The MC38 class enjoyed a major boost for the opening act of the class’ 2017-18 Summer Series; drawing a record nine boats on Sydney Harbour for act one, and a bevy of superstars among the teams.
America’s Cup sailors and Olympic gold medallists in the Laser and 49er respectively, Tom Slingsby and Iain Jensen, plus guest helmsman Michael Dunstan took Marcus Blackmore’s Hooligan into a new sphere and four races into the seven race series they are second on the pointscore.
But it was the usual unflappable A-team on Lesley Green’s Ginger with their impeccable boat handling in the 16 gusting to 25 knot south/south-easterlies and decisions by tactician David Chapman that outclassed the fleet. They finished the North Sails boat of the day holding a four point advantage going into the second and final day of racing on Sunday October 15, 2017.
“It was really good to have nine boats; it made for a real dog fight,” said Chapman. “Each time we led at the top mark we weren’t leading at the bottom. There were lots of lead changes which was terrific for the spectators.”
On his first MC38 helming experience on a cool and showery spring day Dunstan said: “It was great fun, a blast. I don’t get the chance to steer boats like that very often.”
Slingsby added, “We had a few close moments, it’s really good out there with nine competitive boats. The racing was tight; you could overtake three or four on a downwind or lose three or four. We had one port/starboard and had to crash gybe but that’s all part of it and we are all friends at the end of the day.”
On the likelihood of reigning in Ginger on Sunday he said: “We did well today with a couple of top threes. We’ll do the best we can and hopefully it’s close going into the last race so we can have a shot at them.”
Driving John Bacon’s Dark Star hard was Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club Youth Development sailor Sarah Parker with brother Malcolm calling tactics and the highly experienced Chris Links on main.
“We were a bit nervous in the first race but once we settled down we were happy with how it all went,” said Malcolm.
Speaking on the pros among the teams he added, “It was good to tussle with a few names and even get a couple of them, though it wasn’t something we were looking for heading into this regatta. For us it was about the experience. A massive thank you to John for all his support and for giving us the opportunity.”
Just three training sessions then straight into a gusty day up against some of Australia’s best keelboat sailors while weaving in and around fleets of J70s, Ynglings, Etchells, old 18-footers and classic boats on a track between Chowder and Rose Bay was no easy feat for the debut MC38 helm.
On the feel of driving, a chilled-out Sarah said: “It’s heavy downwind but I had a feel from other Elliott asymmetric spinnaker sailing I’ve done. It was nice and fast. After the first race we nailed down a few things that we thought were potential flaws and from there we improved.”
Bacon and crew member David Sampson picked up Lazy Dog from Puerto Rico and imported it to boost the local fleet. Their plan is to sell it to an owner looking for high-level one design racing and in the meantime Lazy Dog went from its shipping container to winning Saturday’s first race, all in three days.
“That gave us the opportunity to give the RPAYC youth team a chance to mix it with the best Grand Prix fleet in Australia on the Dark Star,” Bacon said.
A blowy monotone Sydney day tested all teams. By the end of lap one of race one Ghost Rider and Easy Tiger were out with sail damage, and more spinnakers would meet a similar fate. In the screaming down-winders a couple of MC38s wiped-out, sending crews scrambling to regain control of the temperamental beasts before the spill cost too many places.
From four races there were four firsts over the line: Lazy Dog, Ginger, Steve Barlow’s Lightspeed and Hooligan to finish the day.
The forecast for Sunday is south-easterly 10-15 knots turning easterly below 10 knots in the afternoon. The remaining three races are due to start at 1000hrs under the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron’s race management team headed up by race officer Rob Ridley.