King Island Trophy – Ginan wins

Turquoise blue skies and seas, local cheeses, freshly caught crayfish and sizzling rib-eye steak greeted the nearly 200 sun-drenched yachties when they finished the 2024 Melbourne to King Island Ocean Yacht Race over the weekend.

The fleet sailed the 114nm race, organised by the Ocean Racing Club of Victoria (ORCV) in partnership with the King Island Boat Club, from Queenscliff to Grassy Harbour to not only savour a strategic and challenging ocean race but to share in the highly sought-after, world-class produce of Australia’s stunningly beautiful island gem, King Island.

There was a lot at stake in the 2024 Melbourne to King Island Race with the King Island Trophy for the winner of the race on AMS handicap up for grabs, as well as PHS and ORC trophies for Divisions One and Two.

ORCV Race Officer David Schuller sent the fleet on their way at 3am on Saturday morning in northerly breezes of 7 to 10 knots, amidst a forecast heatwave for the southeastern states of Victoria and Tasmania.

Photos from onboard the yachts during the race showed contented yachties in t-shirts and shorts, but while the winds may have been light, tactics and strategy were critical for the fleet as they navigated the challenging tides and currents around the island.

This year’s race certainly belonged to the J boats, the double-handers, and the newcomers to ocean racing.

The contest for line honours was tight from the start between the Cookson 50, eXtasea and the multihull, Peccadillo, skippered by Charles Meredith.

Extasea, skippered by Dustin Popp from the Royal Geelong Yacht Club, crossed the finish line at 18:48:19 on Saturday evening, 30 minutes ahead of Peccadillo to take the win.

Extasea had a brilliant race winning on PHS and ORC handicaps in Division 1, and finished second on AMS overall, once again missing out on the coveted handicap win which determines the overall race winner.

The J111 boat Ginan, co-skippered by Cameron McKenzie and Nigel Jones from the Mornington Yacht Club, continued a strong 2023-24 sailing season performance, with the skippers accepting the prestigious 2024 King Island Trophy from King Island Mayor, Cr Marcus Blackie, and claiming the title of overall race winners.

The Ginan team had a great start to the race, leading the fleet through Port Phillip Heads, and adopted a strategy from there to push the boat as hard as they could in what were fabulous but frustrating sailing conditions.

“Our strategy was to get out in front early and to just keep pushing the boat forward.

“It was quite a challenging race in terms of sail trim and tactics…there were lots of park ups…and lots of transitions in the race.

“In those [light] conditions the challenges are to keep the sails optimally trimmed at all times, which can be difficult when there’s a swell running and a bit of slop, and also trying to keep the boat powered up constantly.

“Having the crew trimming non-stop can be tiring …we had a constant rotation, so people weren’t on the trim for too long… to keep them fresh,” said McKenzie.

Ginan was third over the line but, unlike eXtasea and Peccadillo, which finished the race on favourable tides, Ginan had to contend with adverse currents up the coast on the way to the finish line.

“We had it glassing out near the finish… at times the wind was doing 360s… we had a lot of sail changes trying to keep the momentum going… it was very tricky towards the end with very little breeze,” said McKenzie.

McKenzie paid homage to the meticulous preparation of Ginan’s navigator, Greg Patten, and to the delights that await sailors who embark on ORCV destination races like these.

“Tactically this was quite a difficult race…our navigator Greg Patten did a fabulous job reviewing the weather and the weather models leading up to and throughout the race and I think that was one of the areas that we excelled in, just getting the shifts right and being on the right side of them, and that wasn’t by luck, Greg puts in a mountain of work and is one of the best in the business.  

“We also had a first timer onboard the boat this year, Daniel Laverty, a young ILCA (Laser) sailor, this is his first ocean race, he’s quite in awe of getting down here [to King Island] and enjoying the hospitality and the camaraderie of the ORCV community.

“We love the destination races, and the places that we go to, that most people don’t get to see,” said McKenzie.

Joker X2 the J133 boat co-skippered by Grant Chipperfield and Peter Dowdney won the double-handed division from second placed Quest, skippered by Rod Gunther and Peter Tardrew, while Maverick, skippered by Tony Hammond and Rod Smallman, finished in third.

Joker X2 also finished in third place overall on PHS and ORC, with the skippers very upbeat after the race which suited the J133 boat.

“The actual conditions were superb, with light running conditions all day, but there was enough wind to get maximum boat speed which was nice.

“We sailed a relatively straight course down the rhumbline as much as possible until we got to the very end, and then it went pear-shaped in the last three hours.

“It glassed out completely as we approached Grassy and we got caught up in the current as you do down here and ended up taking us two and a half hours more than what I projected we would take to finish, which was a bit frustrating, but apart from that, it was a glorious race.

“It was like sailing in the tropics without the humidity…take it from me, Bass Strait doesn’t get any better than that. 

“Tactically, we sailed a pretty vanilla race, we just managed to soak down inside everyone and basically sailed a straighter course and sailed less distance and that’s where we just popped through.

“We were a little bit deep when we came out of the [Port Phillip] Heads, but we just chipped away during the dark hours and by daylight we were up on the front row of the grid and got better and better as the day went on.

“King Island is just an amazing part of the world, it’s becoming a foodie’s paradise down here, as a destination, it’s a safe harbour, it’s relatively easy to get in and out of, and the King Island Boat Club people…they just turn it on for us which is fantastic,” said Dowdney.

The Joker X2 skippers, like several of the other double-handed teams, were also using the race as a training opportunity for the 2025 Melbourne to Osaka Yacht Race. 

In Division 2, the early race favourite Toecutter, skippered by Rob Hick and Brad Bult, won on AMS and PHS handicap, while Vertigo, skippered by Tim Olding took out Division 2 on ORC.

Race Director David Schuller was happy with the race overall but shared his frustrations with the challenges of sailing into and around King Island.

“The race started in better-than-expected conditions, we had a lot of wind to get the boats going, but as often happens, you get patches of dead spots, so those at the front of the fleet did really well, and got ahead, and we saw our line honours winners, and the rest of the fleet were left to the vagaries of the wind conditions.

“This was really challenging as King Island itself shadows the wind, so we had a lot of boats getting down to one knot overnight, then lifting up and dropping off.

“We had hoped that everyone would get through but what this did was break the fleet into about three different groups with the last group finishing just before 10 o’clock on Sunday morning,” said Schuller.

The race saw ten retirements due to the weather conditions with Schuller speculating that the lure of the steak sandwiches may have been too much when the teams were battling soft breezes.

The ORCV race team had a busy time during the race, but their race duties extended to more than simply welcoming boats home.

“We spent just about all of our time at the finishing line listening to the peeps and chirps of the penguins, and there were lots of wallabies coming up, curiously peering into the car when we had the door open just to see what we were doing,” said Schuller.

An exhausted but thrilled Tim Hosking, the highly skilled skipper of French Bred and a recent ‘graduate’ of the ORCV ‘Beyond the Bay’ training program, won the special perseverance award (a fresh crayfish for the trip home), in his first Category 2 ocean race.

“We received a lot of help in our preparation from the ORCV sailing community.

“[In this race] we had some good fun and some great conditions, but we also found it challenging at times… it was very tempting to retire from the race, but we are proud that we stayed the course and finished,” said Hosking. 

Beyond the Bay is designed to provide sailors with the information and practical skills to plan and complete an overnight cruising passage or participate in a race, with races like this one a useful stepping-stone to future coastal and ocean races.

Full race results https://www.orcv.org.au/results/2023-24/2024M2KI/series.htm?ty=61031

Jane Austin/ORCV media

Website www.orcv.org.au

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