Friday, 5 March 2010

Secret Men’s Business 3.5 leads into Round 2 of Audi IRC Australian Championship

Secret Men's Business 3.5 leads the Audi IRC Australian Championship. Image copyright Andrea Francolini/Audi.

* South Australia’s Secret Men’s Business 3.5 leads into second round of Audi IRC Australian Championship
* Round 2 takes place on 6/7 March at Audi Sydney Harbour Regatta
* Crews battle it out for the fourth annual YA-endorsed national championship series

by Di Pearson

The sailing fraternity and spectators alike will see a fierce battle of will and skill on 6 and 7 March 2010 when Round 2 of the Audi IRC Australian Championship is raced at Audi Sydney Harbour Regatta on Sydney Harbour.

The annual Championship series, now in its fourth year, comprises four stages which take place around Australia, and is endorsed by Yachting Australia. With a major prize of a new Audi vehicle, along with the prestige of being crowned Australia’s national Champion, the series not surprisingly, has become increasingly popular each year.

Fifty six yachts took to the start line in Round 1 of the Championship and approximately 35 are expected to compete in Round 2 at the Audi Sydney Harbour Regatta this weekend.

Round 1 for 2010 was staged at Audi Victoria Week (Docklands and Geelong) in January, and all but one of those who finished in the top five placings have already entered for the Audi Sydney Harbour Regatta and their chance to win the national title.

At the top of the leaderboard after Round 1 is South Australian Geoff Boettcher and his RP51 Secret Men’s Business 3.5, then comes Nicholas Bartels’ Sydney 47 Terra Firma (Vic), Peter Horn’s brand new King 40 Canute (NSW), Rob Hanna’s TP52 Shogun (Vic) and Michael Hiatt’s Farr 55 Living Doll (Vic).

Close racing at the 2009 Audi Sydney Harbour Regatta. Image copyright Andrea Francolini/Audi.

Of the five, only Canute and Living Doll will be on the start line at the Middle Harbour Yacht Club-conducted Audi Sydney Harbour Regatta on 6 and 7 March 2010.

Nasty weather has stopped the others from participating; Boettcher having to turn his yacht back in the direction of Adelaide rather than face doing serious damage to his yacht, while Rob Hanna was not so lucky, losing his mast while sailing up from Victoria.

“I’m in for the long haul; of course we want to win the Championship,” said the Championship leader, Geoff Boettcher, speaking for his crew prior to leaving Port Lincoln in South Australia where he had just won Port Lincoln Race Week.

“We’re sailing in the best IRC group of 50 footers anywhere right now, so it was great to get up and win in such company at Audi Victoria Week. It will be even tougher in Sydney, with local boats like Loki and Yendys added to the mix. We’re as keen as the next boat to win an Audi,” Boettcher had stated.

Other interstaters have the same story as Boettcher’s, preventing them from being at what is now dubbed as NSW’s largest regatta.

The disappointing depletion of the usually strong interstate fleet has left the door wide open for some of NSW’s best performing yachts, including Stephen Ainsworth’s RP63, Loki and Geoff Ross’ Yendys which could not make it to the Audi Victoria Week start line.

Come the weekend, Ainsworth and his driven crew will face the starter’s gun in Division 1 having taken line and handicap honours in February’s Flinders Islet Race, adding to their cache of trophies in the last 12 months, making Loki one of the favourites.

Yendys, Geoff Ross’ RP55, finished second to Loki in the Flinders Islet Race and is always a tough competitor and along with Michael Hiatt, will keep Ainsworth on his toes.

Hamilton Island owner, Robert Oatley, will be there with his RP66, Wild Oats X, and with four-time Sydney-Hobart line honours winning skipper Mark Richards at the helm; this team will be taking no prisoners.

With some of the key players now unable to be in Sydney, the doors have been thrown open as to who will be lucky enough to drive home in Australia’s richest sailing prize; a brand new Audi vehicle, at the end of the four- event Championship.

The winner’s name will also be engraved on the exquisite Perpetual Trophy designed by John Woulfe and he’ll have the cachet of being named the Audi IRC Australian Champion for 2010.

Divisions 2 and 3 also strong

The line-up in Division 2 will be headed by Audi Victoria Week’s winner, Canute. A brand new King 40 design, owned by Peter Horn from Sydney, Canute was a standout performer at her first regatta in Victoria and Horn believes the boat can do just as well on home waters.

Racing in Division 2, Canute will be joined by the likes of Flying Cloud, Howard Piggott’s Beneteau First 40 (NSW). Piggott won his division in the inaugural Audi Sydney Harbour Regatta in 2006 and went on to win an Audi A4 Avant after coming up trumps in the Audi Final Challenge, a drive event that calls for skill and consistency and eventually determines an overall winner from all division leaders at the Audi Sydney Harbour Regatta.

Harvey Milne and his Archambault 31, Aroona and crew from Victoria sailed to a convincing second place in Division 3 at Audi Victoria Week, so decided he had nothing to lose and everything to gain in bringing his yacht to Sydney. Milne should be a strong contender for the title of Audi IRC Australian Championship crown.

Following on from the March regatta, the final two events of the Championship are the Audi Sydney Gold Coast Race (CYCA) in July and Audi Hamilton Island Race Week (AHIRW) in August, where the winner will be found.

In a first for the Championship series, major sponsor, Audi, has partnered with ONE in 2010 and the highlights from each regatta will be shown nationally following each round of the series.

Highlights from Round 2 of the Audi IRC Australian Championship can be viewed on March 24 at 9.00pm on ONE.

Audi IRC Australian Championship

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