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Kiwis scoop South Pacific Cup

Friday, November 19, 2010

South Pacific CupIt took only a split second for Jim Farmer (Georgia), Rob Bassett and Brett Russell (Wired) to reply with a resounding YES, when asked to challenge the Aussies for the South Pacific Cup at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week.  Wired arrived at Hamilton Island from Airlie Beach Regatta, wound up, ready for battle.  Georgia'sdelivery crew had suffered a long hard crossing from Auckland, but they still had their mighty racing machine primed for action.  Hamilton Island's Front Street was the relaxed introduction to a week of serious combat, yachties strolling the avenue greeting long-standing rivals.  Lots of laughter - kids everywhere.

But the South Pacific Cup (SPC), held by Australia since its 2008 inauguration, was top of the agenda for the Kiwi team.  Farmer's Georgia (Botin Carkeek 52) with Hong-Kong based Chris Meads sharing helming duties, competed in IRC Grand Prix Division (16 boats) with Australia's top TP52 Shogun the main competition.  Bassett's Wired (Bakewell White 52) was in Performance Racing Division One (14 boats) againstNikon Spirit of the Maid (Volvo Ocean 60).

Fron the first to last day of racing, Farmer, Bassett and Russell pushed thir boats and crews to the limit.  Wired'flew the flag' on day one leading Nikon Spirit of the Maid around the track.  Ray Haslar noted: "Coming home we played the shifts and stayed out of the tide making up extra time for a fast finish in first place.  Absorbing this 'local knowledge' will keep the South Pacific Cup in our camp - no way do we want the Aussies to get it back".

The lighter breezes on race days two and three saw both Georgia and Wired score wins over their Aussie counterparts while Mother Nature presented a whale of an exhibition in the bay.  Mamoth bodies hurled themselves high above the ocan surface amongst the yachts - what a display.

As the racing progressed, so did the New Zealand owners and crews understanding of Audi Hamilton Island Race Week particularly with regard to the quality and skills of the contestants in the IRC and Performance Racing Week Divisions.  The major competitor in IRC Grand Prix was Loki.  Skipper Gordon Maguire, sailing his second Hamilton Island Race Week, was encouraged  by their progress.  "Last year was not the best for us," he said.  "This year with 'everything new' the results are self evident and so far pretty rewarding."  Loki, a Reichel Puch 63, is sister ship toLimit, the Aussie boat that won this ear's Bay of Islands Sailing Week.

Georgia seriously challenged Loki in the first race on race day five launching into second place, then bingo - the primary spot, first place in race two.  A setback on the last day, but another learning curve.  Said Farmer: "We didn't get a good start.  Tactician Chris Dickson went for the wild card, and we shot off around the western side of Pentecost, coming up trumps in 4th place, Shogun behind us in 5th.  We now have more local knowledge the Aussies have up their sleeve. "We lost only two races in the SPC, #1 and #6, we're pretty happy with seven wins out of nine over Shogun."  Dickson commented on the race week: "This is a great regatta, quality competition at a high level.  Yacht racing in the South Pacific has progressed significantly to now be on a par with European regattas, perhaps even overshadowing the northern hemisphere."

Race officers had their share of chasing the breeze for start times.  Megan Kensington carried the flag as a New Zealand International Race Officer.  It was Megan's clear precise voice controlling the mass of eager yachties.  Her decisions in combination with the race team resulted in a safe and efficient event.  RNZYS's Bevan Woolley was chairman of the Internatinal Jury.

Both Bassett and Russell were happy with the crew determination on Wired, winning five out of the seven races for the SPC.  Bassett summed up: "We started out at the top, then slipped back a bit.  On the Wednesday after layday, the first of the two windward-leewards didn't go well for us, 9th on handicap - Nikon Spirit of the Maid in 2nd place.  But in the second windward-leeward, pride was restored.  Wired streaked in at 2nd, "Maid" back at 6th.  We can't afford lapses here at Hamo."

The New2 Zealand boats did extremely well in the Series: Georgia 2nd in IRC Grand Prix - Wired 3rd in Performance Racing Division One.  But the 'raison d'etre' was the South Pacific Cup - and win it they did, an example of New Zelaand yachting skills to build on for 2012.  Georgia and Wired took the trophy from the Australian Team with a final score of New Zealand 20 points, Austrlaian 28 points, New Zealand Winners of the South Pacific Cup.

Article and photo by Lesley Haslar - first published in Breeze magazine