Racing at lightspeed

Lightspeed clinches 2018 MC38 Australian Champion in the final race.

Photography by Tilly Lock

26 February 2018


The consistency of Lightspeed over nine races then victory in the decider bagged Steve Barlow his first class Australian Championship against the more seasoned in the nine-boat MC38 fleet.

Seconds and thirds kept Lightspeed in the game and when the top-scorers’ results wavered over three races in gloomy conditions on Sunday 25 February, 13 up to 20 knots of shifty S-SE breeze and constant drizzle, Barlow’s “battlers” went for the throat.

The skipper was measured in his reaction to the series win. Had Neville Crichton’s Maserati not blown a D1 in race one on Friday and missed the first two races while rigging repairs were undertaken, the championship might have easily finished in the hands of the runner-up, Barlow acknowledged.

“I feel for Neville; they missed the first two races and came back from a pretty deep pointscore with boat of the day yesterday and today,” he said. “Marcus (Blackmore) was leading after day one then Ginger came through on day two. The top four could have been in any order and the final race was the clincher as to whether you came first or fourth.


“I thought today was going to bring winds in the high 20s but the most I saw was 22. It was the variance in pressure, the gusts that went from 22 suddenly down to 16 and the 30 degree shifts that made it really tough for the tacticians. Seve Jarvin (tactician) is a master of all that; he reads the breeze really well.”

After Hamilton Island Race Week in 2016 Barlow sold his boat and made a guest appearance helming Ginger, then chartered Lang Walker’s Kokomo and then Lightspeed which was McConaghy’s overseas demo boat. It was sitting in a shed cling-wrapped and awaiting a big dose of new owner love and money to strengthen the load points and bring it up to where the Australian fleet had progressed to during the intervening period.

Finally, Barlow assembled the crew calibre it takes to be at the pointy end of the fleet, including mainsheet trimmer Sam Newton, all-rounder Mitch White and Jarvin.

“I’m pretty humbled about the whole exercise,” Barlow said of his national title result.

“We pulled some consistent scores and got some lucky shifts in the last race. They are such an exciting boat, they accelerate from 8 to 18 knots in 50 metres!”

Maserati’s comeback to second overall by three points having only recorded eight race results from ten, and two ‘boat of the day’ performances thereafter promises some thrilling racing when the class’ 2018 seven-regatta season commences 24 to 25 March out of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia.

“After missing the first two races we dangled the cherry in front of ourselves, as motivation to get out there and sail the best we could,” said Maserati’s tactician Joe Turner.

Third placed Ginger, the four-time MC38 Australian Champion, side-stepped a fifth consecutive title after one of those days moved Leslie Green’s team backwards in the standings, but still they remained on the podium.

Ross Hennessy’s Ghost Rider out-manoeuvred the fleet in race eight and Shaun Lane and Quentin Stewart’s Lazy Dog, competing in its first class event, scored a result for that race then returned to Middle Harbour.

Rather than the usual Dark Star crew, John Bacon’s boat was loaned to Mal Parker to run with a mixed youth team plus some regulars, and guest helmsmen Bruce Ferguson and Mike Green.

“A big thanks to John for loaning his boat, and to the fleet for being so welcoming. It was good to get the boat out for some great racing,” Parker said.

Bacon and crewman David Sampson are preparing for the Melbourne to Osaka Race, leaving  25 March, and Bruce Ferguson is taking the reins of Dark Star until Nexba Racing’s 5,500 nautical-mile two-handed challenge is complete.

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