Imagination wins Bird Island Race ahead of Rolex Sydney Hobart

Careful sailing, exceptional crew work and a new Code Zero have contributed to Robin and Annette Hawthorn’s runaway victory in the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s painfully slow Bird Island Race this weekend, with Anthony Bell’s Perpetual Loyal taking line honours ahead of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht.

To put finish times for the 85 nautical mile race into perspective, the record, set by the 60 foot Loki in 2011 is 6hrs 38mins and 56secs. Bell’s super maxi took 10hrs 19mins 28secs, while Imagination, a Beneteau 47.7, took 15hrs 37mins 58secs in weather that made a mockery of the stronger breezes forecast.

This is an extraordinary result for Robin Hawthorn, as he cleaned up on all the Division 1 boats, as did second placed Wax Lyrical, the X-50 owned by Les Goodridge, which finished 28 minutes behind Imagination on corrected time. The pair also finished top two under ORCi. Their positions were reversed in PHS, with Wax Lyrical taking honours from Imagination.

Both were thrilled with their results after out-sailing the grand prix yachts in Blue Water Pointscore, penultimate race. They were able to avoid most of the pitfalls of the parking lots, the dread of any sailor.

“We sailed carefully towards Bird Island, the aim was to just keep the boat moving,” Hawthorn said this morning. “We were helped greatly by our navigator, Frank Walker, who kept us out of the tide and on the right track going up to the Island. Our crew work was superb, they were fantastic.”

The only blot on the landscape came off Manly on the way into the Harbour and the Rushcutters Bay finish line. “It was very light there, but we weren’t becalmed, it was just painfully slow,” conceded Hawthorn, who said used the new Code Zero to effect when it was needed on the way home.

Content with the crew workout in the lead-up to the Hobart race, Hawthorn said, “We qualify for the ancient category – there are at least four of us who are over 70 years old!”

However, Hawthorn’s two sons, Hamish, in his 40’s and Campbell, 38, will help the ‘oldies’, all of them seasoned helmsmen, with the more punishing jobs, as will a young bowman.

Second placed Les Goodridge said his boat “is like a Winnebago caravan with three bedrooms and three bathrooms. It’s an amazing feeling to score those results – we’re going to enjoy them while they last,” said Goodridge, who knows not to expect these conditions come the Hobart.

“We picked our position on the race course well. I’ve been up and down the coast a few times, so we knew what to do. Our big number 1 headsail helped considerably. It works well if there is no swell and winds are not under 3 knots or over 10 – perfect for this race.

“We were lucky we only fell into one hole, and that was when we were around the Island, so we were able to drift the right way with the current. Lots of others weren’t so lucky. Patience and concentration played their part, as did a bit of luck,” Goodridge said.    

Olympian, David Forbes, finished third overall with his Kaiko 52, Merlin, which also won Division 1 and was third in PHS. Craig Carter’s Indian, a Carkeek 47 all the way from Western Australia, finished second in Division 1 and third in ORCi.

The BWPS has a new overall leader in Rob Hanna’s TP52, Shogun V. Its seventh place overall in the Bird Island race was aided by two previous wins and a pair of fourths helped move ahead of ADA Celestial, Sam Haynes’ Rogers 46, which finished the Bird Island Race 10th overall, dropping it to third in the Series.

However, Hanna is not on the list for the Hobart race, so will not figure in the final outcome, but it was practice towards defending his overall win in CYCA’s SOLAS Big Boat Challenge on Tuesday.

Shogun V aside, Paul Clitheroe has risen to the top with his TP52 Balance, his sixth overall giving the Money Man a one point lead over ADA Celestial, with Matt Allen’s Carkeek 60, Ichi Ban, waiting in the wings a further four points behind.

Defending Rolex Sydney Hobart champion, Victoire (Darryl Hodgkinson) is a further point away. The canting Cookson 50 is in turn two points ahead of Tony Kirby’s Patrice. Kirby did not race as he anxiously awaits the arrival of a new bulb for the Ker 46’s keel from China in time for the 628 nautical mile race to Hobart. 

The finale of the BWPS will be played out when the Rolex Sydney Hobart starts on Boxing Day, 26 December.

For full race results and provisional Blue Water Point Score standings log on to:

By Di Pearson, CYCA Media

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