Day 2 marked by course confusion

It was dubbed ‘Day 1 Take II’ of SailFest Newcastle and the Australian Yachting Championships after the first day’s racing was wiped out by wild weather, but the TP52s and 13 divisional entries made up for lost time with some intense competition on high seas.

There was also high drama, as both the TP52s and the cruising division mistook course marks, which may prove highly costly in such a hotly contested series that doesn’t have the luxury of a points drop.

After the previous day’s deluge, Newcastle Harbour was bathed in bright sunlight and fanned by a 15-20 knot nor-westerly for the spectacular inshore start of the passage race, the line placed immediately in front of the city’s busy Foreshore Walk.

Marcus Blackmore’s Hooligan shot out of the gate with its Code Zero and was never headed in a fast reaching race, beating the RP52 Virago across the line and on IRC to claim first blood over Geoff Boettcher’s 4th-placed Secret Men’s Business. Division 2 honours went to Maritimo 54, helmed by Michael Spies, while Tom Woods’ local entry Saltwater Wine, a Jpk 10.8, won Division 3.

Principal Race Officer Denis Thompson and his team then went into Windward-Leeward mode to compensate for Friday’s lost races. With 4-metre easterly swells clashing with the shifting westerly wind in Stockton Bight, creating a confused chop, they did exceptionally well to set a course.

And the confusion didn’t stop there as five of the 11 TPs, including Hooligan, rounded the Cruising Division’s mark laid further up Stockton Beach. ZenHighly SprungKoa and Frantic followed suit, while the remaining six TP52s and Virago rounded the correct windward mark.

An ensuing protest saw the five yachts register a 13th placing.

David Doherty’s Matador won the race, along with Race 3, to sit two points clear of Secret Men’s Business on IRC. Under the class-based TP Rating, Matador comfortably leads Craig Neil’s Quest and Secret Men’s Business with three races to come on Sunday.

Hooligan owner Marcus Blackmore was pleased with his new yacht’s performance but philosophical about the result: “Years ago a wonderful old coach said to me ‘he who makes the least mistakes wins’ and I think that was the element for us today.

“But we didn’t have a bad day – we won the first race, the second race was a crapshoot, and for the third race we just got locked in at the start and couldn’t break free.”

Maritimo 54 leads Nine Dragons (Bob Cox) in Division 2 after posting two wins and a 5th, while Southport Yacht Club compatriot Garry Holt holds a 1-point advantage in Division 3 over Saltwater Wine.

“We let ourselves down in the last race but overall it was pretty solid,” Michael Spies said. “We’ve got a couple of guys aboard from overseas and they said they’d never sailed in conditions like it. Obviously the seas were left over from the gale on Friday but we got three races in and you can’t complain.”

Virago skipper Andrew Parkes enjoyed mixing it with the TPs, despite not rating as such. “We had a great first race because the boat’s better at reaching than windward-leewards and the conditions were perfect for us. Under the rule, though, we’re the highest rating on IRC.”

In the Cruising Division, the Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 44 Ca Va watched as most of the fleet headed to an incorrect mark. They rounded correctly and had the honour of being the first home against a fleet that included the Inglis Jones/Hart 39 She’s the Culprit and J122 Marta Jean.

“It was our weather but we managed to get in front when they decided to head for a second mark that wasn’t in play,” Ca Va’s delighted owner, Peter Lewis, said. “We checked with our navigator twice as we couldn’t believe that as the non-local boat we hadn’t made a mistake ourselves.”

Denis Thompson is hoping for easier conditions for the final day: “It was a very difficult day for sailing with big walls of water and a puffy wind blowing against them at anything from seven knots to 16 knots. Tomorrow is looking like being lighter but we may still have some sloppy conditions, so we’ll see how it goes.”

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