Not one but two new Australian-owned TP52s will make for a thrilling battle in the Rating Series at the 2019 Festival of Sails conducted annually on the Australia Day long weekend by the Royal Geelong Yacht Club.
Numbers in the TP52 class, well known for their glamourous Mediterranean series and overall results in iconic ocean passages such as the Rolex Sydney Hobart, have beefed up in Australia with Melbourne based Chris Dare and Sydney based Gordon Ketelbey buying-in.
Dare has spent the last few years working his way through smaller boat classes and driving his son and daughter around the country to attend youth regattas. Now the former owner of the Corby 49 Flirt has returned to big boat sailing with his two teenagers and a majority crew aged 17-27 on a TP52 called Ambition which debuted on Port Phillip in the state of Victoria two weekends ago.
Ketelbey’s reason for purchasing a TP52 his team is now scrambling to have ready for this year’s Hobart race, is unusual. Ketelbey blacked out in February while driving his car near his Middle Harbour home and plunged 27 metres off a cliff towards the ocean, suffering only facial injuries while his Land Cruiser was a crumpled wreck. “It was a fairly nasty incident and an interesting point to reflect on my mortality,” the skipper admitted. “There’s a point in your life when you think ‘you’re 65 with some pennies in the bank and one of these days you’ll be 70 and not wanting to be bouncing around on a TP52’.”
Launched as All4One for the 2011 TP52 MedCup then named Beecom and finally Temptation, Dare made his purchase in New Zealand with the plan to take on longer passages. Ambition is configured for distance races rather than around the buoys match-ups against the newer generation TPs like Marcus Blackmore’s Hamilton Island Race Week winner Hooligan and Matt Allen’s Ichi Ban, a proven all-rounder with a Rolex Sydney Hobart overall victory in 2017 and follow-up first in division at this year’s Australian Yachting Championships.
Dare’s summer schedule includes the Australian Yachting Championships January 21-24, 2019 out of the Royal Melbourne Yacht Squadron, the Festival of Sails, January 26-28, the Adelaide to Port Lincoln Race starting February 15 and finally Lincoln Week in Adelaide, February 18-21.
Ultimately Dare has the 50th anniversary Transpac next July as his bucket-list item and Ketelbey is considering the same option.
“The Festival of Sails is a great regatta and the passage race a bit of fun,” Dare said. “It’s always a nice balance between competitive sailing and catching up with people after Christmas. I haven’t done one for nine or 10 years as I’ve usually been driving kids around the country to youth regattas at that time.
“It’s a little lonely down in Melbourne at the moment and some people think I’m crazy buying a big boat, but my motivation is different. I’m keeping my kids and their friends in the sport and hanging on to the last stage of them thinking it’s cool to hang out with their dad.”
Ambition is already on the water while Zen is still in the shed at Gosford on the NSW coast undergoing hurried modifications to prepare the boat for its first Bass Strait crossing. The boat started life as Synergy then it was Sled then Sorcha and was a typical Super Series Med trim – light and stripped out. “It’s currently undergoing an astronomically expensive refit for Hobart,” Ketelbey advised.
Ichi Ban and Ambition are confirmed starters for the Festival of Sails 2019 and Hooligan, Sam Haynes’ Celestial and Geoff Boettcher’s Secret Mens Business are more than likely, bringing together at least five TP52s for some close-quarter racing within the Rating Series division starting with the traditional Melbourne to Geelong Passage Race mass start on January 26 off Williamstown.
Entries are climbing steadily with 68 boats registered for Victoria’s best-known sailing event. Organisers anticipate another fleet of close to 300 boats in 2019 and complementing the three-day on-water program over the Australia Day holiday long weekend will be another well-planned timetable of onshore activities.
IMAGE: Chris Dare’s new TP Ambition, photographer Bruno Cocozza