New Zealand's Will Tiller at the helm of Beau Geste. Image copyright Audi/Andrea Francolini
by Lisa Ratcliff
Two crucial final races off Newcastle’s Stockton beach on Easter Sunday completed the eight-race Audi IRC Australian Championship and three new national champions have been crowned.
Team Beau Geste’s division A triumph was taped up yesterday giving owner Karl Kwok and his TP52 crew from New Zealand the clean sweep of the TP52 Southern Cross Cup in December, the NSW IRC title last Sunday, and now the cheeky fellas from across the ditch are Audi IRC Australian champions.
Beau Geste. Image copyright Audi/Andrea Francolini
Twenty-four year-old youth America’s Cup skipper Will Tiller drove Kwok’s 52-footer to its maiden national IRC victory and also the state IRC victory at Sail Port Stephens. “It was challenging; not the easiest place to sail with the sea-state,” said Tiller this evening adding, “Newcastle is a cool city”.
Only Tony Kirby’s Ker 46 Patrice and Bob Steel’s TP52 Quest managed to take a win off Team Beau Geste during the series hosted by Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club. They finished second and third on 15 and 19 points respectively to the victor’s eight points.
Nine Dragons. Image copyright Audi/Andrea Francolini
Division B’s four-day nail biter between the two DK46s, Nine Dragons and Exile, added grey hairs to both Middle Harbour Yacht Club crews. Après racing it was all smiles across the bar, but each badly wanted the coveted title and the North Sails’ Audi IRC Australian Champion emblazoned spinnaker.
Bob Cox’s Nine Dragons was the stronger of the pair this time, four points the final difference. “The crew did a magnificent job and our focus on tactics using our main tactician and back-up really paid off. The racing with Exile was awesome; it was touch and go as to who was going to take out the championship from start to finish.”
Bob Cox dunked. Image copyright Audi/Andrea Francolini
After the champagne was sprayed the Nine Dragons crew cornered Cox and first tactician Mitch White and threw them off the marina, a sailing ritual.
Roger Hickman’s near 30 year-old Farr 43 Wild Rose from Sydney’s Cruising Yacht Club of Australia was clapped into the marina by an appreciative crowd as the new division C Audi IRC Australian champion. Hickman is an ocean racing hero to many, and again he’s shown the pedigree of his years on the circuit, and his steed’s.
“We are delighted to be the new Audi IRC champion,” said the winning skipper. “We were nervous this morning knowing it was going to be light and lumpy, then a superb 13kt nor’easter came in for the second and final race.”
Phil Dash’s Beneteau First 40 Justadash (MHYC) finished second and Ian Bower’s RP36 Spirit from Lake Macquarie third in division C.
Ichi Ban. Image copyright Audi/Andrea Francolini
Race seven got underway in a 6kt sou’easter following an hour and a half postponement. Race eight was christened the ‘Newcastle BBQ’, a triangle, triangle and sausage format also called the ‘two chops and a sausage’ course.
NCYC CEO Richard Howard praised his large team of 30 plus volunteers involved in the planning phase through to the hosting of 31 top level international crews. Howard says the club has excellent engagement with its members and volunteers put their hands up to pick up glasses, cook the BBQ, make sandwiches, sell raffle tickets and host competitors. On the race management side, members spent long days in the sun laying marks and assisting PRO Denis Thompson.
“From the time of the bid announcement the membership and staff really embraced the championship,” said Howard.
Nine Dragons crew with Bob Cox wearing the hat. Image copyright Audi/Andrea Francolini
On behalf of the Audi team, Audi Australia’s managing director Andrew Doyle congratulated all competitors. “Audi is proud to support the IRC Australian Championship and we congratulate each and every owner and crew member for their strong sportsmanship this Easter long weekend. To win this event is a great honour, and to be crowned the national Audi IRC Australian Champion is no easy task. It’s a fierce contest and we appreciate the support shown by all participants, family members, and the organising committee.”
Yachting Australia President and owner/skipper of Ichi Ban, Matt Allen, also commended the host club, “Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club has delivered a spectacular and memorable weekend for all those competing in the Audi IRC Australian Championship. On and off the water the event has been held in a great spirit, thanks to the hard working and friendly volunteers and staff at the club.”