Photography by Caitlin Baxter
22 January 2019
Day one of the 2019 Saint Moritz by Gurner Australian Yachting Championships on Victoria’s Port Phillip yielded building southerlies and plenty of summer sparkle to open the three-day national series hosted by Royal Melbourne Yacht Squadron.
The quality fleet put in a very long day – four windward/leeward races with a 2 nautical mile upwind leg for the division 1 fleet taking them well south of St Kilda and out into the onshore chop.
As anticipated, Marcus Blackmore’s Hooligan and Matt Allen’s Ichi Ban left nothing ashore in the resumption of their Hamilton Island Race Week TP52 battle last August, which narrowly went to Hooligan. Ichi Ban is the defending division 1 Australian Champion from January 2018 and the boats and teams are evenly matched in speed and intent.
Round one of the 2019 Saint Moritz by Gurner Australian Yachting Championships went to Ichi Ban by a point, Hooligan second and Geoff Boettcher’s Secret Mens Business right in the hunt in third, another point behind.
“It was a good day to test rig settings across a range of conditions, 9 up to 20 knots late in the day, and mostly flatwater,” Allen said. “It was so tight out there and so important to come off the line and get in phase very quickly.”
Key positions include Anthony Merrington as Allen’s strategist, Gordon Maguire tactician, Will Oxley navigator and Rob Greenhalgh on main trim.
For Hooligan’s tactician Will Ryan, day one of the championship was also the Rio 2016 470 silver medallist’s first time racing a TP52. “It was an awesome learning opportunity – I’m lucky Marcus is so trusting,” Ryan said back ashore.
When Ben Lamb is strategist, Ed Smythe is navigating and multiple gold medal winning Olympic coach Victor Kovalenko is coaching, Ryan’s in the company of some of sailing’s top-shelf teachers.
“Some things I did well and some not,” Ryan added. “It’s a credit to the crew they were able to hike hard and keep the boat right on the edge for so many hours.”
Ray Roberts’ Botin 40 Team Hollywood is the clear division 2 leader with four IRC wins and Shaun Tiedemann’s Sydney 36cr Philosopher is the early IRC division 3 leader.
Craig Unthank’s zippy local Farrier F22r SKnot was untouchable in the OMR series, three corrected time wins from three starts. “The breeze filled in enough to get us up and moving and it was great surfing downwind. The chop was horrible for a 22-foot boat – it took a few years off the life of our boat and upwind we were wishing we were 10 feet longer,” the trimaran skipper admitted.
The plan for Wednesday is a passage race and the resumption of windward/leewards on Thursday to wrap-up the series. Wednesday’s outlook is sou’westerlies 10-15 knots turning southerly 15-20 knots in the afternoon and locally reaching 25 knots.