Sunday, 26 September 2010

The Wilsons hailed heroes as lone finishers of Lion Island Race

Colin and Denise Wilson’s Lyons 49 Never a Dull Moment, IRC & PHS Division winners in the Lion Island Ocean Pointscore Race. Image copyright ACE Marine Photography.

by Di Pearson

Colin and Denise Wilson and their Never a Dull Moment crew were hailed heroes late last evening when they arrived back at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, the only crew to finish the Club’s Ocean Pointscore Lion Island Race.

The long-time CYCA members from the NSW South Coast held out when the other 18 entries retired at various stages of the short ocean race, convinced it was impossible to finish the race in the within the 10.00pm time limit.

It was touch and go for the crew on Never a Dull Moment, a Lyons 49, which finished at 21.57.44pm last evening, just two minutes 16 seconds before the time limit expired. Being the only finishers, the Wilsons won both IRC and PHS classes of the opening Ocean Pointscore race to lead both Series’.

It took patience, perseverance, determination and confidence to stick out the race. Colin Wilson has these traits which held in him such good stead throughout one of the most difficult races for some time.

Principal Race Officer Robyn Morton was on tenterhooks as the minutes ticked by. “They’re the only ones left in the race; they’re in the Harbour, but there’s not much breeze….,” she said after she and her crew played a waiting game, having been aboard the CYCA start vessel since Friday evening when they also started the Bird Island Race.

Colin Wilson takes up the story: “It was hard work; we got caught offshore like Vanguard and Wild Thing. We were second last around the turn mark and decided to head further out to sea. We picked off a few boats, they all retired and it was down to Balance and us.

“I didn’t think Paul (Clitheroe of Balance) would retire, but he did, North of Manly, as time was quickly running out.

“We had six aboard, which was better in retrospect, considering the light winds. Not one of us wanted to pull out. We gybed on every oscillation and just tried to keep the boat moving. I kept thinking we had to get a land breeze sooner or later, and finally it clocked to 300 degrees.”

However, their race was to get even harder the nearer they got to home. “We got into the Harbour and the wind dropped to 5 knots and there were holes everywhere,” Wilson said.

“When we got to Clarke Island, it dropped out completely and we couldn’t see the finish boat. We got a few puffs that took us towards the finish line and ended up crossing in just 1½ knots of breeze!”

Wilson said they had used every sail in the wardrobe except the No. 4 headsail and the spinnaker staysail.

The 19 starters were at the mercy of unpredictable light winds throughout today and the first victims were the bigger and highly fancied yachts in the fleet.

Starting in a light 7 knot breeze west of north-west at 10.00am on the Harbour, by 4.15pm, PRO Morton reported: “Vanguard, UBS Wild Thing, About Time and Great Xpectations have all retired.” The four were unable to compete with the variable light winds that caught the bigger boats in unenviable positions offshore.

“It’ll be interesting to see if any boats can finish within the 2200 hours’ time limit,” Morton said. She was to remember those words later as one by one, all but one boat retired from the race.

Ironically, last year’s Lion Island Race was substituted with a Harbour course after westerly winds exceeding 35 knots unleashed their fury causing rough offshore conditions that forced the CYCA to reconsider the race.

First out of this year’s race was last year’s overall OPS winner, Vanguard, the Lyons 60 owned and skippered by Dick Cawse, followed shortly after by Geoff and Pip Lavis’ UBS Wild Thing and Rod Will’s Great Xpectations and Julian Farren-Price’s About Time.

Pip Lavis reported from the Inglis/Murray 50: “We saw lots of seals and dolphins and it was a beautiful day, but it wasn’t a good day for racing.”

Husband Geoff, painted a picture of day’s frustration: “All the bigger boats got caught behind the smaller ones and couldn’t get back to the coast. We did get in front of Vanguard - but then they retired - and then we thought about it…

“Around 30 nautical miles due east of Lion Island, we decided it wasn’t going to happen, so we took a vote and pulled out – we were last on line when we decided. It just didn’t work out for us,” he admitted.

“There wasn’t much breeze out there and as we headed to the Island with spinnakers on, we saw boats in the Bird Island Race coming home under spinnaker too. It was that sort of day.

“We were hoping for a nor’easter, but it didn’t happen. It was a very pleasant day out – if you weren’t racing – the best decision we made all day was to turn around!”

Lavis, a friend of the Wilsons who live nearby them on the South Coast, said Merlin (David Forbes) and Vamp (Garry Linacre/David Fuller) had the best chances of finishing with the 10.00pm deadline looming. Little did he know...