Forty knot winds on Sydney Harbour on Saturday morning triggered the abandonment of a number of club events without a sail unfurled, and delayed the start of the MC38s second championship series for the largest ever turn-out.
Patience was finally rewarded mid-afternoon when Principal Race Officer Rob Ridley and his Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron team felt conditions were manageable enough. The west sou’west wind had settled into an average 18 knots with only the odd gust in the mid-twenties and the nine boats lined up, the most on one start line in the class’ four-year history in Australia.
With guest helmsman Martin Hill on the wheel, race one went to Neville Crichton’s Maserati from Leslie Green’s Ginger. Race two belonged to Howard Spencer’s heavy air specialists on Menace followed by Ross Hennessy’s Ghost Rider, and Menace again pipped the fleet in race three’s near-twilight finish.
On board Menace was New Zealand Nacra 17 Olympian Gemma Jones, now part of Thalassa Magenta Racing’s all-women GC32 team. “It was so much fun, a different beast to what I’m used to”, Jones said. “It’s cool to work with such a big team; they all encourage each other.” She played a trimming and “eyes out of the boat” role and speaking on Menace’s early success she added, “It’s cool to have a mixed team winning, and show it can work well.”
At the close of the day’s racing Menace holds a three point advantage over Maserati and Ginger is third overall.
Maserati’s tactician Joe Turner said the crew and Hill, a long time Farr 40 owner/skipper, had one training day during the week that was nothing like today. “It felt like the last of Sydney’s smokin’ westerlies. Neville handed the wheel to Martin for the series and he brained it – 25 knots of wind, kites blowing up, the boat nose diving, 20-something knots planing downhill, a win in race one and we nearly cartwheeled! It was a baptism of fire.”
Back at the RSYS a buzzing Hill said, “The boat was on fire!! Neville’s got a great team, they kept the boat on its feet and we didn’t get into mischief around the marks. I’ll sleep just fine tonight”.
Class president John Bacon has worked hard alongside the owner’s group to develop a long-term calendar of mostly weekend events moving around different Sydney yacht clubs. He is elated to finally get the full active MC38 fleet together and thanked the three owners who couldn’t make act two personally but elected a guest helm. “It was terrific to see Pete Johnson, Martin Hill and Steve Barlow out there driving – I hope they had a good time,” Bacon said.
Peter Johnson made his driving debut steering Hooligan for Marcus Blackmore and Steve Barlow was back helming Kokomo.
Ridley set up a course between Steele Point at Nielsen Park, Vaucluse, and the top mark in the Rushcutters Bay area and though there were fewer fleets than usual zig-zagging the harbour, additional Navy boats moored up for exercises meant the RSYS race management team had limited space to play with.
Three more races are scheduled for tomorrow, Sunday November 6, and the forecast is west to north-westerly 15-20 knots shifting east to south-easterly 10-15 knots in the early afternoon. Race four is due to begin at 1100hrs.
by Lisa Ratcliff