"Best yet" was the general consensus from the nine day long International 5.5 Metre Australian 'Festival of Fives'. For the second year these amazing boats graced, raced and turned heads on Pittwater.
The 5 event Festival started on Saturday 23rd February with a pursuit handicap race- The Friends of David Booth Regatta at RPAYC. Forty one yachts lined up for the race from Bayview to around West Head Buoy and back to finish at Taylor's Point. The dying southerly wind did not really suit the three 5.5m that lined up to start 12 minutes after the first boat departed. It was great to see Mark Griffith's Arunga X rejoin the 5.5m fleet for the first time in many years. Overall the leading Five managed to hold its position and was not overtaken by later starters but could not reel in the winning Young 88 and some of the other boats that started ahead. Martin and Anna Cross's Antares got the better of Bob Stoddard's Skagerak in the race within the race that mattered to finish 7th overall. Skagerak was 9th and Arunga X 18th.
The Australian Championships were held from Sunday 24th to Tuesday 26th with 9 boats competing. The event was won comfortably by the newest boat in Australian fleet a Wilke Modern, John Bacon's Ku-Ring-Gai. Martin and Anna Cross's Antares took out the Evolution Championships and Baragoola the Classic. Rob Hart's beautifully varnished Marotte won the handicap prize. The full report of the event is reported here: https://www.5.5class.org/single-post/2019/02/27/Epic-racing-at-the-Int55-Metre-Australian-Championship-at-Royal-Prince-Alfred-Yacht-Club
Wednesday 27th February was the chance to join 60 other boats for the Woody Point Yacht Club Twilight. A weekly non-spinnaker pursuit twilight race held in the summer months. All the 4 Fives started together at 1759hrs in a light southerly wind on the figure of eight course for the fun event for the Alfreds Pittwater Gold Cup. Scotty O'Conner's Kings Cross was first out the blocks but was run down and overtaken by Antares. However John Bacon's Ku-Ring-Gai played a blinder and soaked down underneath the rest of the fleet then hardened up and got around the port rounding Stokes Point buoy just ahead of about 20 boats that had all arrived at the gybe mark at the same time. Avoiding the carnage at the mark Ku-Ring-Gai extended away down the next leg and then on a long beat. She finished right amongst the leading boats being admired from many of the boats in other classes but most importantly won the Alfreds Pittwater Gold Cup. Kings Cross finished second with Skagerak third. The fleet retired to a local Pizzeria for the prize giving.
The last day of February saw the resurrection of an old RPAYC Associates (womens) Trophy. The fleet was greeted by a sunny, classic Pittwater evening with the wind blowing at about 14kts from the North East. Seven 5.5 Metres all with ladies helms turned up for the event. The first beat was an epic drag race with all the boats very close. However, at the first mark Lauren Crossman sailing Bob Stoddard's Skagerak led around but was then chased down and overtaken down the run by Chris Hancock's Rhapsody helmed by Annie Taylor, closely followed by Baragoola helmed by Alex Murray (with the well known Iain Murray crewing). Although a very close race continued the finishing order was Rhapsody, Skagerak and Baragoola with Lyndall Bacon in Ku-Ring-Gai in 4th.
Most of the fleet took a well earned rest for one day before Antares and Skagerak joined the Royal Motor Yacht Club Classic Yacht Regatta on Saturday and Sunday the 2nd and 3rd March. Unfortunately following their success last year, winning both the spinnaker and non-spinnaker divisions, the handicaps they received this year were high. Accordingly despite both boats sailing well and winning both races in the spinnaker and non-spinnaker divisions by a considerable margin the handicap resulted in Skagerak finishing 3rd overall in the spinnaker division and Antares finishing 4th overall in the non-spinnaker division. However it was still very enjoyable and was a 'classic' end to an epic week.
The active Australian fleet is growing and growing and some members are looking forward flying north for the winter to compete in Europe in 2019 and the rest are eagerly awaiting the next summer and 2020 Gold Cup and World Championships in on the Palm Beach Circle in early January.