Finding full crew for the growing major racing events market has become challenging Australia-wide, but the Ocean Racing Club of Victoria (ORCV) in Melbourne, Victoria has come up with an innovative solution to keep competitors romping on the offshore racetrack.
“People are leading increasingly busy lives, and there are so many races and events on the sailing calendar these days, it is not always easy to find enough experienced crew,” Martin Vaughan, ORCV Vice Commodore says.
So in consultation with members and competitors, the Melbourne club came up with a short-handed format they have aptly named ‘Four + Autohelm', to be introduced to ORCV’s offshore racing program this season.
Following much discussion, 76 percent of respondents (including some who will continue to race fully crewed), expressed interest. They saw the concept as being a positive for fleet sizes.
What it means is short-handed racing – autohelm and a maximum of four crew combined with the main fleet for all offshore races. These include the ORCV’s races from Melbourne to Stanley, Devonport, Launceston and Hobart (the Westcoaster) and the 2020 Melbourne to Noumea.
The underlying philosophy behind the decision is that four suitably experienced crew, aboard an autohelm equipped yacht, can maintain effective watches. And the majority will be competitive against fully crewed boats in the various fleets.
And, says ORCV Commodore Ray Shaw, “We want to see the ORCV continuing to lead the way, adapting to the changing nature of our sport and the new ‘Four + Autohelm’ initiative ties in well to our strategy of increasing participation.
“We want to remove barriers, in this case the difficulty of finding a full crew. Like our successful two-handed initiative, it should see more boats on the start line and increased interest in our ocean races,” he said.
The Melbourne to Hobart (or ‘Westcoaster’), Melbourne’s premier blue water ocean race, starting off Portsea Pier on the Mornington Peninsula on 27 December each year is one such race. At approximately 440 nautical miles, it provides tactical challenges and exposure to the Southern Ocean not found in the races on the east coast of Tasmania.
And no matter the finish time, a hot pie, a cold beer and a warm welcome are produced and always appreciated by competitors.
ORCV has led the way in providing double-handed ocean racing in Australia, with nearly half the fleet sailing the 2017 Westcoaster in this format via competitors drawn from across the country.
One such competitor who fits the dynamic is Justin Brennan, owner/skipper of the Lidgard 36, ‘Alien’. He says: “It’s challenging – I love pushing the boat and I love the comradery of the race. And l love cruising home with friends.”
It works well, as apart from catering to short-handed racing enthusiasts it supports entrants in the 5,500 nautical mile Sundance Melbourne Osaka Yacht Race, a quadrennial double-handed event hosted by the ORCV in conjunction with Sandringham Yacht Club and Japan’s Hokko Yacht Club.
The latest Melbourne Osaka finished recently and the majority of competitors sailed double-handed in the Westcoaster, a qualifier for Australia’s longest ocean race. One to take advantage was West Australian, Todd Giraudo, who raced his Jeanneau Sunfast 360 Kraken, with David ‘Dubbo’ White.
The ORCV invites fully crewed, two-handed and the new Four + Autohelm entrants to download the Notice of Race and complete race entry for November’s Stanley race, the Westcoaster and Devonport races over the Christmas break at: www.orcv.org.au where all information is available.
For interested parties, use of autohelms is regulated via Notice of Race conditions regarding use of stored power. Neither rating amendments nor declarations are required under the IRC and AMS rating rules – all you need is an autohelm – and they are improving all the time.
Di Pearson/ORCV media