Back in the groove

A resounding return to club racing was seen on Sydney Harbour and Pittwater with over 130 boats turning out for the first competitive hit-out after more than ten weeks.

Written by Scott Alle
Photography by CYCA / David Brogan & RPAYC

10 June 2020


As iso dragged on, it was increasingly obvious to sailors that the first opportunity to re-engage in friendly rivalry on the water was going to attract a large cohort of eager participants. And so it proved, with a bumper fleet of 70 boats contesting the first race of the non-spinnaker Lion Island Series on Saturday 6 June.

Hosted by the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club, it was very much a diverse line-up, including three MC38s – Hooligan, Easy Tiger VI and Ghost Rider – plus a similar number of Farr 40s, two very sleek Italias (an 11.98 and a 12.98), and an assortment of Dehlers, Beneteaus, Jeanneaus and the odd X-Yacht right through to Alan Reece’s lovely S&S 42 Vittoria.

I joined Matt Doyle’s crew aboard La Troisieme Mitemps. A Beneteau Sense 50 and proven performer in decent breeze at Hamilton Island Race Week, at nearly 20 tonnes and the biggest boat in the fleet, she required a bit more wind power than the fluky 2–3 knots that greeted us on the very crowded start line.


Despite living on Pittwater where the rule is often ‘pick a side’, I somehow drove us into a large glass-out in the middle of the course – and that’s where we stayed for a good 40 minutes while the majority of the fleet went past, sticking east.

It was, nevertheless, a near-perfect winter’s day – sunshine, good banter, and consistent application to lightening the boat through the consumption of stored supplies. For the record, even the Division 1 winner Easy Tiger VI took 2 hours 17 minutes and 36 seconds to cover the significantly shortened course.

There are three more races in RPA’s Lion island Series – on 13, 20 and 27 June – and entries for next week are around the 80 mark. It’s easy to see why: efficient race management, a welcoming atmosphere, the spectacular fjord-like racecourse and its tactical nuances.

New racing requirements such as full crew lists and limited numbers on each boat were necessary, but from what I observed were complied within a spirit of positive cooperation.

The next day, Sunday 7 June, it was the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s turn to flick the restart switch. Again, it was obvious the substantial pre-planning that had gone into the club’s Return to Sailing program had paid off.

One of the largest Winter Women’s Series fleets on record assembled with 63 boats racing across four divisions.

This time I was on Les Goodridge’s Wax Lyrical, the well-known X-50 I went to Hobart on last year that won PHS Division 1, backing up from their overall PHS win in the 2018 Rolex Sydney Hobart.

Fortunately, the highly competent Dinah Eagle was our steerer for this outing and we managed a credible fifth in Division 2 behind It Happens and Whistling Kite. Our congratulations to Nicola Wakefield Evans who skippered her first CYCA race on Whistling Kite and claimed second place in the hotly contested division.

“It was fantastic racing. This weekend was the first race I have skippered at the CYCA. I was very excited, but also a bit nervous at the start with all the other large yachts in the mixed fleet,” said Wakefield Evans.

A light westerly off the start to the Garden Island mark was reminiscent of many previous Winter Series races and there was noticeable good will at the mark rounding, which hasn’t always been the case in the past. Who knows how long the COVID-induced compassion will last, but it’s nice to see.

There were a few holes in the breeze across the harbour. Those who went east toward Nielsen Park, such as Whistling Kite, fared better ahead of an advancing grey line of clouds that heralded a building wind shift to the south.

“The conditions were lovely, the boat went really well and we were able to finish strong as the breeze strengthened going past Shark Island. We also had some new sails on board that may have helped,” said Wakefield Evans.

It was a family affair on Whistling Kite with husband Kym Evans and sons Tom, Mitch and Riley Evans on board with Kate Lorimer and Mike Bellingham.

This race was the first of a two-race series with the second and final race taking place on Sunday 23 August, marking the end of the Winter Series. Next week will be the first of the CYCA’s 10-race Winter Series with even more entrants expected to take part.

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