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29 November 2004, 09:24 am
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Savills Regatta

Prime time television show producer David MASON over the weekend has enjoyed some pleasing views of some of his likely competitors in the 60th anniversary Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race from his ocean racing yacht, appropriately named Prime Time.

Mason has skippered Prime Time, a Beneteau 44.7, with world champion yachtsman Neville WITTEY on the helm, to an overall victory in the Savills Short Ocean Racing Championship.

Conducted as always by Middle Harbour Yacht Club, the SORC attracted some 100 competitors from NSW, Victoria and South Australia, including 28 in the IRC class, of which 11 boats are in the Hobart Race fleet of 126.

Prime Time has been mentioned as a strong contender for an IRC Overall win in the 628 nautical mile ocean classic, which starts four weeks from today, but this was her most impressive racing result.

Prime Time sailed consistently well in the generally light conditions that prevailed over the weekend, always up among the main group of boats chasing the super maxi Konica Minolta from New Zealand and the canting keel 60-footer Wild Joe; and most times sailing right to, or better than, her favourable IRC rating.

Her corrected time scorecard of 1-4-2-1 was by far the best of the fleet, giving the Bruce Farr-designed, French-built production yacht a final low score of 8 points, well clear of the nearest opposition.

Wild Joe, formerly the 2003 Admiral's Cup champion Wild Oats, is now owned by Sydney yachtsman Stephen DAVID who has given the state-of-the-art, Reichel/Pugh designed 60-footer a major refit for the Rolex Sydney Hobart.

With America's Cup skipper and international designer Iain MURRAY at the helm, she too notched up two wins on corrected time, but a 9th in race one and fourth in race four saw her finish with 15 points in second place overall.

Third place went to Hussy, John Bacon's remarkably fast Sydney 39 CR, which finished on 16 points from placings of 4-3-6-3.

Prime Time and Wild Joe must now rank strong prospects for IRC overall honours in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race, but two other boats that certainly impressed on the Savills SORC are New Zealander Stewart Thwaites' super maxi Konica Minolta and the lesser known Austmark, a Lyons 48 skippered by Gunther Schmidt-Lindner.

As expected, Konica Minolta took line honours in all four races, despite unsuitable light morning breezes yesterday and again today, but her starts and sail handling by the crew, largely new to the boat, impressed as the regatta progressed.

After a dismal 27th on corrected time in race one, the Brett Bakewell-White designed 98-footer notched up three second placings on corrected time, powering to windward when the breeze lifted to 10 knots and showing impressive downwind speed under her huge asymmetric spinnakers tacked off her newly acquired bowsprit.

Designer Bakewell-White and owner/skipper Thwaites were clearly happier today than after the first day of what was the big boat's first regatta in Sydney waters.

Next up for her is the Canon Big Boat Challenge on Friday, December 10 ('if we are invited' - a reference to the clash of camera and other brands) followed by the prestigious Rolex Trophy for IRC rated boats from December 16-19. They will be invited!

In both events, her opposition will be much more formidable for line honours with Grant Wharington's Skandia due in Sydney shortly and the new Nicorette due for launching this coming week.

In today's final races of the Savills SORC, Wild Joe won race three from Konica Minolta and Prime Time, and Prime Time took out race four from Konica Minolta and Hussy.

Peter Campbell (As Amended By ISAF News Editor)
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