A bit of Zen and two hands work magic at Sydney Short Ocean Racing Championship

Gordon Ketelbey’s Zen and Mistral, sail two-handed by Rupert Henry and Greg O’Shea, were the beneficiaries of wins on Day 1 of Middle Harbour Yacht Club’s (MHYC) 2023 Nautilus Marine InsuranceSydney Short Ocean Racing Championship (SSORC), sailed offshore today.

Ketelbey’s TP52 won Division 1 from classmate, First Light (Peter White) and Bob Cox’s DK46, Nine Dragons. Cox always manages to find his way to the podium, come rain, hail or shine.

“Racing was pretty close,” Ketelbey admitted, but he was pleased with the crew’s handywork in a breeze that averaged around 15 knots. “It wasn’t too windy, a bit lumpy, but pleasant sailing,” the MHYC yachtsman said.

It was not all straightforward, however: “We parked up at the Heads, Virago (Robert Kelly’s RP52 one-off) got ahead of us and First Light caught up with us. We caught them well before Lion Island though. Coming home was a straight downhill run and we kept them behind us,” Ketelbey said of the race to Lion Island and return.

Zen has recently profited from a makeover, although not all has gone according to plan: “We’ve got a new keel configuration and we thought we had a new rig, but there was a problem. We expect the new one from Spain after Christmas now,” he said. 

Sailing Mistral two-handed in Division 2, Rupert Henry and Greg O’Shea won overall. Jack Stening and Colin Gunn’s Sydney 36, Stormaway claimed second place and Neil Padden’s Beneteau 40.7, Wailea, was third. The latter two were sailed fully crewed and there were other two-handers in the division, making the race more interesting.

“It was a good warm up for the Cabbage Tree Island Race next Friday night,” said Henry, who with O’Shea won that race overall in 2022, ahead of winning the Two-Handed division in the Rolex Sydney Hobart, a title they will also defend come Boxing Day.

“It was wet but not as windy as the forecast. There was quite an eastern swell running, which was fine on starboard, but on port tack it was quite awful. The further north we got, the lighter it got. We hugged the shore a bit, then went offshore, which was a loss,” Henry conceded.

“We did a couple of short tacks to the laid mark, which was exactly where it was supposed to be, so that was good. Then we had a nice run back. We did a couple of gybes and it was a nice 16 knots coming through the Heads to the finish.”  

Racing concludes tomorrow, when MHYC plans to run two short offshore windward/leeward races, each one starting and finishing on Sydney Harbour. 

The Seven Islands Race, Division 1, was won by the MC38 InfoTrack. She was last to start, but first to finish, in the pursuit-style race.

“We got the chocolates,” a pleased Mitch White said from the yacht. Second was David Ross’ Cape 31, Kukukerchu, followed by Michael Ritchie’s Ritchie 38, Revolver.

White described conditions on the Harbour course thus: “It was grey, slightly wet, but a pleasurable sail. When you’re racing, you don’t notice the rain.

“It’s an active race though, because you’ve got plenty of obstacles  to get around,” he said, referring to the various islands and narrow waterway on the other side of the Harbour Bridge. “And the wind was up and down like a yoyo.”

On their win, White commented: “We were actually lucky. We do a bit of racing up past the bridge with corporate sailing, so we know what to expect. We got past second place at Middle Head, thanks to Indy Beck’s great trimming.” 

When they started, InfoTrack’s crew could not see any of their divisional compadres in front of them, “but all the hard work was done in the river,” said White, of the area north-west of the Harbour Bridge, which is tricky to sail in at the best of times. 

Division 2 went to John Crawford’s always well-sailed J24, Innamincka. Second was Bryan Moore’s Shibumi, with Jeremy Clarke’s Kai Rani in third.  The race is held alongside the SSORC and attracts a wide variety of boats. It starts and finishes at MHYC and its name suggests, is on a course around famous Sydney Harbour islands.

For full results and all information, please visit: www.ssorc.mhyc.com.au   

Di Pearson/MHYC media

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