Rolex Sydney Hobart entrants in historic Gascoigne Cup

The winner of Saturday’s Gascoigne Cup will have its name engraved on the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron’s historic yachting trophy but it’s doubtful if it will receive the same accolade as the first winner of the Cup, Magic.

Launched in 1875 and owned by then RSYS Commodore J R Fairfax,  Magic’s sailing prowess inspired a popular jingle around the waterfront:

Magic’s a billow puncher

Scorning squall and spray

She’ll small her way to windward

Any stormy day

The Gascoigne Cup dates back to 1886 when Colonel F G F Gascoigne presented a Challenge Cup to be competed for annually by yachts over fives tons,  until won three times in succession.

The race,  over a 30 nautical mile course off Sydney Heads but starting and finishing in the Harbour, is now one of three short offshore races the Squadron conducts each season, each one now part of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s Grant Thornton Short Ocean Pointscore.

Saturday’s fleet of 40 modern racing yachts is a far cry from the cutter-rigged Magic and her competitors, most of which carried huge gaff mainsails and topsails with headsails set on long protruding bowsprits. 

According to RSYS records, Magic had a load waterline of 48 feet and a sail area of 2,054 square feet.

The original deed of gift has been modified, giving the Squadron scope in deciding the course while the Gascoigne Cup itself is now a perpetual trophy.  The names of many well-known yachts that raced out of Sydney over the past 128 years are engraved on the trophy.

Forty boats have entered for Saturday’s Gascoigne Cup, including eight yachts that have entered the 70th Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race:  Paul Clitheroe’s Farr-designed TP52, Balance,  Robin and Annette Hawthorn’s Beneteau 47.7, Imagination; Andrew Dally’s DK46, Khaleesi; Tony Kirby’s Ker 46, Patrice; Rob Drury’s Cookson 12, Pazazz;  Bruce Foye’s Sydney 38, The Goat; Michael Cranitch’s LC60, Triton; and Richard Barron and Trish Stanley’s Beneteau First 40, Willyama.

Pazzaz is in good form, scoring a clean sweep under both IRC and PHS handicap categories in last weekend’s 47th Rubber Kellaway Plate,  with her nearest competitors in that race also entered for the Gascoigne Cup, with Michael Cranitch’s Triton again expected to set the pace along with Paul Clitheroe’s Balance.

The Cup fleet will have two divisions, with the Gascoigne Cup itself decided on PHS scoring for Division 1 while the Thelma Cup will be awarded to the PHS winner of Division 2. 

As the event is part of the CYCA’s Grant Thornton Short Ocean Pointscore, both Divisions will also be scored under IRC ratings. 

The race is scheduled to start in Watson’s Bay at 12 noon on Saturday with the fleet sailing an offshore course to be set on the day.

– Peter Campbell

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