It’s difficult to say exactly who ‘won’ Victoria Week. There were so many winners in so many different divisions that to crown one boat the eventual winner would be to discredit so many other sailors and their crews.
However, the organisers gave the overall win to Geoff Boetcher’s Secret Mens Business.
Secret Mens Business pipped Terra Firma in IRC Division 1 which is seen as the premier division for the event. Third was Robert Hanna’s Shogun in a fleet that was described as the hottest collection of IRC boats ever assembled in Australia.
The biggest division however, is the cruising division (spinnaker) which was broken down into three divisions each with three different handicap ratings. Some 200 boats competed in the cruising divisions which really are the heart and soul of Audi Victoria Week.
The record cruising fleet wrapped up their series on Australia Day, with a colourful procession around the inner harbour.
Following a half-hour postponement, the cruising divisions and classic yachts were sent on a nine-mile course in a light westerly breeze and under overcast skies.
The Passage Race for Victoria Race Week is my favourite of all the races in the regatta.
The race starts off Williamstown and runs for approximately 34nm to Geelong. It’s a race that can be fast and furious if there’s a northerly blowing or it can be a hard slog to weather if there’s a southerly or a sou’wester. It can also be an easy reach then a run in an easterly or it can be a frustrating drifter if no wind comes in at all.
This year’s race day dawned with a moderate breeze from the south west and a forecast of 10-15 knots (18-27km/h) building in the afternoon and a chance of a shower – not a foreboding forecast but one that would guarantee we got to Geelong in good time albeit with a few bumps along the way.
As the start approached and some 400 yachts vied for position at the start, the seas chopped up and we took the option to head down the line toward the pin end to avoid the crush near the start boat. The hooter blared and we were off to a great start in fresh air.
For the uninitiated, the race takes us from Williamstown up to the Point Richards entry mark near Portarlington. It then travels down to the Point Richards 12 mark, through a gate and into the Hopetoun Channel then to the finish marks off Royal Geelong Yacht Club. It’s an interesting and quite scenic trip that is a fantastic and somewhat iconic way to start the regatta, and one which some boats have as their only race of the weekend.
This year, as always, the boats stretched out quickly and as the weather turned from high cloud to misty drizzle and the visibility deteriorated, many disappeared in the distance.
As we settled down to the long beat to Point Richards, a call came over the radio that no yachtie wants to hear – a Pan Pan call of a yacht in distress.
The Adams 10 Ten Too (Vic) had collided with Magic Bullet and had become wedged in the side of the boat. Two other yachs, Alegria 2 (Rob Tanner) and Highland Fling (Alex Parker) stood by as the crew of Ten Too transferred to Magic Bullet. Soon after, Ten Too sank (fortunately it was insured by Club Marine).
I saw Ten Too and Magic Bullet (Leo Cantwell’s Cavalier 350SL) locked together and one of the guys asked me to call the rescue authorities,” Tanner said.
“I realised then that Ten Too’s bow was stuck in the side of Magic Bullet. I called the Coast Guard, who in turn called the Water Police. We stood by with another boat, Highland Fling until the Water Police arrived,” Tanner added.
Tanner went on to say: “I saw all six crew from Ten Too jump aboard Magic Bullet and what seemed like a minute later, Ten Too sank, approximately four nautical miles off Point Cook about two hours into the race.
All the crew were fine: “There were no injuries and, accompanied by the Water Police, we all went back to the Royal Yacht Club of Victoria at Williamstown,” said Tanner, who subsequently retired from the race, as too much time had gone by.
Following the drama, our boat rounded the Point Richards marks and could ease sheets and enjoy a perfect ride into the Hopetoun Channel. The skyline of Geelong loomed and we looked forward to a hot shower and catching up with friends at the yacht club.
The weather had cleared and, looking forward and behind us, the line of yachts made a spectacular sight, stretching as far as the horizon in either direction.
It was time for a sandwich and cool drink and even though we still had a reef in the main and winds up to the high 20s, we were ripping along at a great pace toward our objective. For the three of us on board Free Spirit, it had been a tiring but rewarding race.
Speaking to other crews at the yacht club after the finish, there had been the usual challenges of ripped sails, new crew getting a touch of the mal de mer, a few rigging problems but all in all it was a great race and certainly a passage race to remember.
Ray Richards’ America’s Cup 12m from the 1986-87 Australian defence, Kookaburra, was well and truly in the spirit of Australia Day celebrations. They hoisted an Aussie flag almost the same length as the boat and the crew stood to attention on deck while passing the start boat, giving the race committee a rousing three cheers prior to their start.
It was a colourful start in the coolish light westerly as each division set off one by one up the channel just as the sun started to stream through the clouds.
In the Sunsail Cruising with Spinnaker division 1 final results, Daryl Lea’s Beneteau First 367 Crackerjack from the Royal Brighton Yacht Club held onto first place overall in the four race series. Crackerjack finished on 34 points, beating Jonathan Apted’s Adams 10.6 Fabulous Action, representing the host club, Royal Geelong Yacht Club, on 37.5 points, and John Duffin’s Peterson 43 Eneseay on 39 points.
Another Beneteau took top honours in division 2. Fergus McPherson’s Beneteau First 38 Mirage from the host club surprised its largely novice crew with an overall divisional win. Mirage, finishing with 30 points, beat Stuart Lyon’s Spindrift by just one point with Rosie Colahan’s Ingenue well back in third place on 45 points.
Audi Victoria week is the largest sailing event in the southern hemisphere. Here some facts and figures from this year’s event…
441 yachts crewed by more than 4000 sailors – a fleet four times larger than the 2009 Rolex Sydney to Hobart and the biggest fleet of any regatta in Australia.