Cabbage Tree Island Yacht Race - Hickman makes it three in a row

Wild Rose has made it three wins from three races.
David Brogan, www.sailpix.com.au

Roger Hickman has sailed his 28 year-old Wild Rose to three consecutive wins in the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s annual Blue Water Pointscore after winning the 180 nautical mile Cabbage Tree Island Yacht Race this weekend, rating him a favourite for the upcoming Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.

The reality of the upcoming Hobart race bit, as yachties and their boats were sorely tested, ending with five retiring because of boat damage, but Hickman’s well prepared boat and crew came into their own, nudging out line honours winner, Celestial, the Rogers 46 owned by Sam Haynes, by a snip under two minutes.

Wild Rose beat third placegetter, Midnight Rambler, Ed Psaltis, Bob Thomas and Michael Bencsik’s s Ker 40, by nearly seven minutes. Tony Kirby’s brand new Ker 46, Patrice finished fourth in its debut race.

A fleet of 30 contested the difficult race, which ended in high hopes for some and back to the drawing board for others.

'A baptism of fire,' was how Roger Hickman described the race. Patience, skill, boats and their gear were tested to the limit. Five retired with damage after taking a battering in excessive winds and seas. In between times, crews were struck by the contrast of conditions thrown at them when lulls and parking lots replaced a harsh sea and winds that ran the gamut of the compass.

Hickman was late to the start because he and the crew were preparing the boat for re-measurement and was on the wrong side of the line when the race was about to start. Flagged OCS by Principal Race Officer, Denis Thompson, it was not the most auspicious start.

Hickman described the race: 'We were off and running in 23 knots with bursts of 27 and 28 knots. One or two miles off the Heads, some boats tacked back in. The agony of ocean racing – what to do – there was conflicting weather information. Tide affects the little boats too, so we made our decision and went out and further out, away from the coast.

'It was blowing from nor’north-east at 25-26 knots and out of the blue the wind went quiet. East of Manly, we heard the airport weather and it said a 28 knot south-west and we thought ‘what the…’. So we were watching the clouds, and saw a big roller and were prepared when the wind swung to the south and south/west at 20 knots and freshening. We saw 30 on the dial and paused to let it settle.'

Hickman said most of the fleet was sailing close to the coast so did not experience all that they did offshore, until the last 50 nautical miles. He said along with the DK 46, Minerva, skippered by William Cox, they sailed towards the Island in a moderate to heavy seaway with green water coming over the bow and white water at the back.

Wild Rose’s crew set a kite, then the wind swung to the north-west and then nor’ north-east. At 2.00am off Nobbys Beach, the wind went back to the north-west at 8-12 knots and by the time they reached Cabbage Tree, they saw Celestial, Victoire (Darryl Hodgkinson’s Cookson 50) and Patrice.

'We crossed Minerva, Balance (a Beneteau 45) and St Jude (a Sydney 47) and realised we were in good shape – and then we got totally becalmed. Canute (a King 40) was two miles behind us, and they sailed through us.'

The way back to the finish was not any easier, with a light nor’ easter increasing to 18 knots, 'Then all hell broke loose when we were hit by a thunder storm and hail; Duende (the Judel Vrolijk 52) was there with us,' Hickman said. Once through that, they faced constantly changing winds which ended with a 25-37 knot south-easterly that gusted to 30 knots as they sailed to the finish.

'It was a great Hobart workout for everyone,' conceded Hickman, who said his crew, and especially those he had sailed with long term over the years; Peter Inchbold, Andrew Scott, David Morris and his best mate Phil Endersbee, made all the difference.

'The old girl was smoking – I looked at Peter Inchbold and said: ‘How lucky are we?’ It was a tough, frustrating, get knocked down and get up again repeatedly sort of race,' Hickman said.

Back at the CYCA, Hickman was told by a Celestial crew member that Wild Rose had beaten them by won by one minute and 56 seconds.

Celestial played bridesmaid in the closest of finishes.
Andrea Francolini

'Celestial deserved to win – Sam Haynes and the guys are great competitors who put in the hard yards,' said Hickman, who can’t wait for the Rolex Sydney Hobart. 'I still get excited by that race,' he said.

Record holder Wild Oats XI, did not race, Mark Richards and crew electing to undertake crew training instead. Her record of 12 hours 15 minutes 55 seconds set last year, was left undisturbed as the fleet battled the elements.

Celestial was first boat home at 17:26:41 on Saturday, with Victoire following nearly four minutes later and Patrice five minutes later, causing the new yacht to be quickly dubbed the ‘TK Express’.

Tony Kirby’s brand new Ker 46 Patrice on her maiden race
Crosbie Lorimer
Kirby was wearing a big smile back at the CYCA. Rushing to put the finishing touches on Patrice on Friday, he was at the top of the pack heading to and rounding Cabbage Tree Island yesterday in company with Victoire and Celestial. You could not ask for more from your first race.

The rest of the fleet trickled in slowly, the last handful crossing the line in the early hours of this morning.

