Audi Winter Series opener - Against the elements

A big southerly tested all in the first race of the Audi Winter Series
The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s Audi Winter Series is held on Sydney Harbour each winter. The chill factor and a strong southerly wind that peaked at 20 knots set the pace for a fast race, as 121 starters lined up for the first pointscore race of the series.

A changing tide, a broken mast and a broken rudder added to the wake-up call delivered to participants who were rugged up against the elements that delivered the first of real winter conditions this year.

Sports Bar, the Jeanneau 36i owned by Neville and Jo Blair, lost her rig in the stiff southerly, which, according to Principal Race Officer, Denis Thompson, averaged between 12-15 knots. In a second incident, Rod Gibbs’ Flying Tiger Shere Khan lost her rudder, momentarily spearing out of control until her startled crew realised what had happened.

Despite the two breakages and three other retirements, Thompson said: 'It was a nice way to open the season. Most of the fleet probably hasn’t sailed in a big breeze for a while, so it probably caught a few off guard even though the southerly was predicted.'

The Sydney 38 Division was first away at 11.25am, with the remaining 11 divisions starting from 11.30am, depending on each boat’s handicap.

Sarah Goddard-Jones was thrilled to take out Division B with her Lyons 49, Wine-Dark Sea. 'It was brilliant sailing – much more exciting than the light conditions we’ve raced in recently. We sailed really well on the reaches and stuck up a small kite for the runs; the last run was the most exciting,' she said.

Tight competition as always in the Audi Winter Series. Credit David Brogan, www.sailpix.com.au

'The boat is a bit of a heavyweight, so we prefer the bigger winds,' said Goddard-Jones, who explained their Series chances were scuppered last season when a missing Cardinal mark found the boat hitting Sow and Pigs reef in Race 4, leaving them on the bench for the rest of the season.

'Today was perfect for us – bring it on – none of this under 10 knots stuff,' she quipped after beating Rob Hoile’sKaliber and Chris Bran’s Brannewfor the top spot.

In Division F, Rob Hunt sailed his Adams Offshore 350 Attitude to a win from Mortgage Choice Rumba (Robert Carr) and Greg Mason and Barb Maunsell’s always well-sailed Sinewave.

'The crew did a fantastic job,' an elated Hunt declared. 'It’s pretty rare, but the boat just loves big breeze,' he said.

Division G winners, Bryan Collis and Stephen Wall, were thrilled to open the Audi Winter Series with a win when their modified Etchells lived up to her name ‘Wallop’. 'We were very surprised,' Collis confessed. 'Because of the wind, the boat was under water most of the time, but it just flew around the course,' he said.

'It was perfect – even without a kite on – it was a bit woolly out there,' said Collis, who added: 'We had a great race with Velocity (Brian Carrick’s Beneteau 31.7, which finished second), but we pulled away at Steele Point the second time around.'

Richard Holstein’s Next came up trumps in the Sydney 38’s, followed by Sally Warneford and Larry Jamieson’s Thirlmere, with Geoff Bonus and Richard Williams’ Calibre in third.

Richard Holstein's Next came up trumps in the Sydney 38's

Other winners today were: Southern Excellence (Andrew Wenham) Division A1; Occasional Coarse Language 2 (Warwick Sherman) Division A2; Into the Mystic (Arthur Psaltis) Division C; M (Steve Hatch) Division D; Skeeter (SandorTornai) Division D; The Holy Gale (Jason Klaas) Division H; Baltic Lady (Niel Burling) Division J and L’Eau Co. (Grant Pollack) Division K.

The 10-race Audi Winter Series is conducted by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia. Each week, the top three finishers in each division are put into a hat. The lucky winner - this week it was Division D second placegetter, Robert Skol (Scarlett O’Hara) - enjoys an Audi Drive Weekend. Winners are offered an Audi of his/her choice to drive for a weekend.

Jason Klaas' The Holy Gale won Division H

Full results here