Saturday saw the start of Race Two in the Audi Centre Sydney Blue Water Pointscore Series. Outside of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, the Blue Water Championship is one of the most prestigious and hotly contested season pointscores in Australia with skippers from all over the country competing across one or more of the six races in the lead-up to the Hobart Race. This was my second 'serious' ocean race, having competed in the 384nm Noakes Sydney to Gold Coast, the first of the series, in late July.
Happy competing on a variety of high performance yachts to gain ocean racing experience and broaden my range of skills, I was fortunate to be offered a ride on Showtime, another of the Grand Prix 40 footers from the Ker stable. Over the past 10 years, Jason Ker's designs have made a significant impact on the international sailing scene and are designed and optimised for top level racing under the IRC and ORC rating rules. Owned by Mark Griffith, Showtime has undergone an extensive optimisation program including the installation of a pedestal, a deeper lighter keel, longer bowsprit and beefed-up sail wardrobe. In many ways, it feels similar in performance to Victoire, the Karkeek 40 that I sailed on for the CYCA Winter Series, although on handicap it does rate slightly lower.
The Flinders Islet Race is a 90nm event that starts near Point Piper on Sydney Harbour. The fleet then proceed out of Sydney Heads and track south down the coast to Flinders Islet, approximately 1nm east of Port Kembla Harbour, Wollongong, before returning to finish in Rushcutters Bay, Sydney Harbour. This year's race saw a crisp 10-15 knot nor'easter at the start with the 32 strong fleet experiencing close, choppy swells averaging nearly two metres in height around South Head before setting spinnakers and enjoying some fast and furious running conditions down to Flinders Islet. With winds increasing to 30+ knots many boats found the conditions heavy going on the return trip back with a number of retirements due to damage. Thankfully, no crew members were injured during the race.
After a long fought battle for line honours, it came down to less than a minute with Chinese Whisper edging out No Limit by a mere 47 seconds to take the spoils. Matt Allen and his crew on the TP52 Ichi Ban claimed the overall win but as usual, with so many differing yachts of various sizes on the race course battling varying conditions, the 'race-within-a-race' was hard fought across many divisions. ORCi saw Gordon Ketelby's TP52 Zen placed first both overall and in Division One against another strong TP52 fleet. In Division Two across all three rating categories (IRC, ORCi and PHS), Showtime came away with a clean sweep for first place which was a great reward for a strong, consistent performance by the whole team.
Once again, I am very grateful to be given the opportunity to race on such a great boat with another terrific crew. The conditions were markedly different to the first race of the series in July and I remain on a steep learning curve while embracing all that is ocean racing. I would like to thank Mark and the whole team for welcoming me aboard and I look forward to Race Three - the 215nm Newcastle Bass Island Race - in three weeks time. I'm still unsure exactly who I will be racing with but I'm sure it will be another action-packed adventure.
I look forward to updating you all then.