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Young Guns Show Sailing Skills

Rolex Trophy - Young Guns Show Sailing Skills
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA-(18-12-2005) Two of Australia’s champion young sailors, Sean Kirkjian and Michael Blackburn, have played significant roles as a helmsman and a key sail trimmer aboard Yendys and Quantum Racing, the two yachts gaining top placings in the Rolex Trophy – Rating Series, the eight race offshore series that ended off Sydney today.

Blackburn, the 2000 Olympic bronze medallist in the laser dinghy class, has been a sail trimmer on Ray Roberts’ DK46 Quantum Racing, which the owner steered to six wins and two seconds in the strongly contested  IRC Division 2 for lower rating boats.  

Blackburn will be one of the helmsmen of Quantum Racing in next week's 628 nautical mile Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.

Quantum Racing's consistency at the top has contributed to the Australian team achieving a handy points lead in the Rolex Challenge going into the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race starting next Monday. Loki, Stephen Ainsworth’s new Reichel/Pugh 60 which placed second overall in IRC Division O for higher rating boats, is the other Australian team yacht.

Kirkjian, the back-to-back Australian champion in the J24 one design keelboat class,  has been at the helm of Geoff Ross’ Judel/Vrolijk 52 Yendys which sailed with great consistency in a fiercely contested IRC Division 1 of the Rolex Trophy, finishing third overall, beaten by just one point from sharing top berth with Konica Minolta and Vanguard.

On a day in which south-westerly winds changed dramatically in strength and direction, The Rolex Trophy – Rating Series ended with overall high rating divisional wins for the two New Zealand 30m maxis,  Neville Crichton’s Alfa Romeo in IRC Division O and Stewart Thwaites’ Konica Minolta in IRC Division 1, and for Quantum Racing in IRC Division 2 for the lower rating boats.

Michael Blackburn and Sean Kirkjian head a new generation of younger yachtsmen who have been the principal helmsmen, tacticians and sail trimmers on the leading yachts in the Rolex Trophy – Rating Series and who will be aboard them for the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race.

World champion sailor Mark Richards is the principal helmsman on Bob Oatley’s 30m maxi Wild Oats XI, continuing a long association with the owner, while New Zealand America’s Cup helmsman Gavin Brady is the key driver on the Kiwi maxi Konica Minolta.

Australian match racing champion Michael Dunstan is again joining Syd Fischer’s Farr 50 Ragamuffin for the Hobart race while veteran Victorian Lou Abrahams will again have young Carl Schmidt as his principal helmsman on his Sydney 38 Challenge.  Schmidt’s skills were shown in winning the Sydney 38 One Design division of the recent Savill’s Short Ocean Racing Championship.

The helmsmen of both Quantum Racing and Yendys have had strong support from many young sailors as well as their more mature club crewmates.

Tactician for Kirkjian on Yendys has been Steve Cotton,  while the bowman is Phil Jameson, who was also bowman on the America’s Cup yacht Oracle.  Ray Robert's tactician on Quantum Racing has been former Olympian and world champion sailor Steve McConaghy, backed by near faultless crew work from a team that includes young sailmaker Scott Hinton.

Today’s racing saw a depleted fleet with Wild Oats XI announcing after yesterday’s racing that she was withdrawing early to undergo “modifications” and with Sean Langman’s 90-footer AAPT (ex Nicorette) failing to make an appearance through the regatta.  

After winning this morning’s race seven on corrected time, making her unbeatable for first place overall in Division 0, Alfa Romeo did not compete in the final race, sailing back to the harbour early, as did Goldfinger,  the former Ichi Ban now owned by Victorians Peter Blake and Kate Mitchell.  They have had a disappointing first series with the Farr 52.

Going into the final race eight for IRC Division 1, Konica Minolta and Yendys were equal first on 11 points, with Dick Cawse’s 60-footer Vanguard, designed by himself and David Lyons, on 12 points.

In a brilliant display of sailing in the tricky and, at times, strong sou’wester Vanguard won both races today to level with Konica Minolta,  but a countback of placings gave the series to the New Zealand maxi.

Quantum Racing, after being beaten in race seven by Nips N Tux, Howard de Torres’ IMX 40, bounced back to win her sixth race of the regatta in race eight for IRC Division 2 – overall the most successful boat of the 2005 Rolex Trophy – Rating Series. 

Lesley Green’s Ginger, a non-Hobart racer, as is Nips N Tux, finished second overall, third place overall going to the Queensland boat Wedgetail, Bill Wild’s HW 42 which notched up a second and a third today.

Principal race officer Dennis Thompson was faced with a hard task in setting a good course today, being forced to lay the windward mark for the higher rating boats only one-eighth of a nautical mile offshore from the cliffs below the historic Macquarie Lighthouse.

As a result, winds near the windward marks were extremely shifty, with the occasional ‘bullets’ firing out from the gaps in the cliffs, whereas a mile and a half out to sea it was a steady 20 knots from the south-west.   Sailed under a brilliant blue sky with a sparkling deep blue sea, it was a day of great sailing to wind up the Rolex Trophy – Rating Series.

Final results of the 2005 Rolex Trophy – Rating Series;


IRC Division O:

1.   Alfa Romeo, Reichel/Pugh 98 (Neville Crichton,
    RNZYS) 1-1-DNC-1-3-1-1-DNC, 14 pts

2. Loki, Reichel/Pugh 98 (Stephen Ainsworth,  
    CYCA) 2-3-2-3-2-2-2-1,  14 pts

3. Wild Oats XI, Reichel/Pugh 98 (Bob Oatley,
     RPAYC) 3-2-1-2- 1-6 – DNC-DNC, 21 pts


IRC Division 1:

1.   Konica Minolta, Bakewell-White 98 (Stewart
    Thwaites, RNZYS) 5-1-1-4-1-1-3-2, 13 pts
2. Vanguard, Cawse/Lyons 60 (Dick Cawse, CYCA)
2-3-3-1-3-2-1-1, 13 pts
3.  Yendys, Judel/Vrolijk 52 (Geoff Ross, CYCA)
1-2-2-2-2-3-2-3, 14 pts


IRC Division 2:

1. Quantum Racing, DK 46 (Ray Roberts, CYCA)
1-1-1-2-1-1-2-1, 8 pts
2. Ginger, Swan 45 (Leslie Green, CYCA)
2-2-2-1-DSQ-2-4-4, 17 pts
3. Wedgetail, HW 42 (Bill Wild, RQYS)
5-3-3-3-3-4-3-2, 21 pts


PHS Division 0/1:
Konica Minolta 23 pts
Vanguard 26 pts
Yendys 26 pts


PHS Division:
Sea Quest,  Radford 50 (Geoff Smith, RMYC) 28 pts
Nips N Tux, IMX 40 (Howard de Torres, CYCA) 28 pts
Wedgetail , 29 pts

Source: Nicole Browne

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