Sunday, 7 February 2010

CYCA: Changeable weather will keep Flinders Islet competitors on the go

Syd Fischer’s TP52 Ragamuffin. Image copyright Rolex/Daniel Forster.

by Di Pearson

With the Blue Water Point Score (BWPS) winner likely to come from the present top eight boats, and only eight points separating them, there is a lot riding on this evening’s Flinders Islet Race, the penultimate race of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s (CYCA) prestigious Series.

The twice-yearly Sydney Harbour start and finish race gets underway at 8.00pm this evening off Point Piper and finishes in Rushcutters Bay.

Twenty-one yachts will take part in the 92 nautical mile race, but it is the top eight everyone will be watching: leader AFR Midnight Rambler (Ed Psaltis/Bob Thomas), Quest (Bob Steel), Ragamuffin (Syd Fischer), Tow Truck (Anthony Paterson), Yendys (Geoff Ross), Swish (Steven Proud), Loki (Stephen Ainsworth) and Imagination (Robin and Annette Hawthorn).

With the exception of Tow Truck from Lake Macquarie, the remaining contenders represent the CYCA, which conducts the race to the Islet near Wollongong on the NSW south coast and return.

The Bureau of Meteorology predicts 13-18 knot north-nor-easterly winds on slightly choppy waters, with a chance of thunderstorms during the night. Winds may reach 20 knots offshore on Friday evening, with a southerly change of 15-20 knots expected early Saturday, turning east-nor-east at 10-20 knots later. Low tide is at 8.03pm, just after the start.

Navigators and tacticians will be working at pushing against an incoming tide and winds when they set off, so early decisions will certainly play a deciding factor in determining the outcome of the race, as will being “in the right place at the right time”, to make the best of the expected changing conditions.

Ed Psaltis and Bob Thomas’ modified Farr 40 AFR Midnight Rambler. Image copyright Rolex/Daniel Forster.

Ed Psaltis and Bob Thomas, winners of the 2006-2007 BWPS, currently hold the most miniscule of leads; 0.2 of a point from two TP52’s; Quest and Ragamuffin.

AFR Midnight Rambler is also leading the charge in the Tasman Series, from Tow Truck, Swish and Patrice SiX (Tony Kirby).

Syd Fischer is the most capped when it comes to the BWPS, boasting nine trophies. He finished a close second to Mr Beaks Ribs (David Beak) in the last BWPS (2008/2009).

Mr Beaks Ribs, which also won the Tasman Point Score (PHS category) for 2008/2009, is sitting 10th in the BWPS this year, not likely to feature in the top three this time around.

Quest, the 2008 Rolex Sydney Hobart overall winner, and overall winner of November’s Cabbage Tree Island race, Race 6 of the Series, is looking solid.

Loki, a Reichel/Pugh 63 and Living Doll, Michael Hiatt’s Farr 55 from Melbourne are expected to fight it out for line and overall honours.

Having skippered Loki to a race record in the 2009 Audi Sydney Offshore Newcastle Yacht Race, the final event of the annual BWPS, and smashing the Cabbage Tree Island race record last November, Stephen Ainsworth and his crew will be on the hunt for the trifecta record and race double.

CYCA Commodore Matt Allen is the holder of the Flinders Islet record of 8 hours 30 minutes 29 seconds, set in 2006 with his Jones 70, Ichi Ban.

Clearly, the tragic loss of Andrew Short and Sally Gordon in the Flinders Islet Race last October 10, will be at the forefront of everyone’s minds this weekend.

In relation to that incident, the CYCA has already put a number of actions in place. These were implemented for the Cabbage Tree Island race in November, as a result of the internal debrief conducted on 30 October 2009 that was presented to the CYCA board.

The Flinders Islet Inquiry Committee presented the board with an interim report mid December. The recommendations in the interim report were communicated to the ocean racing fraternity, including those competing in the 2009 Rolex Sydney Hobart.

The CYCA board is currently evaluating the final report presented by the Flinders Islet Inquiry Committee in late January. To read the recommendations from the interim report in full, go to:

The Blue Water Pointscore and Tasman Series (PHS category) conclude with the Audi Sydney Offshore Newcastle Yacht Race, starting on March 19, which ultimately will decide the winners of both trophies.

Cruising Yacht Club of Australia

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