The Edward Island Race, the second event in the Hamilton Island Hahn Premium Race Week, has provided New Zealand super maxi Alfa Romeo her second line honours win when skipper Neville CRICHTON completely outsailed the rest of the fleet in the IRC division yesterday.
The light winds - 0 to 9 knots and two 'parking lots' for the newly launched super maxi - favoured the small grand prix boats and Alfa Romeo
could not repeat her magical maiden race of the previous day when she won line and IRC handicap honours and set a course record.
However, it gave the boat an excellent workout in light winds and the crew seven hours of opportunity to try sail combinations and work on the highly sophisticated technology of the canting keel, steering and hydraulic winch systems as they sailed through the majestic Whitsundays Islands of far North Queensland.
sailed the course, shortened from 59 nautical miles to 56 miles because of the light winds, in 7 hours 03 minutes and 29 seconds, finishing just on 29 minutes ahead of nearest rival, Bob OATLEY'S 20.1metre Wild Oats
. Third to finish among a long spread fleet was Steven DAVID'S Wild Joe
, a further 10 minutes astern.
On corrected time, with seven boats finished, provisional first place in the IRC division went the newly launched Loki
, Stephen AINSWORTH's 66-footer. Like Alfa Romeo
a Reichel/Pugh design but without a canting keel, Loki
was placed first ahead of Wild Joe
(Steven DAVID) and Vanguard
, Richard CAWSE'S Lyons/Cawse designed 66-footer, but at that stage nearly 20 boats still had to finish in the IRC division.
'It was a good sail in light winds and gave us plenty of time to test sail combinations and the boat's systems, but we were 'parked' twice for at least 15 minutes each time,'
sailing master/tactician Michael COXON said after the long race. 'About halfway to Coppersmith Rock we stopped and
Wild Oats almost came alongside; we pulled away again but again ran out of breeze near Pentecost Island.'
COXON said the long race had been 'a good day's sailing in light winds.we have the rig tuned.we are very happy with the rig and sails,' a view supported by experienced yachting journalists who watched the big, slender boat power away through the Dent Passage and on the wind towards Coppersmith. The North 3DL sails looked perfect.
The light south-easterly breeze ranged from 0 knots at the time of scheduled start to 9 knots at the best, and many boats were not expected to finish until late in the evening, despite the shortened course.
Of the 56 nautical miles course, only a quarter of the distance (on the way to Coppersmith Rock) was on the wind. 'The rest was VMG running and main and jib reaching,'
With the Dent Passage glass-like, except for the fast flooding adverse tide, as the time neared for the 0800 scheduled start of the 59 nautical mile Edward Island long race, Principal Race Offshore John GRAHAM, hoisted the postponement flag.
Forty-five minutes later, as a light sou' easterly filled in, he asked Middle Harbour Yacht Club Commodore to sail his boat, Toy Box
, on a trial run north under spinnaker against the tide. After some stops and starts in the 3 knot tide and little wind, Toy Box's
performance convinced the PRO that the fleet could sail clear of the Dent Island Passage in reasonable time, with the race finally starting at 0935 in 6 knots of breeze.
Neville CRICHTON, at the helm of Alfa Romeo, made a perfectly judged start, gybing on to port at the gun, with the crew immediately dropping the jib and hoisting the Code 3 headsail for the downwind leg through the Dent Island Passage. On the one nautical mile leg to the first mark at the northern end of the Passage, the big silver super maxi opened up a lead of two minutes over Bob OATLEY'S Wild Oats
, followed just over two minutes later by the Irish entry, Gerald O'ROURKE'S Cookson 50, Chieftain
. Close astern came Ginger, Loki, Wild Joe and Vanguard
Several boats went aground as they sailed in close to Dent Island, including Cougar, Inner Circle
while the Victorian boat Shogun
was squeezed on to the second rounding mark off Dent Island and forced to carry out a 720 degree penalty turn, losing many minutes in the light breeze.
By then, Alfa Romeo
was almost out of sight, powering to windward in then 8 knot south-easterly breeze towards Coppersmith Rock, the first of several natural island/rock rounding marks on this picturesque course.
Today (Monday) is a lay day, with the 205-boat fleet set to sail a short offshore race on tomorrow (Tuesday 23 August 2005), with the seven race series ending on Saturday 27 August.