Best crew work pays dividends at Sydney Harbour Sprint Series

Although challenging due to changing conditions, competitors enjoyed a beautiful spring day for the first round of the Sydney Harbour Sprint Series (SHSS) 23/24, which commenced with three races starting from midday today on Sydney Harbour.

Ian Box leads Division 1 of the series by two points after sailing Toybox 2 to a pair of wins and a second place from Brent Lawson’s Farr 40, Bluetack. Regular rival, Bob Cox with Nine Dragons, a DK46, is a further two points away. Box’s XP44, the recipient of recent modifications, also leads ORC overall.

The fleet started in the middle of the Heads and sailed into a westerly. In the second race, the wind shutdown, ”then we got an easterly,” Box told. “The start of the third race was relocated to Dobroyd and took us to Cannae Point in a nor’ easter. We had everything. You had to be on your toes.”

Box continued, “It was close racing all day. We had three good starts and were quite competitive and fast downwind in all three races. We were able to hold the two Farr 40s downwind, which was pleasing, not to mention unusual. We could sail deeper and faster downwind. We’re very happy with the modifications to the boat.”

Describing the competition, the yachtsman said, “There was a lot of boat-on-boat action and that was great for crew work. Our crew were on top of things.

“The turnaround times between races was short too, with a separate finish line. It meant that if need be, you could start a new Division 1 race with Division 3 still doing the earlier race. It meant no sitting around waiting and waiting.”

In Division 2, Neil Padden’s Beneteau First 40.7, Wailea, claimed the spoils after scoring two wins and a second. Wailea leads Garth Riley’s Adams 10, Sirius, by one point. Padden also leads ORC overall in the division.

However, Padden was not aboard. “Niclas Westling skippered Wailea in my place. They did better without me than with me,” he said with a laugh from France.

Westling takes up the story: “We had a fantastic day, in particular our starts went well. We started Race 1 with a port start ahead of the fleet and managed to find the shifts, it was quite gusty too. We had good team work, although some of our spinnaker drops were a bit late, but we repaired that on the upwinds. We really enjoyed the day.”

Tracy Richardson’s Artemis leads the Adams 10 pointscore with a pair of wins and a second. The Adams 10s sailed in Division 2, but have a separate one-design pointscore as well.

Richardson commented, “We tend to pay attention to our class mates more than the rest of the fleet, but we did notice Wailea and Firecracker (Scott Lawson’s Fareast 28R) flying around the course.

“We had three very different races,” she shared. The first started with a westerly around 12-15 knots, then in the second it swung right around to nor-east, dropped out and we all got stuck in the middle of course. A few went left and others went right. We got lucky on the left. We dropped our jib and got our kite up and had great race to finish line. In the third race, the nor’ easter stayed in at a steady 12-15 steady knots. It was a typical summer nor’ easter.”

On the crew work, which is what this series embodies, Richardson commented, “The crew responded to the changes well. The starts with the Adams are always exciting – we messed up the last start though – we got stuck at the pin. We came back on port though, and had clear air, so managed to come out of it OK.

“We expected light breeze, so we were a bit short-handed, so we all had to sail really hard. The light crew helped though, as it was fairly light, but there was lots going on and the sprints were hectic. So much fun and exciting. So good to see five Adams 10s out. They were pretty evenly matched as usual and we had a beautiful day on the water,” Richardson ended.

Division 3 is cleanly lead by Oloff Tromp’s Waterborne Again. Six points separates the J24 from Brett Churcher’s Hanse 375, Plan B and Dean Dransfield’s Beneteau Oceanis 41, Escape.

This new series, being held over three weekends in spring and winter, was designed to provide stimulating short format racing. Races are capped at 60 minutes and highlight the best crew work in each division.

The SHSS is open to a wide variety of keelboats. Courses normally comprise two-lap windward/leewards with a gate and racing is run by an experienced race management team from Middle Harbour Yacht Club.

The next round of competition, Races 4, 5 and 6, will be held on Saturday 11 November, 2023.

Full results:

By Di Pearson/MHYC media

Jeanneau JY55
M.O.S.S Australia
Race Yachts
West Systems
Jeanneau JY60
M.O.S.S Australia
NAV at Home