Drawn out Cabbage Tree Island victory goes to Balance

‘Money Man’ Paul Clitheroe has sailed his TP52 Balance to its first major win in the drawn out Cabbage Tree Island Yacht Race this weekend, beating St George Midnight Rambler to the punch by close to five minutes, the two cleaning on the rest of the fleet.

The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s 180 nautical mile race, the fourth in its prestigious Blue Water Point Score, was in a vast contrast to last year’s difficult race which threw explosive winds, storms and lulls at the fleet. Instead, competitors faced the ‘big parking lot’ on Friday evening and well into Saturday, after clearing Sydney Harbour in a light easterly on Friday evening at 7.00pm.

Balance’s crew sailed the tactically challenging race well throughout, as did those on the Ed Psaltis/Bob Thomas/Michael Bencsik owned Ker 40, St George Midnight Rambler. Syd Fischer’s Ragamuffin, was third overall, with grandson Brenton skippering the TP52. The three also finished top three under ORCi, while Psaltis and crew took out PHS from Terra Firma (Nicholas Bartels) and Frantic (Mick Martin).

Enjoying a steak and a bottle of red at the CYCA last night, Clitheroe was unaware that the race was playing into his hands, but was thrilled to be told of his win this morning. “Fabulous. That’s great for the Balance crew. I hope we can do the Rolex Sydney Hobart justice,” the CYCA board director said.

Bob Oatley’s Wild Oats XI finally took line honours at 16.34.47 on Saturday afternoon, Mark Richards and crew finishing more than nine hours behind their record time set two years ago. Anthony Bell’s Perpetual Loyal followed nine minutes later. At 8.30am this morning, seven yachts remained at sea.

Since purchasing Quest, the 2008 overall winner of the Rolex Sydney Hobart, Clitheroe has sailed inside the top five at each event. In this race, he bested the other three TP52’s, including Rob Hanna’s Shogun, which won the last two races of the BWPS. It bodes well for his upcoming Hobart campaign. 

It was a long, long 180 nautical miles, just ask the competitors. An overnight parking station kept the yachts in close touch, not even the canting keel super maxis were immune, as Paul Clitheroe reported just after rounding Cabbage Tree Island yesterday afternoon: “Wild Oats first to Cabbage (by miles) then ichi Ban, Ray Roberts (OneSails), Balance, Perpetual Loyal, then Terra Firma and Ragamuffin.

“Earlier, the fleet was pretty much together, mixing it with the big boats. Sad to say, Perpetual Loyal passed us after rounding Cabbage Tree. We’re in a lovely 15 knots from about 75 degrees (almost due east), pointing straight at home,” he said.”

Principal Race Officer Denis Thompson started the fleet off Point Piper on Friday evening in a light 6-7 knot easterly breeze amid various fleets of twilight racers and the CYCA’s Short Haul Night Harbour Race.

“It was very busy on the Harbour; our fleet got mixed up with the other fleets, so it was hard to see who was who,” Thompson said. “Three boats were OCS, so had to return to the start,” he said of Victorian yachts Hartbreaker and Terra Firma, along with NSW entry, Anger Management.

Conditions did not improve during the night, Patrice’s navigator, Richard Grimes reporting: “The pressure was OK on the Harbour, enough all the way to get us out and heading north. There’s a good moon, so we can at least see all around us without resorting to a torch,” he said.

“The big decisions for all will be between midnight and 3.00am, when the breeze is supposed to have some west influence in it, but weather models are giving us conflicting information, so we’’ just have to wait and see.”

Little did crews know then how many difficulties the night would was to bring, but Grimes was right as breezes fluctuated with some westerly influence.

At 7.30am, Patrice’s owner, Tony Kirby reported, “We’ve got our A2 up. We’re off Swansea still heading to the island in a soft breeze. The fleet was packed pretty tight last night, but as the breeze started to come in this morning, those close to shore, like Roger Hickman (Wild Rose) picked it up first.” It helped Hickman at the time, but he finished well back as conditions continued to hamper the smaller yachts.

On Saturday, Paul Clitheroe reported: “Well, it is not often a 52 footer keeps a light cover on a 100 footer, but as noon approaches, it’s 17 hours into the race and we’re amusing ourselves watching Loyal rapidly hauling us in as we approach Port Stephens.

“Wild Oats has already passed us on their way home, Balance is trundling along behind Ichi Ban and Ray Roberts’ new boat (the Farr 55 he has renamed OneSails Racing). Given the fantastic talent on Ray’s boat, we are very happy to tag along.

“Terra Firma (Nicholas Bartels’ Cookson) has had a great night and is a couple of miles back with Ragamuffin. That will teach us not to laugh so much next time they (Terra Firma) break the start.”

Clitheroe and others reported that after a beautiful start in the light easterly, the breeze had died completely at 8.00am. The fleet drifted aimlessly for an hour or so before the predicted east-nor-easterly kicked in.

Not expecting the night time park up, crews were running out of food and drinks, sending messages via friends to have staff at the CYCA fire up the barbecue and have the drinks ready – Clitheroe was among them.

At 3.30pm on Saturday, Tony Kirby reported from on board his Ker 46 Patrice: “We’re off Stockton heading home in 15 knots; the east-nor-easterly is slowly building.”

Finally, the pressure all had been waiting for. Lovely east-nor-easterlies and north-easterlies (depending on where you were on the course) arrived. Sam Haynes, the owner/skipper on ADA Celestial reported at 4.00pm:  “We will be out of food soon… but we’re OK, because we’ve turned for home and in nice downwind conditions now – 15 knots and slowly building.”  

At 6.00am this morning, Love & War (Simon Kurts) was wallowing off Manly, so close and yet so far, leaving a trail of others behind him, to finally finish shortly before 8.00am. Bear Necessity (John Blair) and Let’s Go (Danielle Ovenden) retired, citing time constraints.

For full Cabbage Tree island Race results and provisional Blue Water Point Score standings log on to: www.cyca.com.au/sysfile/downloads/2013-14summer/13_14_BWPS/series.htm

By Di Pearson, CYCA Media

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