Rod Jones’ Audi Sunshine Coast was first to retire, Jones commenting: 'We had some hardware failures, including winch and clutch problems among a couple of others'. Lessons learned, they will repair 'we’re looking forward to a competitive summer,' he finished.

Michael Martin’s Frantic was next after also sustaining gear failure in the first hour of yesterday morning. Ian Creak’s Pennant Hills Ford was the next casualty, after her owner reported they had blown out a spinnaker.

Changing down sails in a 30 knot north-easterly, Creak and crew were unexpectedly hit by a 40 knot southerly, with no time to pull down the kite, which was shredded. Then their world went quiet as the wind blew itself out to nothing. This was to be the pattern for most of the race.

On Saturday morning, Andrew Wenham reported keel damage to Southern Excellence II, bringing an end to his race. At 8.55am, Paul Jones’ Canberra entry, Namadgi, reported she was retiring off The Entrance, north of Gosford, while still headed north to the Island. She had been caught too long in an airless pocket and looked likely to finish the race early next week. In the afternoon, Paul Clitheroe pulled Balance because of steering issues.

Principal Race Officer Denis Thompson reported from the start line off Point Piper on Friday evening: 'The yachts started in a 25-27 knot north-easterly wind. It was really blowing,' he said. 'It was a clear start, but a few held back to play it safe.'

Thompson said all mains were reefed (except Wild Rose which had been testing a re-raked mast) and smaller headsails in place in the big conditions. 'Two hours into the race, though, the wind went round to the west and south-west at around 20 knots, which wasn’t predicted.'

On Saturday morning just after 9.00am, Thompson and his crew were sitting in 1 knot of breeze, waiting for the predicted 15-25 knot south-easterly to fill in.

Blue Water Pointscore Series Hosted By CYCA Race 4   (8/11/2013)  Updated:  10/11/2013  6:14:17 AM
IRC results Start : Div1 19:00 Div2 19:00
PlaceSail NoBoat NameSkipperDiv NoFin TimElapsdAHCCor'd TScoreVis
14343WILD ROSERoger Hickman201:22:16:2701:03:16:271.03901:04:20:161.0 
2421CELESTIALSam Haynes101:17:26:4122:26:411.26401:04:22:122.0 
38338MIDNIGHT RAMBLEREd Psaltis/ Bencsik/101:18:55:4023:55:401.18901:04:27:003.0 
4360PATRICETony Kirby101:17:36:1222:36:121.28001:04:55:56 Yes
5AUS5299VICTOIREDarryl Hodgkinson101:17:30:3922:30:391.35201:06:26:054.0 
6A140ARIELRon Forster Phil Dam201:23:37:3901:04:37:391.08301:07:00:135.0 
78339LUNA SEAJames Cameron202:01:34:5601:06:34:561.01601:07:04:186.0 
86837MINERVAEdward Cox201:21:50:2501:02:50:251.16001:07:08:05 Yes
96686ST JUDENoel Cornish201:21:40:1401:02:40:141.17501:07:20:16 Yes
1010007PRETTY FLY IIIColin Woods101:18:19:5123:19:511.35201:07:32:36 Yes
1133345BLACK SHEEPDerek & Martin Shepp201:23:18:4001:04:18:401.11801:07:39:077.0 
12A169NAUTICAL CIRCLEIan Prentice202:00:07:0101:05:07:011.09901:07:59:588.0 
136841PAPILLONPhil Molony202:00:30:5901:05:30:591.09201:08:13:559.0 
146689COPERNICUSGreg Zyner202:01:30:3301:06:30:331.06601:08:31:2210.0 
15N40ONE FOR THE ROADKym Butler202:00:32:5301:05:32:531.10301:08:35:29 Yes
16MH60TSA MANAGEMENTTony Levett202:00:59:2301:05:59:231.10001:08:59:19 Yes
17A147TICKET OF LEAVEMatthew Prentice202:03:37:0201:08:37:021.06101:10:36:25 Yes
188824CHANCELLOREdward Tooher202:05:43:5201:10:43:521.10901:14:31:0011.0 
DNC226SWISHSteven Proud1  1.239 19.0 
DNC1236LOCAL HEROPeter Mosely2  1.049 19.0 
DNC5356ILLUSIONTravis Read2  0.988 19.0 
DNC10001WILD OATS XIMark Richards1  1.987  Yes
DNC11033KERISMAGrant Dawson/ Brent2  1.151 19.0 
DNC52002QUESTBob Steel1  1.351 19.0 
DNCMH85CANUTEMitchell Miller2  1.121  Yes
RET6755PENNANT HILLS FORDJim Lelliott2  1.076  Yes
RET7771BALANCEPaul Clitheroe2  1.131 16.0 
RETA5AUDI SUNSHINE COASTRodney Jones1  1.282 16.0 
RETAUS03SOUTHERNEXCELLENCEIIDavid Burt1  1.591 16.0 
RETGBR5211LFRANTICMichael Martin1  1.347 16.0