Beneteaus rally on Pittwater
Thirty-four Beneteau owners and their crews proved they aren’t fair weather sailors, defying a dramatic early downpour to front up for the annual Beneteau Cup Pittwater Regatta.
Following a brief rain squall midway through their race, competitors were rewarded when the northern beaches waterway turned on its best, a constant light ESE breeze and more sunshine than had been seen for a week as Sydney took a well earned break from the ‘big wet’.
Ron Jones’ First 44.7 Sledgehammer (RPAYC) knocked the rest of the fleet out of contention with a line honours and overall spinnaker division win. Club mate Gerry Hatton’s defending 40.7 Bushranger stuck like glue to the slightly larger Beneteau and cheekily was leading at one point, but couldn’t hang on over the 10 nautical mile course.
Jones has taken out the Sydney Beneteau Regatta previously but the Pittwater edition was proving elusive, until Saturday’s victory.
“It’s a great all-round boat, you can race competitively then put the coffee pots back on and have a lot of fun,” Jones said at the evening trophy presentation held at the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club.
The spinnaker division was first off the downwind start line to the east of Scotland Island, Fritz Mare’s First 53f5 Ocean Road and Mark Rutherford’s First 36.7 First Light getting a clean break before they and those trailing hit a brick wall of no wind.
Those 14 owners who went to the effort of cleaning hulls were thankful for the extra slip through the water when Pittwater resembled a quilt with patches of breeze and no breeze, competitors quickly going from hero to zero.
“Never rip your ticket up on Pittwater” is a famous local saying and it rang true on Saturday with rain over the Central Coast to the north, ominous clouds building to the south that saw the wind back around, a sudden easterly rain squall that had crews scrambling for wet weather gear and finally a glorious shortened course finish with barely a cloud in sight.
Hatton’s Bushranger, with offshore yachting identity and son-in-law Michael Fountain calling tactics, valiantly challenged for both line and handicap honours but had to be satisfied with runner up for both in the spinnaker division. John and Allen Stormon’s First 34.7 Sweet 16 finished third.
In the non spinnaker division Bob Southerton’s First 50 Bullrush, his eighth Beneteau, was the winning boat, comfortably taking line honours and narrowly the corrected time win with a margin of 39 seconds.
“It’s always a great day,” commented Southerton after collecting his prizes. “At one stage I had the breeze on my back and my wind indicator was telling me the wind was coming from the opposite direction.”
Olympic sailor Neville Whitty was the MC at the morning briefing and evening prize giving. His talents were also auctioned off to the highest bidder in a silent raffle for the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Frits Mare made a $500 donation to the worthy charity for the privilege of having one of the country’s most recognised yachtsmen aboard his boat, Ocean Road, which finished mid-fleet.
It wouldn’t be a Beneteau Regatta without some drama. Last year a competitor tangled with the start boat and this year Richard Fleck’s Scruffy crew had to fend off the protruding anchor on Anthony Bell’s impressive 57 The Count at a congested mark rounding at Soldiers Point near Coasters Retreat.
For the first time in the event’s 11 year history, Lagoon catamarans were invited to take part with a Lagoon 400 and a 380 adding variety to the spectacle.
Two Beneteaus, Barry Sale’s Champs Elysees and Paul Gulliksen’s First 285 Dirty Work, the smallest in the fleet, made the trip down from Gosford to take part. In the end Dirty Work’s crew decided it was too much like hard work and pulled the pin. It’s unconfirmed whether their retirement was related to the complainant who called out to organiser Shane Crookshanks that their boat had run dry of wine.
For five entries, including four Oceanis 37s, Saturday’s Cup marked their maiden race and for two, Seas the Day and The M Factor, it’s their only annual race outing.
Crookshanks, Beneteau’s Pittwater agent, was delighted with the turnout, particularly given the weather leading up to Saturday, commenting: “It was a great day on the water; our sponsors, owners and their crews out enjoying themselves, as usual!”