Sydney Harbour Regatta: Wild ride on high seas

Conditions offshore on day one of Middle Harbour Yacht Club’s annual Sydney Harbour Regatta had stomachs churning, while a Sydney 38 bowman was saved from a Man Overboard incident by the lifelines on Conspiracy, which was leading the division at the time and went on to win.

As Peter Byford and David Hudson’s Conspiracy approached the first top mark rounding of the class’ NSW Championship in heavy seas, bowman Antony Hawke suddenly hit the deck during the kite hoist. The slightly embarrassed crewman said after racing that he definitely thought he was going for a swim and was happy to shift the blame to the people pulling the ropes at the back.

Conspiracy won that opening race and finished second in the next two windward/leewards, giving them the boat of the day title. Byford steers their Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club Sydney 38 for the starts and upwind and Hudson takes the helm downwind.

“It was challenging to steer and too choppy to get a roll on, in order to surf the waves,” Byford said. “The crew is consistent for these big regattas, and two of them are my sons, Tim and Ben.”

Little Nico leading the Super 40s - Andrea Francolini pic

Hazardous surf and swell along the New South Wales coast made the sea state uncomfortably lumpy for the offshore divisions – TP52/Super 50, Open Class and Sydney 38s – but also provided opportunities for the planing hulls, particularly when the sou’ east breeze gusted to 19 knots. Leading the Open division after two races is Keiran Mulcahy’s consistent King 40, Soozal, out of Pittwater.

Inside North Head, the Super 20s, 30s and 40s enjoyed wave action at the heads with less swell. Top of the Super 40s on IRC handicap is Darryl Hodgkinson’s Carkeek 40, Victoire, and on EHC handicap they are second to Adrian Walters’ Little Nico, sailing for the host club. Steven Proud’s Swish was the first MC38, as that class uses the series to prepare for the upcoming national title from 19-21 March.

The inshore courses stretched from Manly almost to the Sydney Harbour Bridge and those divisions had a much easier time in 12-14 knots and flat water. The largest Performance Spinnaker and Non-Spinnaker divisions completed two passage races.

Four state titles fall under this year’s Sydney Harbour Regatta umbrella. As predicted, Reg Lord’s Juno is at the head of the J/70 pointscore, thanks to three bullets. And matching Juno’s unbeaten run in the Yngling state title is Hamish Jarrett’s Miss Pibb. While Craig Mitchell’s Centaurus claimed the Cavalier 28 NSW Championship based on today’s one-design results.

The-Historic-18-footers-take-part-on-Day-1 - Andrea Francolini pic

The two-day series, hosted by Middle Harbour Yacht Club and made possible thanks to on-water support from eight other Sydney clubs, has drawn 187 entries for the 16th edition.

Principal Race Officer, Denis Thompson, was delighted the sun came out and winds moderated from the forecast fresh southerlies. “It was great sailing; everyone had a lot of fun. There wasn’t as much congestion in the Harbour this time; we had fleets going to different marks and we made sure they didn’t overlap too much.”

This evening is a chance for crews to unwind and swap tall tales at the MHYC beach party. Racing resumes on Sunday March 7 with decent autumn breeze expected from lunchtime onwards.

MHYC acknowledges the support of key Sydney Harbour Regatta sponsors Club Marine, Sail Racing, Robert Oatley Wines, Short Marine, Mercedes-Benz North Shore and Mercure Resort Hunter Valley Gardens and supporting sponsors Ensign Yachts, Fever-Tree, Manly Spirits, DeckHardware.

Full results:

Lisa Ratcliff/SHR media

Jeanneau JY60
M.O.S.S Australia
Jeanneau SF30 OD
M.O.S.S Australia
Cyclops Marine