Two clubs will challenge Sydney's Royal Prince Edward Yacht Club for the historic Sayonara Cup in January 2004, one hundred years after the Cup was donated by Victorian, Alfred GOLLIN.
Originally called the Interstate Yacht Race Cup, the contest arose when the Royal Yacht Club of Victoria challenged the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron and the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club to race their best representative against Alfred GOLLIN'S 'Sayonara' off Sydney heads in 1904. When 'Sayonara' defeated the Sydney representative 'Bona', Mr Gollin presented the Cup as a perpetual challenge trophy for contests between the Sydney clubs and the Royal Yacht Club of Victoria.
Based on a similar concept to the Americas Cup, the challenger had to sail to the challenge venue on its own bottom. In 1950 the deed of gift was amended to permit a challenge from the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania and to specify the 8 metre class yachts as challengers, as there were a number of these yachts in Australia at the time.
The Dragon Class yacht was selected in 1983 because of its size, classic lines and its suitability for match racing. However, in 1990 it became apparent that interest was starting to wane due to the cost of transporting the yachts around Australia. The Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania instigated another change to the Deed of Gift permitting yachts to be chartered in the defending state.
In 1996 Neville WITTEY representing The Royal Prince Edward Yacht Club and John VICKERY representing the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron both challenged the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania for the Sayonara Cup on the River Derwent in chartered Dragons. Neville WITTEY on 'Freycinet' won the elimination series and the right to challenge David RAINEY on 'Kirribilli II'. At the end of the first day the score was RYCT 2, RPEYC 0. On the second day, in the manoeuvring before the start, the tiller on 'Freycinet' snapped off just outside the metal head that joins the tiller to the rudder stock. Neville, with approximately eighteen inches of tiller, awkwardly steered the yacht to the finish line first. A tiller was quickly removed from another Dragon and installed before the next race. Neville went on to win the next three races and therefore the Cup. In 1997 the RPEYC, represented by Neville WITTEY, successfully defended a challenge from the RYCT.
The helmsman for the RPEYC defence in 2004 will be Sean KIRKJIAN, who successfully defended for the club in 2000 against a strong challenge from the RYCT.
A match racing series will be held on January 6 - 7 on Sydney Harbour to determine the challenger, with the challenge series following on January 7 - 8. The challenge will be a best of seven match series.
Challengers are the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania, skippered by Nick ROGERS, Dragon World Champion and past winner of the Sayonara Cup and the Royal Brighton Yacht Club skippered by Brian SULLIVAN.
Results of the Sayonara Cup will be posted on the RPEYC website at the address below.
The Sayonara Cup is the first event of Sydney's Festival of Dragon Sailing, to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the classic Dragon racing yacht.