known if the yacht will be race-ready for tomorrow’s two windward/leewards.

On Living Doll, owner/skipper Michael Hiatt told of their own spinnaker woes. “We had a mishap with the kite. It got a bit messy and we lost some time. It wasn’t worth continuing on in the race.”

However, Hiatt was at pains to point out that although it was a hard day’s sailing with big lumpy seas, “We’re very happy with the boat’s performance – the boat is going really well.”

The businessman, who owns the Living Doll clothing label, said he had brought in four young guys from Australia and New Zealand and renowned ocean racing navigator, Andrew Cape, to compliment an already solid crew that includes tactician Ross Lloyd.

Peter Sorensen's The Philosopher's Club, Leader, Day 1, Division 2 Rolex Trophy Rating Series
Daniel Forster/ROLEX

Leading the series following Races 1 and 2, Alan Brierty’s RP 62 Limit was not without dramas either.

Winning Race 1, things were not so simple in Race 2; losing control of their heavy spinnaker at the first leeward gate, forcing the Limit crew to cut it away from the boat. It was rescued by Principal Race Officer Denis Thompson and his on-water race management crew. Limit still managed to finish third in the diminished fleet.

Limit’s Kiwi tactician Rodney Keenan told how: “We were left with the lighter kite and in the big breeze and the seas up, it was out-ranged and blew up.”

Owner, Alan Brierty, was thrilled to be the leader on Day 1. “Considering we have a pretty new crew from all over the world, I think we did a great job.” Like Hiatt, Brierty has some of his regulars, such as Keenan, but others, including Gavin Brady, could not make it this year for various reasons.

“We’ve got guys from Spain, England, New Zealand, America and Australia; it’s a boat of all nations,” said Limit’s eccentric owner who is currently sporting dreadlocks.

Rob Hanna’s Shogun, the JV 52 formerly known as Wot Now, is second overall in the series. Now based in Victoria, Hanna has also added some world champions in various classes to his crew of local sailors, in the shape of Steve McConaghy and Sean Kirkjian. “Yep, we’re pretty happy with our day,” McConaghy said.

Geoff Ross’ RP 55 Yendys (CYCA) was third overall. “Today was a good workout and reminds us what to expect in the race to Hobart,” was his synopsis of the day.

However, Ross subsequently retired from both races, telling officials: “Due to circumstances beyond our control, we elected to withdraw, but we’ll be back on the race track tomorrow.” Ross would not elaborate, instead opting to explain his reasons tomorrow.

Middle Harbour Yacht Club’s Peter Sorensen is leading Division 2 on The Philosopher’s Club after coming home with a pair of second places this afternoon. “They were the lumpiest seas I’ve ever sailed in off Sydney Heads,” the retired solicitor maintained, “the hardest sailing I’ve done in a while. We think we can do better than today’s two second places; we are quietly confident of winning the series.”

“Sorro”, who has Andrew Buckland aboard for the series, another famed skiff and yacht sailor, had the most consistent day. He has a two-point lead over Paul Clitheroe’s Beneteau 45, Balance (CYCA) and Chris Dare’s Audi Centre Melbourne, from Melbourne.

The 1999 Rolex Sydney Hobart winner, Knee Deep (formerly Yendys), owned by West Australian winery operator Phillip Childs and Frank Van Ruth, left the course during Race 1 after jamming a spinnaker halyard. A crew member sent up the mast so the spinnaker could be dropped. It took some time, so boat and owners elected to pull out of racing today.

For Rolex Trophy Rating Series list of entries log on to:

By Di Pearson, CYCA media