Sydney Short Ocean Racing Championship ends in a thriller

The 2023 Nautilus Marine Insurance Sydney Short Ocean Racing Championship (SSORC) was decided over two offshore windward/leeward courses today and Bob Cox’s Nine Dragons along with Jack Stening and Colin Gunn’s Stormaway, came away the victors, Stenning commenting, “The final race was the most exciting I think I’ve ever done.”  

Competitors put yesterday’s Passage Race and awful weather behind them to concentrate on a completely different style of racing in the Middle Harbour Yacht Club’s (MHYC) hosted event today. The first race was a two-lap course in very light air, the second a three-lapper to finish the event, but the sun was out in full force. 

Nine Dragons, a DK46 with a sting in her tail, came into the day third overall in Division 1, but won both of the day’s races to win Division 1 of the Championship. Cox was nothing short of elated.

Cox beat yesterday’s leader, Gordon Ketelbey’s TP52,  Zen and Ian Box’s Toybox 2, in the first race. He followed up by beating MHYC Commodore, Rob Aldis’ DK46, Khaleesi and Zen in the second. 

So Zen claimed second place overall, Khaleesi third. Toybox 2 just missed out on countback in such a close series.

A stunned Cox was almost wordless this afternoon, discovering he had won across the board: IRC, ORC and PHS.

“The boat is running a set of offcut sails and yet the old girl is going better than ever. We are completely amazed that we won. We’re even more amazed that we actually managed to beat the TP52 (Zen) twice today. That’s our biggest achievement of the weekend,” he said.

Cox was full of praise for his fellow competitors. In part, he said, “In the last race Khaleesi had a good run and beat us for the first time ever across the finish line. They sailed well. We were absolutely on their tail though, so beat them on handicap.

“Julian Plante did our tactics and the whole crew sailed really well over the weekend,” Cox said, to cheers from his crew.

Stormaway, owned by Jack Stening and Colin Gunn, was sitting pretty in second place heading into today’s races and ended up winning Division 2. Stening said the pair’s thrill of the day came from the final race and it certainly made up for the day’s opening race.

“The first race was AP’d then we started in Watsons Bay. We had to get out the Heads in light air. We were last out! Then we worked our way up a bit,” he said of their fourth place finish. Sebastian Hultin’s Georgia Express won that race from Peter Farrugia’s Bullwinkle and Matt Wilkinson’s Foreign Affair.

A north-easterly breeze built to around 10 knots. Stening related: “In the second race, it was as close racing as it gets. We had a big fleet on a short start line  – both divisions – and it was an offshore start. We chose to go in the second line near the start boat. From there, we fought to cross the boats as our division approached the top mark.

“We were first at the top mark the first time. We were crossing two and three boats at a time and they were doing the same, all going flat out, leaving just a coat of paint between us all in a 12 knot breeze! It was wonderful.

“As we were coming into the Heads, we were getting 15-20 knot gusts, surfing with Bullwinkle and Foreign Affair. The two finished the Championship second and third overall respectively.

“We were surging and it was so exciting. The whole race was so exciting. You don’t often get that,” he said before adding, “Colin steered and called tactics; he did his usual good job,” Stening said.

“We were third over the finish line, but finished with Jupiter right on our stern (Ian Smith’s Jupiter won that race from Stormaway and Bullwinkle). “We could hear Billy Sykes (North Sails sailmaker) giving advice to the crew on Jupiter and I called out to him ‘What should we do’? He is a lovely man and a great friend,” Stening said, laughing.

For full results and all information, please visit: www.ssorc.mhyc.com.au   

Di Pearson/MHYC media

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