Breaking her keel in last year's Sydney Hobart Yacht Race may have been "a blessing in disguise" for Bumblebee 5, owner John Kahlbetzer said today after his 62-footer won a hard-fought British Trophy Regatta sailed off Sydney Heads.
Kahlbetzer admitted the yacht had been a disappointment in her first two seasons, but he and her designer and skipper, Iain Murray, were elated after they clinched victory in the eighth and final race.
"We designed her a new keel, a long, slim appendage with a larger bulb and also moved lead from inside the hull to the bulb," Murray said. "She is significantly faster to windward and has also improved off the wind, making her a good all-rounder for the Hobart Race."
A quietly confident Murray said the new keel and other optimising changes had given the boat a "marginally better" IMS rating in her bid to be Overall IMS winner of the 57th CYCA Sydney Hobart Race.
Bumblebee 5 went into the final day of competition with a six point lead from Syd Fischer's Farr 50, Ragamuffin, and early pointscore leader, Howard de Torres' IMX-40, Nips N Tux.
However, Bumblebee 5 slipped to sixth on corrected time in the IMS division of race seven, sailed in a light and shifty sou'easter, while Ragamuffin, with Sean Kirkjian on the helm, sailed an excellent race to finish second behind fellow NSW Southern Cross Cup team, Sting, skippered by Terry Mullens.
In the final short windward/leeward race, Kahlbetzer, Murray and their crew pulled out all stops to take second place astern of Ashley Reed and Michael Spies in their Beneteau 40.7, Shipping Central, whereas Ragamuffin could do no better than an eighth.
The end result saw Bumblebee 5 finish with 376 points with a scoreboard that included two wins, two seconds and two third placings in the eight race series, two ahead of Ragamuffin on 374, followed by Nips N Tux on 386, Sting on 367 with last year's Telstra Sydney Hobart winner, Kevan Pearce's SAP Ausmaid placing fifth overall.
All the top IMS yachts in the British Trophy series are competing in the Sydney Hobart in 10 days time, with no more racing between now and the Boxing Day start.
The maxi yacht Brindabella, after a disappointing series, did not race today; nor did the newly launched Farr 52, Hollywood Boulevard, which has to complete a 200 nautical mile overnight cruise to qualify for the Sydney Hobart Race.
· The IRC division produced an exceptionally close final pointscore with just two points between Stephen Ainsworth's Swan 48 Loki (372 points), Warren Johns' Welbourne 50, Heaven Can Wait (371), the Sydney 38, Rush, steered by former Etchells world champion Cameron Miles (771) and veteran Victorian yachtsman Lou Abrahams with his Sydney 38, Another Challenge, on 370 points.
· The Farr 40 One Design NSW State Championship went to Emotional Hooligan, skippered by Pittwater yachtsman Marcus Blackmore from Buon Giorgo (Stephen Ellis) and Team Shockwave (Neville Crichton).
· The Mumm 30 Australian Champion went to the Queensland yacht Enigma, skippered by Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron member Stewart Lewis on a countback from South Australian Chris Tillett, skippering On the Edge. Lewis won four of the first six races but slumped today with two fifth placings whereas Tillett came storming home with three successive wins, one on Saturday and two today.
The Southern Cross Cup competition has one more race to sail, the 57th Sydney Hobart Race in which points are doubled.
After eight races, the New South Wales team of Ragamuffin, Sting and Loki leads with 1139 points from the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia team of Bumblebee 5, Shipping Central and Next (Craig Malouf) on 1115 points, followed by the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club team on 1095 and Victoria 1067 points.