Tasmanian vigneron and yachtsman Neil Snare has had a vintage year, producing fine Tasmanian Pinot Noirs from his Southern Midlands vineyard and today skippering his yacht Winstead Wines to a double handicap victory in the Maria Island ocean race.
Winstead Wines, an NSX38, won both the PHS and AMS handicap categories after finishing a demanding race just before midnight on Saturday evening, third in fleet to Cougar II and The Fork in the Road.
Gary Smith’s Bakewell-White 45, The Fork in the Road, was the bridesmaid of the 180 nautical races around the rugged south-east coast of Tasmania: second to finish, second in the PHS, AMS categories and also in IRC, won by line honours winner, Tony Lyall’s TP52 Cougar II.
Winstead Wines and Richard Grant’s Knoop 39, Magellan, virtually match-raced around the course, most of the time just a few hundred metres apart, with Winstead Wines breaking away rounding Tasman Island to finish just 30 minutes ahead,
Magellan took third place under PHS scoring while third place under AMS went to Peter Haros’ Wings Tree. The last boat to finish and a past handicap winner of the Maria Island Race, Malcolm Cooper’s Kaiulani also won a prize, third in the IRC category, but there were only three IRC rated boats in the race.
Overall winning skipper Neil Snare bought the NSX38 in Pittwater two years ago in rather rundown state, although a boat with potential. Naval architect Scott Jutson had upgraded the original Northshore 38 hull with a taller rig, new keel and rudder .
“We have worked hard in bringing her back to her true racing potential and assembled a good crew, a combination of talented dinghy sailors and a few ‘grey heads’ in the back of the boat,” Snare said after the Royal Yacht of Tasmania announced results late today.
“The boat enjoys a variety of weather conditions and this was an ideal work-out for the Launceston to Hobart Race in late December,” added the Derwent Sailing Squadron and owner of the Winstead vineyards at Bagdad, north of Hobart. His 2011 Winstead Lot 7 and Lot 16 Pinot Noirs have been described as a phenomenon’ by wine enthusiasts.
Like Cougar II, Winstead Wines was ‘off the radar’ since Saturday morning, with the satellite tracker showing her stuck close inshore off the northern tip of Maria Island, the rounding mark off Orford on the East Coat.
“It did cause some consternation with relatives who thought we must have run aground,” Snare added. Out of sight to race officers, the Winstead Wines was continuing to hold third place in the fleet on the 90 nautical return leg but was able to confirm her position by radio later in the day.
“We had fast run up the coast on Friday night as the south-westerly front came through, under a small kite,” Snare recalled. “It was an uncomfortable sea going around Tasman going north, then coming back there was little breeze until a light to moderate southerly started to fill in on Saturday afternoon.”
The last boats to finish, Spirit of Freya and Kaiulani finished early yesterday afternoon, just two minutes apart after more than 19 hours at sea.
– Peter Campbell