Just days ago West Australian boat Black Betty was largely unknown outside her home state. Today the 42-footer is deemed a major player on the grand prix circuit after the crew from across the country took out the elite racing series at the Festival of Sails.
Black Betty clinched the Optimum Time Racing Series Division 1 IRC win and Victorian IRC Championship in her maiden racing appearance outside of home waters.
Adding to the glory for owners Gary McNally and Brian McMasters is their defeat of two of Australia’s newest yachts competing in debut regattas under the helm of two of the best skippers on the east coast; Tony Kirby’s Ker 46 Patrice and Matt Allen’s Carkeek 60 Ichi Ban.
Black Betty finished top of the table with 16.5 points, followed by Patrice on 19 points and Ichi Ban with 20 points.
Just half a point separated Black Betty and Patrice heading in to the final romp of the eight-race series.
The pressure on the skippers and their crews heated up literally as they were forced to wait an hour and a half between today’s two races in scorching heat when the race officials hoisted the postponement flag while the predominately northerly breeze flicked a crazy 180 degrees.
Racing finally got underway at about one o’clock, sneaking in just before the cut-off time came into play.
But those shifty winds would still cause havoc. “You were really at the mercy of the gods,” Kirby lamented.
McNally and McMasters’ crew held firm to finish third in that final race, three vital points ahead of Kirby.
It’s a major shot across the bow to the country’s IRC competitors and one heck of a way to announce the black-hulled GP42’s arrival on the national scene.
The team is planning to carry on their success at events including the Audi IRC Australian Championship in April and Audi Hamilton Island Race Week in August.
“I guess we wouldn’t have travelled thousands of miles to compete if we weren’t confident,” McNally said, as the team trucked the yacht 3,500 kilometres across the Nullarbor Plain from Perth to Geelong for the Festival of Sails.
“We worked hard to optimise her for the racing here and it paid off. We built larger sails and tweaked her for windward leeward racing. That meant we got rid of our code zero for the rating, which hurt us in the passage race, but it paid dividends in the long run.
“We’re usually at the pointy end of the fleet at home and now this is proof that we can race and win against the best anywhere.”
Kirby and Allen remained upbeat despite not claiming a win.
“I’m confident I’ve got a winning racer here,” Kirby said.
Allen has long upheld the belief that it takes months, if not a year to get the best out of a new boat.
Division 2 Racing Series
The Optimum Time Racing Series Division 2 and Victorian IRC and AMS Championships result was dominated by a familiar boat disguised with a new identity.
South Australian Andrew Corletto bought Darryl Hodgkinson’s all-conquering Beneteau First 45 Victoire last year and has been racing under the new title Shining Sea with similar success.
Today the boat and crew were crowned divisional winners and Victorian IRC and AMS Champions.
Fresh from finishing third in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race division 3, Corletto sailed to an emphatic win at Geelong, more than 10 points clear of Bruce McCracken’s Ikon and Philip Dash’s Justadash which finished second and third respectively, both with 22 points.
Corletto has only had the yacht under his charge for seven months, but with several crewmembers from his Sydney 38, which won the Cruising Yacht Club of South Australia’s Yacht of the Year, they were always going to be competitive.
“I bought this boat because of her sailing pedigree, but that does bring a certain amount of pressure and expectation with it,’’ Corletto said.
“Fortunately we raced really well, and the boat just knows what to do. I notice how quick she takes off upwind; she just sails right into the slot and has great speed.”
Corletto also had the expert help of two Olympians, Chris Tillett and Greg Young. “You can’t underestimate their experience and expertise.”
Division 3 Racing Series
Well-known Victorian sailor David Ellis dictated the Optimum Time Racing Series Division 3 results, claiming wins in six of eight races to finish first on eight points with his Archambault A31 Penfold Audi Sport.
It’s Ellis’ third win at the Festival of Sails, having won twice with his former boat Surprise.
Ellis fished seven points clear of Jason Close’s Beneteau First 35 White Noise in second place, with Martin Vaughan’s Sydney 36cr Wild Side completing the top three, with 26.5 points.
“You have to take the good with the bad, and one of the things about racing here is that you’re never out of it until you cross the finish line. You just have to stay optimistic, keep your eyes out of the boat and find the breeze,” Ellis said.
“We’re lucky to have some fantastic young guys here from Hobart who’ve come to sail with us after a 470 campaign in Europe. Alec Bailey and Doug Shepard were a great addition to our team.”