Sydney Harbour Regatta – Overcast day fails to dampen great racing

Despite moody skies and rain showers, the opening day of Middle Harbour Yacht Club’s (MHYC) Nautilus Marine Insurance Sydney Harbour Regatta 2024 was nothing short of exciting as gusting winds to 30 knots hit Sydney Harbour forcing the best out of all yachties and their boats.

It was inevitable, though, that there would be round-ups, Chinese gybes, the odd prang and boats crossing their respective start lines a little ahead of time.

Race 1 starts and reigning champion Jules Hall (Disko Trooper_Contender Sail Cloth) cleared out in the J/99 class, leaving the rest to grapple for the minor placings. Shine On-Team Callendina (Phil Herscovics) got off best of the Sydney 38 start at the pin, Toybox 2 (Ian Box) outclassed her rivals at the Division 1 start of the Open division, while Peter Farrugia’s Bullwinkle won the start in Division 2.   

And while a good start is imperative, it did not always decide the final outcome. 

Fareast 28R One-Design Australian Championship

Scott Lawson fired up his Firecracker crew to win the opening race before firing off two second places on the windward/leeward courses to lead the Championship from Conrad Johnston’s Wildling. The latter opened with a fifth place then won the other two races. Two points separate the top two, so it will be on for young and old tomorrow.

“It was a tremendously trickly day,” Lawson conceded. “The first race was in 20 plus knots, so fast runs were where we made our gains. The next two races were fluky, it was a lottery, you had to pick the right sides of the course the whole time.  

“We were close to Wildling in the second two races. They got to the right side of the course and we didn’t, so we ended up second to them in both. I’ve got great guys like Andrew Divola (‘Dolly’ Divola was a dab 18 foot skiff sailor in the past) with me, which is why we did so well,” Lawson said. “We’re having a great time.”

Lawson ended, “Light winds are forecast tomorrow and that will impact us, as we don’t take the boat out of the water to clean it. We’ll try to power up and see how we go.”

J/99 One-Design Australian Championship

Defending champion, Disko Trooper_Contender Sail Cloth, ended the day in front, but Ian Smith (Jupiter) did not make the day easy for Hall by any means in their three windward/leeward races. The pair are one point apart leading into tomorrow’s final races.

Sydney 38 One-Design NSW Championship

Serial winner, Conspiracy, won the last two titles in a row, but all competitors came to this Championship determined to overcome David Hudson and Peter Byford’s boat. Seems Greg Croak and crew on Challenge from Lake Macquarie were just that bit more determined. They scored two bullets and a second to lead Conspiracy by a solitary point after three windward/leeward races. Watch this space…

Open Class

A trio of DK46’s went at it hammer and tong in Division 1. Khaleesi (Rob Aldis/Sandy Farquharson) came out on top and is two points ahead of Nine Dragons (Bob Cox) and a further point ahead of LCE Old School Racing (Mark Griffith).

“The competition is always tight between the DK46s. The three were never more than four boat lengths apart,” Farquharson commented. “These are good windward/leeward boats, so the result is not surprising. The skill of the crews determines the outcome,” Farquharson said.

Of the conditions, he said, “It was gusty and between 10 and 20 knots, perfect for the DKs, that’s where they live.”

Division 2 went the way of Garry Holt’s Let’s Get It On from Queensland. Holt’s always well sailed Corby 36 won all three races after its recent Division 2 victory at RPAYC’s ORC Championship on Pittwater.

In other results, the Classic Keelboats, a new addition to the regatta as a class, sailed two Harbour passage races and both were won by Annie Lawrence and John Whitfeld’s Solveig.

Solveig was built by Lars Halvorsen Sons in 1950 for Lars’ famous sons, Trygve and Magnus. They took line honours in the 1953 Sydney Hobart for second overall and won the race in 1954. She is among other famous Classics here such as Wraith of Odin and Mister Christian.

The Etchells’ have also joined in the regatta and contested three windward/leeward races on the Harbour. Dawn Raid, skippered by Matty Whitnall won all three. He beat the best in the business – Peter ‘Billy’ Merrington  (First Tracks), which is sitting second. Merrington has won a multitude of titles in the class.

Super 30 and Super 40 classes are the ‘sexy’ boats of the fleet. Fast and sleek with a bit of ‘X’ factor, they were worth watching in today’s brisk breeze.

David Suttie’s Melges 32, Lockdown (bought and named during COVID lockdown) was a force to be reckoned with, winning two races and scoring second in the third, to hold a four point advantage over Peter Woodhead’s same design named XC3SS.

“The last race was very close. We lost it (to XC3SS) by nine seconds. We had a couple of wipeouts, but we got it back. The sailing was very good, with gusting winds to 30 knots,” Suttie shared.

“It was up and down towards the end. Tomorrow is looking much lighter. I think the planning hull boats will be a bit slower and if that’s the case, the other boats will come into their own. But I think we should go OK,” said Suttie, adding, “I have a very good crew who have been sailing forever and are passionate.”

Principal Race Officer, Denis Thomson, declared midway through the afternoon, “I’m pretty happy with how it’s all happening.”

Thompson has a huge orchestra to conduct, with nine clubs looking after seven course areas in Sydney Harbour and offshore.

A diverse field from the Historical 18 Footers and the Classic Keelboats division to the one-design and open fleets to everything in between makes NSW’s largest keelboat regatta the great event it is. 

Racing continues tomorrow from 11am.

Full results and all information: https://www.shr.mhyc.com.au

Di Pearson/MHYC media

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