Photography by Andrea Francolini / Bryan Gauvan
Santana, from Lake Macquarie Yacht Club took just over seven days and five hours to complete the 1,064-nautical mile journey from Sydney, arriving just after 3pm Noumea time last Sunday, 10 June.
Crewmember Nick Greenhill, a regular offshore sailor aboard Amante and who sailed in the 2010 Rolex Sydney Hobart aboard The Stick, wrote on Facebook that the race had been a major test of stamina.
“After a long seven days of sailing, we have made it to Noumea. Probably my most challenging, mentally and physically demanding race yet,” he posted.
Second last to finish was Shane Kearns’ Komatsu Azzurro, the skipper admitting “it was as hard as some Hobart races, the poor boat was on its ear the whole time. Unfortunately, with an S&S 34 the terminal velocity is 7 knots; we just couldn’t go any faster. It was rough but a good sail. We really enjoyed it.”
Trophies were presented on Saturday evening at the Cercle Nautique Caledonian yacht club and many crew from the coinciding races out of Sydney and Auckland flew back to their home ports on Sunday and Monday.
They left behind a small but enthusiastic group to welcome in the Santana crew, who have not only copped the only light winds of the record-breaking race but heavy rain which fell across the South Pacific island’s capital.
Sebastian Bohm’s Rogers 46 Smuggler sailing for the organising club, the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, collected the IRC overall, IRC division 1, ORCi and PHS top trophies.
Steve Capell’s Swan 65 Eve took out the IRC division 2 top prize, admitting “we had unfairly comfortable and easy time; this was exactly the race our boat was built for. It’s 40-tonnes of cleaning the ocean; it doesn’t bounce or slap. We put four sails up just outside the harbour and took them down at Noumea and did 10 knots almost the whole way on the same gybe.
Cartouche and Kayimai were pushing us, which kept us engaged. We probably should thank them for the win,” Capell added.
IRC division 3 honours went to Phil Bennett’s custom John King design, King Billy, and the rumour is that this reinstatement to the CYCA’s racing calendar, following a 25-year hiatus, was the boat’s ocean-going swansong.
Ariki Tai wrapped-up the Cruising division and skipper Denis Doyle was acknowledged by the race committee for stepping in and relaying the fleet’s positions back to shore.
A few owners are leaving their boats in New Caledonia to cruise the local waters before heading west to the Whitsundays for the Queensland winter regattas. For others there are six days ahead to relax and re-provision before the New Caledonia Groupama Race start on Sunday 17 June.
“At the time we said it would be silly to go all the way to Noumea and not do their race,” said Kearns adding with a grin, “this morning I’m not going to mention the Groupama, and I did see some of the crew looking up online airfare specials.
You say, ‘never again’ after a Rolex Sydney Hobart and you are booking your accommodation before you leave Hobart. Once we clean the boat up we’ll be making plans for the end of the week, and we’ll get into it. And we are going to win!”
Five of the PONANT Sydney Noumea entries – Patrice, Dare Devil, Komatsu Azzurro, Sticky and Wings – will bravely line up for part two of their Coral Sea adventure when they join some of the Auckland Noumea fleet and the local race fleet for the sixth edition of the Groupama Race around the French island of New Caledonia.
The CYCA will now take feedback on the reintroduction of the PONANT Sydney Noumea race and decide whether to make it a permanent feature of its racing calendar, and the regularity.
As he left Noumea CYCA Commodore John Markos commented, “talking with crews at the finish the responses are overwhelmingly positive.”
Commodore Markos thanked the CYCA”s finish partner, the CNC yacht club, and race sponsor PONANT cruises for coming on what he described as “this important journey with us, to resurrect an important race in the club’s history.”