|SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA-(30-11-2004) Sydney’s summer of sail, culminating with the start of the 60th anniversary Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, sparkled into action last weekend with several leading boats turning in impressive performances in the Savills Short Ocean Racing Championship.
Sailed off Sydney Heads in generally light breezes, the fleet included a dozen or so entrants for the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race as well as many of the one-design class yachts expected to contest the Rolex Trophy in mid-December.
Conducted by Middle Harbour Yacht Club, the SORC attracted some 100 competitors from NSW, Victoria and South Australia racing in IRC, PHS, JOG and Super 30 rated classes and in the Farr 40, Sydney 38 and Sydney 32 one design classes.
Prime time television show producer David Mason certainly enjoyed pleasing views of some of his likely competitors in his appropriately named Beneteau 44.7, Prime Time.
With world champion yachtsman Neville Wittey on the helm, Prime Time scored an overall victory in the IRC class, always up among the main group of boats chasing the super maxi Konica Minolta from New Zealand and the canting keel 60-footer Wild Joe; and most times sailing right to, or better than, her IRC rating.
Prime Time’s corrected time scorecard of 1-4-2-1 was by far the best of the IRC fleet, giving the Bruce Farr-designed, French-built production yacht a final low score of 8 points, well clear of the nearest opposition.
Wild Joe, is the former the 2003 Admiral’s Cup champion Wild Oats, now owned by Sydney yachtsman Stephen David who has given the state-of-the-art, Reichel/Pugh designed 60-footer a major refit for the Rolex Sydney Hobart.
With America’s Cup skipper and international designer Iain Murray at the helm, she too notched up two wins on corrected time, but a 9th in race one and a fourth in race four saw her finish in second place overall with 15 points.
Prime Time and Wild Joe must now rank strong prospects for IRC overall honours in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, but two other boats that certainly impressed with their IRC handicap results in the Savills SORC were New Zealander Stewart Thwaites’ super maxi Konica Minolta and the lesser known Austmark, skippered by Gunther Schmidt-Lindner.
As expected, Konica Minolta took line honours in all four races, despite unsuitable light morning breezes yesterday and again today, but her starts and sail handling by the crew, largely new to the boat, impressed as the regatta progressed.
After a dismal 27th on corrected time in race one, the Brett Bakewell-White designed 98-footer notched up three second placings on corrected time, powering to windward when the breeze lifted to 10 knots and showing impressive downwind speed under her huge asymmetric spinnakers tacked off her newly acquired bowsprit.
Austmark, a Lyons/Cawse 46 (the former Vanguard) now owned by Gunther Schmidt-Lindner, finished fourth overall with a consistent scorecard of 2-6-4-5.
Two other Rolex Sydney Hobart entrants did well in the PHS class, with Geoff Hill’s Lyons 49, Strewth, scoring two firsts to win the regatta and 82-year-old John Walker sailing Impeccable to a win in the final race.
Strewth was the luckless yacht in last year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race fleet, unable to start when she suffered engine problems on the morning of Boxing Day.
Most of the Farr 40s, Sydney 38s and Sydney 32s that contested the SORC are expected to sail in the Rolex Trophy one-design racing from December 11-13, including the overall Sydney 38 winner, Leon Christianakis’ Cydon from the CYCA.
Cydon is not contesting the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race, but SORC first race winner Chutzpah, skippered by Victorian Bruce Taylor, is among the record Sydney 38 fleet in the ocean classic.
Two other Sydney 38s heading south which sailed well in the SORC were Team Lexus, to be skippered to Hobart by Rupert Henry, and Martin and Lisa Hill’s Estate Master.