SailFest Newcastle – drama to calmer on final day

After yesterday’s mark drama, today was far calmer on the offshore course as the 2024 Australian Yachting Championships and SailFest Newcastle Regatta completed two final windward-leeward races to decide the silverware.

The light-air specialists seized their chance to move up the leaderboard after being battered by 4-metre seas on Day 2, Joe de Koch’s Farr 40 KD1 being a prime example as it came from behind to win the Division 2 national title.

Others tumbled after looking famous overnight, while two yachts – the TP52 Matador and Corby 36 Let’s Get It On – simply proved they could change gears as required to claim victory in Division 1 and 3 respectively on IRC handicap.

Racing began 30 minutes late as a fickle northerly breeze settled into a rhythm. It began at six knots and gradually wheezed its way to 11 knots as the day progressed. Fortunately, swell height had almost halved overnight.

In arguably the strongest TP52 fleet ever assembled in Australia, David Doherty and his crew aboard Matador made it four out of four windward-leeward bullets, their only blemish being a start line infringement and a subsequent 5th placing in the opening passage race. They also blitzed the class-based TP Rating, finishing 11 points ahead of the chasing pack after five races.

“I’m extremely proud,” Doherty said. “We paid the price in the first race for being a bit too eager, but the boat’s going really well and the crew are just a great group of people. They were the key to winning.”

The crew continually changed rig set-ups to suit the differing conditions, while Grant Simmer called tactics today after Steven Thomas performed the role yesterday.

Geoff Boettcher’s Secret Men’s Business (SMB) finished runner-up on both IRC and TPR, justifying the logistic and financial commitment of trucking the orange-hulled yacht from South Australia to Newcastle.

“We made the decision fairly late and missed a couple of our crew, but I’m glad we did it. The Newcastle series is our favourite, then we’ll do Sail Port Stephens and Pittwater for the Gold Cup,” Boettcher said.

SMB had previously encountered Marcus Blackmore’s new Hooligan at Port Lincoln and took encouragement from the result, but had no answer for Matador – Boettcher’s former boat.

“Our learning curve was huge again here, both on the start line and in tuning to the conditions,” he added. “I said to be boys that we’d love to start the regatta again now, using what we’ve learned in tweaking it.”

Joe de Kock had faith that KD1 could perform to its IRC rating: “Farr 40s are good in light airs; yesterday was bad,” he said. “People confuse that with Farr 40s not being able to rate competitively, but at this time of year the winds are generally light so I always thought we had a good shot.”

Maritimo 54, the largest yacht in the field, couldn’t get going today, posting two last placings in Division 2. It allowed the two DK46s LCE Old School Racing and Nine Dragons to take the remaining podium steps.

For Southport Yacht Club’s Garry Holt, it was his second national championship after winning in a modified Adams at Hamilton Island two years ago. This time, he was aboard a Corby 36 formerly owned by motor racing identity Roland Dane and configured by Michael Spies.

“The boat had a successful racing history in Thailand and I told Spiesy that I’d buy it one day, which I did. I eventually brought it back to Australia and modified it with Corby’s involvement. It’s one of those freak yachts but you need a great crew as well,” Holt said.

“Today in the light airs the Mumm 30 [Foreign Affair] was so damn quick that we were lucky to finish third in the first race, which put us tied on points. The wind then increased and we sailed a brilliant last race.”

Among Let’s Get it On’s crew was Warwick Rooklyn, a skiff and Melges 24 champion whose ocean racing career dates back to his late father’s famous yachts Ballyhoo and Apollo.

In other SailFest Newcastle Regatta results, ORC honours went to  Let’s Get it On and Soozal, while Soozal and Foreign Affair won on PHS. Newcastle’s She’s the Culprit took the Cruising Class trophy.

– Mark Rothfield

Results: https://app.sailsys.com.au/club/22/results/series/3134/races

Website: https://sailfest.com.au/

SailFest Newcastle Regatta is supported by the City of Newcastle and Transport for NSW.

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