Audi Winter Series 2011 drama on Sydney Harbour

Vanessa Dudley helmed Thirlmere to a win in the Sydney 38 Division - Audi Winter Series Race 2011
Audi Winter Series has become Australia’s largest ongoing series, with fleets averaging 140 plus boats last year. Every Sunday morning crews can head onto the water in one of the 10 proposed divisions.

For those lucky or unlucky enough to have wangled their way out of the family camping trip this long weekend, the Audi Winter Series brought a decent dose of winter and the most puff seen in six weeks of the pointscore series.

'It was a bit exciting out there with the race committee’s radios and telephones all going berserk simultaneously,' said principal race officer Robyn Morton this afternoon.

Given Sydney’s atrocious conditions and the fact it’s a holiday weekend, numbers were respectable at a smidge over the 100 mark. Said ill-fated camping trips and the official opening of a promising ski season possibly lured some away, leaving a fleet of 103 starters and riders to line up on a damp Sydney Harbour.

'If you are going to be wet and miserable, you may as well be skiing,' reckons Morton who took advantage of her dry spot aboard Offshore as the day’s dramas unfolded.

Patrice Six assists You're Hired off the rocks at Steel Point - Audi Winter Series Race 2011

With the north cardinal mark inexplicably missing in action, three entrants hit the Sow and Pigs reef and Geoff Morgan’s Division A1 You’re Hired came to a sudden halt on the bricks at Steele Point off Nielsen Park. The CYCA’s red duck provided assistance and Tony Kirby’s Patrice Six stood by while the crew of the modified Davidson 55 refloated the boat and headed for home under their own steam without scoring a result.

Even with today’s DNF, You’re Hired is still the division A1 pointscore leader but has Bob Steel’s Quest and Garry Linacre and David Fuller’s Corby 49 Vamp on equal points and breathing down its neck.

Those brave souls who shrugged off today’s winter blast might have been soaked through but they were happy to get around the track and back to the warm clubhouse in reasonable time, in contrast to the drifters and resulting shortened courses of previous weeks. The breeze started out at 14 knots out of the south and by mid afternoon was gusting up to 25 knots from the SSE with crews firing up for their first serious work out of the season.

Now past the half way mark in the 10 race series, the pointscore is starting to simmer with five points the most that separates first and second amongst the 12 divisions racing.

Division A1 is all tied up and Division F is also crowded at the top with Kevin O’Shea’s S & S Stormy Petrel narrowly leading on equal points with seasoned Audi Winter Series campaigner George Waldhausen and Superfine.

Today’s race 6 division F winner was Neville and Jo Blair’s Jeanneau 36i Sports Bar. 'It was good to have a stiff breeze for a change,' commented Neville post-win. One rain squall mid-race reduced the visibility to pea soup and saturated crews, but with 'enough work to keep everyone busy and reasonably warm, no one minded too much,' added Blair.

Its marital bliss for the Blairs on Sportsbar - Audi Winter Series Race 2011

While some couples deliberately opt to race on separate boats, the Blairs have worked out a formula for marital bliss. 'Jo’s small and light so she’s on the foredeck....that way she doesn’t have to listen to me,' Blair wisecracked.

Sally Warneford’s Sydney 38 Thirlmere went from second last in last week’s race 5 to first across the line today. Warneford wasn’t on board for the triumph, leaving the driving in the capable hands of well known offshore and champion Laser sailor Vanessa Dudley who was ably backed up by a top crew including Hobart veterans Larry Jamieson (mainsheet) and Phil Eadie (navigator).

'There was lots of pressure up and down but it was gusty so you had to look for the breeze lanes and keep a close eye on the others,' said Dudley. 'We got the jump from the start and led all the way but it was close, particularly with Calibre.'

Other winners today were Vamp (Garry Linacre & David Fuller) division A1; Equinox II (Anthony Dunn) division A2; Nocturne (Gerard Kesby) division B; Holy Cow (John and Kim Clinton) division C; Soundtrack (John Amos) division D; Youngstar (Greg Cameron) division E; Gondwana (Peter Edwards) division G; Clewless ? (Lachlan Irwin) division H; Viva (Ken Hudson) division J; MRX (J Short and M Bastick) division K.

As a divisional winner, Commodore Garry Linacre (Vamp) was chosen to be the lucky driver of the Audi A5 Sportback 2.0T multitronic for the week.

Sydney 38 results
Sydney 38 pointscore
Race six results
Series pointscore

CYCA website