The Healer last to first in the Brisbane to Keppel race, Audere wins ORCi

Mark Hipgrave’s Beneteau First 36.7 called The Healer finished the Club Marine Brisbane to Keppel Tropical Yacht Race last in the fleet, at 5.30am this morning, Sunday August 3, 2014. On handicap it’s a very different story, the small Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron crew outclassing the entire PHS fleet.

“Last year we finished last in the fleet and on handicap,” said Hipgrave. “Although we received a terrific welcome the presentation was over by a day and everyone had gone home. We wanted to come back and have another go.”

The Healer scored the best of the weather when southerly winds whipped up to 30 knots at the top of Fraser Island, pushing the 18 year-old Beneteau down waves at an impressive 11 knots.

“It was a Goldilocks race for us; not too strong, not too light…conditions just right for this boat,” said the PHS overall winning skipper at Keppel Bay Marina today. He made special mention of the interstate owners who competed in the Keppel Race on their way north to Airlie Beach and Hamilton Island. “It’s great for the Brissy boats to have the opportunity to race against some of the best Sydney boats; they add zest to the event.”

The average age of The Healer’s three Brisbane and one Melbourne based crew is 61. Victor Kibby and Hipgrave’s friendship spans four decades, starting off with a Hobart race in the early 1970s. John Whittington, a seven-year crewmember, was the Providore for the 348 nautical mile race from Moreton Bay to Keppel Bay. The menu was extensive; chick pea and pumpkin yellow Thai curry, Peking braised lamb and aromatic Singapore chicken curry with egg and bacon pies in between meals.

“This boat is powered by food,” pronounced the other John on the boat, John Fyfe.

“The other good thing about this crew is that everyone has their coffee the same way, black and no sugar,” Kibby chimed in.

Charged up by their handicap win The Healer is heading to Airlie Beach Race Week next to see if they can improve on last year’s third place.

“An 18 year-old boat took out the PHS top prize and a 20 year-old J boat won on IRC, said Principal Race Officer Denis Thompson. “The smaller boats enjoyed the best of the breeze and were able to make up the handicap deficit on the big boats. It’s great the older boats are competitive against the latest and greatest.”

Michael Pritchard’s three-year old Hobart based Beneteau First 45 called Audere is the exception to the veterans’ reign. Audere is his first boat and winning ORCi overall and finishing runner-up to Chris Morgan’s Ragtime on the IRC overall ladder by 10 minutes over a 64 hour race was a surprise, he admitted this morning.

A loose rudder bearing during their first night at sea cost Audere’s crew half an hour in precious race time to fix. The Beneteau from the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania was also carrying a stack of extra kilos from a BBQ and rigid inflatable dinghy to kids’ iPads and clothes. After contesting Audi Hamilton Island Race Week this month Pritchard is taking his family cruising and a lot of the gear came up on the boat. “We might have won IRC with a bit of weight out…” the skipper speculated.

It’s been an eventful first year of ownership for the orthopaedic surgeon. In the Launceston to Hobart race last December Pritchard broke his arm during a steering cable failure off Tasman Island. “A couple of the crew straightened my arm out and got plaster on it. Being a surgeon I knew what needed to happen.” That stomach-churning moment preceded five months off work and an unwelcome break from sailing. “It’s nice to get back on the horse,” Pritchard said today.

Results have shuffled slightly this morning following a protest by the race committee against Steven Proud’s Swish for sailing an incorrect course. After finishing Proud realised they had missed a mark and notified the race committee. “We actually disadvantaged ourselves by sailing an extra three quarters of a mile but didn’t feel comfortable that we hadn’t complied with the sailing instructions so we submitted a declaration.” The protest committee gave Swish a one place penalty, a decision Proud was satisfied with. 

Crews are relaxing at Keppel Bay Marina enjoying lunch and live music while staff and officials prepare for this afternoon’s 2pm trophy presentation, the final act of RQYS’ eighth successful Club Marine Brisbane to Keppel Tropical Yacht Race that drew a quality record-equalling fleet of 35.


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