Ichi Ban and More Noise lead in thrillers at Airlie Beach Race Week

In a thriller to the finish of two windward/leeward races at Airlie Beach Race Week today, Matt Allen’s Ichi Ban has taken the lead in IRC Racing Division 1, while Jason Close scored two more bullets with More Noise in Division 2 for a clean lead.

Matt Allen boarded his freshly purchased TP52 for his first race yesterday, after returning from the Transpac Race in the USA last week. It did not take the Yachting Australia president long to come to grips with his latest Ichi Ban.

In a two-race thriller, he and Ray Roberts’ Farr 55, OneSails Racing, literally match raced around the course both times, the two side-by-side on the downwind legs, however Ichi Ban trucked away from her nemesis both times on the run to the finish on the two-lap course sailed in a lovely 10-15 knot breeze.

Roberts came home one place better in the Passage Race yesterday, but Ichi Ban held all the cards today, finishing with a third and a win to OneSails Racings’ fifth and second, cutting her opponent out at more than one mark rounding.

Gordon Ketelbey’s Farr 40, Zen, won the first race of the day, with Bob Steel’s brand new Mat 1180 second. Zen was second in the second race and is now third overall.

Matt Allen said, “In the first race it was a bit more of us trying to work out the mode – I’ve still got the learners plates on – yesterday was the first time I’ve steered the boat. We had a couple of gear issues; we’re ironing out the little gremlins.”

Allen continued, “We’ve lightened boat up a little bit since I bought it and it has more sail area, so that’s why our rating has gone up to match (OneSails Racing),” he said.

The Sydney yachtsman said there was a little bit of geographical shift in the first race of the day. “The wind was shifting right a little going up to first mark and there was a current change between the two races,” he said.

Ichi Ban and OneSails Racing ended up bow to bow up first beat on left side of course, the rest of Division 1 went right. The Goat (Bruce Foye/Sebastien Bohm) rounded the windward mark the first time in front of Ichi Ban, as the right side of the course was favoured. 

“The two boats are pretty evenly matched, it comes down to how you execute you’re your crew work,” Allen said of Ichi Ban and Roberts’ boat which have exactly the same handicap. 

“It’s pleasing to do so well and know there’s more in the tank – things we can improve; angle heel and all those little things you get used to on a boat that’s new to us. When to change rig settings etc.”

“Going to Hamilton Island there will be more TP52, so Airlie Beach Race Week has proved a great platform for what is ahead.”

Allen acknowledged that tides versus geographical shifts, along with tactics will play a huge role in the rest of the series which will be Passage Races.

In in Division 2, Jason Close is having a field day, adding two more wins to his victory of yesterday. The Sandringham Yacht Club member purchased More Noise, an Archambault 31, 18 months ago and has already won the Club Championship and finished third in Division 3 at the Festival of Sails in January.

Close puts their great performance so far down to a good boat, new sails and “a great team effort. We are all Sandringham Yacht Club sailors and we work really well together. Despite the boat’s name, there isn’t much noise on the boat,” he said.

The yacht is making a lot of noise on the course though, beating the likes of 2014 Rolex Sydney Hobart winner, Wild Rose (Roger Hickman) and noted skiff and yacht champion, Peter Sorensen (The Philosopher’s Club).

“Things are coming together quite nicely. I know we do well locally, but I had no idea how we would go against the big names like Wild Rose and Sorro (Sorensen). This is our first time here with the boat, so we’re pretty happy,” Close said.

“We’re a bit smaller than the rest, so we’ve avoided the argy bargy at the marks; we come through when that’s all over. We try to get a clean start and go for clear air.”

Justin Brownbill’s Botany Access Cocomo is second overall going into Day 3. The Sydney 36 pulled off two second places today, while Wild Rose, a Farr 43, is third, but on equal points with Brownbill’s boat with Sorensen’s yacht a further two points in arrears.

Hickman stumped up third in Race 3, despite being involved in an incident at the bottom mark rounding the first time.

Coming in to the mark from the left side, with boats bearing down on the other gybe, Hickman got inside in the nick of time, but then all went wrong when the headsail twisted in three places, leaving Brownbill and Sorensen’s boats nowhere to go.

However, all competitors enjoyed great racing as Airlie Beach threw on some great breeze, despite a forecast for light air, on another sunny day.

Hosted by the Whitsunday Sailing Club, racing in the ‘Tropical Festival of Sailing’ continues tomorrow from 11.00am.                               

Full results at: http://www.abrw.com.au/

By Di Pearson, ABRW media

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