RPAYC boats feature on the podium of the MHYC 2023 Sydney Short Ocean Racing Championship (SSORC)

Close and exciting racing featured in the MHYC 2023 Sydney Short Ocean Racing Championship (SSORC). The two-day event produced favourable outcomes for the RPAYC competitors; Gerry Hatton’s Bushranger performing consistently to score 3rd place in ORC Division 1, and Peter Farrugia’s Bullwinkle pulling out all stops to beat some excellent competition to take out 1st Place ORC Division 2 and 2nd Place IRC Division 2.

It wasn’t all champagne sailing though. The day one passage race offered light breezes from the nor’east for the course to Lion Island and return. A start from Steele Point in the harbour and the lighter than expected winds had the tacticians on their game early as the fleets made their way around North Head. With the breeze softer than forecast and easing, together with a confused easterly swell and very wet conditions, rounding the mark at Lion Island for the run to the finish was welcomed by both fleets.

Photo credit: MHYC

Division 1 produced the close racing we have come to expect from this fleet. Despite some early lead changes, a confident run home saw Gordon Ketelbey’s Zen come away with the win for the day. Completing the placings for division 1 were Peter White’s TP52 First Light and the venerable DK46 of Bob Cox, Nine Dragons.

The fleet of Division 2 saw some great results for the diverse entries. The two handed entry of Rupert Henry and Greg O’Shea, Mistral, sailed a consistent course and delivered them the passage win for the day. Jack Stening and Colin Gunn brought their Sydney 36 Stormaway home second, with the well sailed Wailea of Neil Padden third.

Photo credit: MHYC

Day two of the regatta was certainly a contrast to day one; although the light breezes continued, they were sailed under blue sky and benign seas. All crews were focused on maximum performance for the scheduled windward/leeward courses of the day’s format.

The MHYC Race Committee delivered courses well suited to the day’s conditions; following a short delay under AP, Race 1 started in the harbour with a challenging work to the top mark 3½ NM offshore.

The relatively short 1NM windward/leeward laps produced some great racing in both divisions, and it was certainly evident with Division 1’s DK46 of Bob Cox, Nine Dragons, gathering top results for both IRC and ORC in their division’s two-lap Race 1. Rounding out Race 1 were Ketelbey’s Zen and Ian Box’s Toybox 2.

The Division 2 boats certainly found their feet in conditions well suited to them, the action in both races producing some of the closest and tightest racing seen in the SSORC to date. One MHYC skipper was quoted as saying “it was so exciting. The whole race was so exciting. You don’t often get that”.

A busy top mark set the order for a shortened course finish at the leeward mark of lap one, with Sebastian Hultin’s Mumm 36, Georgia Express claiming top IRC result, closely followed by Peter Farrugia in Bullwinkle in 2nd and Matt Wilkinson rapidly closing in on Foreign Affair for 3rd.

Importantly for the overall points in ORC, Georgia Express trumped Bullwinkle for the top spot, with Wailea bringing in 3rd for ORC Race 1.

For Race 2, the start was called for offshore, to deliver the most racing for crews in the continuing light breezes.

Following a prompt reset, the Race Committee had Division 1 on their way, a three-lapper with a finish inside, adjacent to Watsons Bay. Race 3 saw the DK’s of Bob Cox and Rob Aldis taking the battle all the way to the line; Aldis’ Khaleesi keeping Cox’s Nine Dragons on the transom for an IRC win of just 6 seconds. Ketelbey’s scratch placing gave him a 3rd in IRC.

The action for the day though was in Division 2, where the close points standing would see any changes jostle the finishers on the podium.

A short line and eight enthusiastic helmsman would see a dramatic start as the fleet burst from the line. With only a 1NM beat to the top mark and many tight crosses, it was Stening and Gunn’s Stormaway around the top mark first. With some lightning fast hoists and several boats opting for the quick gybe away, all looking for the smallest advantage of fresh breeze, the first bottom rounding of Division 2’s two lapper was no less exciting.

Photo credit - Andrea Francolini

The lead changed several times and the final run from the top mark to the finish saw the top markers getting on a few waves for a surf on the following swell. With a slight late build in the breeze, it was a great way to finish the series.

On the drag race to the line, Bullwinkle took scratch from Matt Wilkinson’s Foreign Affair and Stormaway, delivering Bullwinkle the points for an ORC 1st and IRC 2nd

On a day when boat speed was key, ORC winning skipper Peter Farrugia said afterward, “It was really a day for crew work to bring the best from the boat. I noticed a few new haircuts and I think a couple had been to a gym, but I really think the new crew shirts made us so slick”

When asked about the winning formula, Bullwinkle tactician Tim Merrick said “Sit down and shut up Adam”.