Marcus Blackmore’s black-hulled TP52 Hooligan from Sydney is at the Festival of Sails to defend its Audi IRC Australian Championship title. Today’s opening results left no doubt about the boat’s slickness on flat water, or the gifted crew’s ability to achieve back-to-back wins for the owner.
Hooligan collected three firsts from three starts to finish the day with a perfect score of three points, five points clear of the nearest boat, Rob Hanna’s Shogun V, another consistent finisher with a second and two thirds overall.
As always Blackmore, widely regarded a nifty owner/driver, has surrounded himself with the best in the business, including North Sails’ Richie Allanson, Terry Wetton and round-the-world yachtsmen Tom Addis, Dave Rolfe and Stu Bannatyne, among other stars.
Blackmore joked this afternoon that it’s the keenness of his round-the-world crew to get home that brings them back to shore so quickly.
“Today went better than we expected, Calm 2 was an unknown quantity and Shogun is always there,” said Blackmore back at Royal Geelong Yacht Club late this afternoon. “It was a great start to the regatta but tomorrow is another day and with a bit of breeze the whole world could change.”
On a hazy Corio Bay, due to the grassfires burning on the opposite side of Port Phillip Bay, race one got underway in a light easterly that swung marginally to the east and had built to 10-12 knots by race two.
Yachting photographer Andrea Francolini announced during the early part of the day, “There are more knots in my hair than out here”.
Conditions for the final race remained fairly consistent, the breeze dropping out slightly by the finish, back down to nine knots from the ESE. Race three’s starting sequence was interrupted by a massive left-hander, which forced the race committee to up anchors and re-set the starting gate and top mark.
The soft conditions and flat seas of Corio Bay suit the lightweight TP52s, which dominate division A in terms of numbers and so far, results.
Peter Harburg’s Queensland Reichel Pugh 66, Black Jack, named after Formula One motor racing legend Sir Jack Brabham, is really racing the clock rather than those in division A.
At 66 feet, the pocket maxi is well clear of the TP52s in terms of waterline length and therefore has to plan to spend the majority of its time in Geelong as a lonely only, out the in the lead racing in clear air against their handicap.
In Audi IRC Australian Championship division B, Bruce McCraken’s Beneteau First 45, Ikon, bucked the division A trend that favoured the lighter boats and came away from day one leading the division B pointscore from a fellow Beneteau 45 owner, Alan Woodward’s Reverie.
In Audi IRC division C, Grant Botica’s Royal Yacht Club of Victoria based Adams 10, Executive Decision, came away with two firsts and a second to be first overall, leading Roger Hickman’s Wild Rose from Sydney.
Tomorrow’s forecast southerly change means all the balls will be up in the air for the Championship contenders as they switch modes to long course racing.
The rest of the Festival of Sails fleet will make its way tomorrow to Geelong from off Point Ormond, Elwood, in the traditional Festival opener, the Melbourne to Geelong passage race.