2023 Cock of the Bay popularity reigns

The 2023 Ronstan Cock of the Bay yacht race is brimming with a magnificent mix of classic and cutting-edge boats in the near 100 boat fleet, which will take to the waters of Port Philip Bay on Boxing Day to compete in this iconic race. 

The beloved Boxing Day race is a favourite race of the Victorian sailing community, offering the perfect opportunity to share some post-Christmas cheer while sailing on the expansive waterway which offers spectacular coastlines, world-class swimming beaches, challenging waters and unique marine life.  

The return of the beautifully designed classic yacht Mercedes III to the colourful and diverse fleet will infuse this year’s race with a healthy shot of nostalgia with the yacht holding a special place in the nation’s hearts.  

Built in 1966, Mercedes III is to this day one of Australia’s best-known ocean racing yachts and was part of the three-boat Australian team that won the prestigious Admiral’s Cup series in 1967, the first victory for Australia in the event.  

Mercedes III, a Kaufman-designed boat, will be skippered by Martin Ryan from the Royal Yacht Club of Victoria. 

While the ethos of the race is fun and friendship across competitors and clubs alike, the event is not without its challenges, with skippers often rolling the dice on whether to stay close to the shore to get a lift from the hills of Mornington or to head out into the Bay to find more breeze.  

There will be plenty of interest and action across the fleet, with the 2023 Melbourne to Hobart Yacht Race crews having a last hit out before the big race down the West Coast of Tasmania to Hobart, while skippers from nine Melbourne-based clubs will be looking for bragging rights in the clubhouse at the end of the day. 

ORCV Race Director Martin Vaughan is counting down the days until the start of the race, noting a big fleet can present some additional pressure for the Race Committee. 

“It’s great to see close on 100 boats on the start line – it makes the Ronstan Cock of the Bay one of Melbourne’s largest yacht races in terms of numbers.  

“It’s going to be exciting on the start line with such a large fleet, and our handicapper will have their work cut out for them given the breadth of boats entered. 

“If the wind comes in from the north, it will be a fast race and the record could be under threat,” said Vaughan.   

The current race record was set in 2000 by Sportscar in 1 hour, 58 minutes and 28 seconds.  

The weather will certainly be a critical factor in determining line honours.  

If northerly breezes dominate, then the high-performance, cutting-edge boats like Melges IC37 Fargo, skippered by Ari Abrahams and Veloce 4, the Melges 40, skippered by Phil Simpfendorfer will be favourites for line honours while southerly breezes should see boats such as Greg Clinnick’s Another Chapter and Mike And Mark Welsh’s Wicked fighting for the win.  

The favourite for AMS handicap would have to be Garry Anderson, skipper of Esprit, who will be aiming for a hat trick after winning the previous two races along with strong results in the ORC and PHS categories. 

Abrahams is impressed with the performance of his new boat Fargo which was brought out from the UK in April and performed well in the 2023 Hamilton Island Race Week a few months ago. 

“We are excited to be sailing our first passage race on the new boat. If the winds are in our favour, we expect to be in the first few boats across the line. If we stay in touch with the Melges 40, which is a faster boat, we will do well as we have a ratings advantage,” said Abrahams.  

The 2023 Ronstan Cock of the Bay is the first race of the three-race Sovereign Series, which includes the Melbourne to Hobart Yacht Race and the King of the Derwent. 

The 21 nautical mile Ronstan Cock of the Bay Race starts at 10:30 am on Boxing Day near Station Pier in Port Melbourne. 

The race offers sailing fans several vantage points to witness the wonderful spectacle of this most popular race, including Port Melbourne, St Kilda Pier, Brighton Pier, Sandringham, and the Hampton foreshore. 

Jane Austin/ORCV media 

Website https://www.orcv.org.au/cock-of-the-bay 

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