Quantum Racing hot contender for Sydney Hobart

Apart from the ongoing duel between the 30m maxi yachts, Alfa Romeo and Wild Oats XI, the highlight of this week’s Rolex Trophy – Rating Series so far has been the performance of the 46-footer Quantum Racing(pictured left).

The DK46, owned and skippered by Sydney and international yachtsman Ray Roberts, has won three of the four races in IRC Division 2 and, with Steven Ainsworth’s Loki in Division O, has given the Australian team a handy lead in the Rolex Challenge.

Quantum Racing has looked every bit a winner in every race, winning the starts and outsailing her rivals to windwind in the light to moderate winds yesterday and again in today’s 15-16 knot nor’easter and lumpy seas on a rising swell. Off the wind, she looks just as fast and efficient.

Quantum Racing won the third race of Division 2 this morning from the well-sailed Swan 45 Ginger (Leslie Green). However, Ginger, which is not racing to Hobart, took the honours in race three, beating Quantum Racing by a mere 54 seconds on corrected time.

Yachting journalist and international sailor Vanessa Dudley steered Queenslander Bill Wild’s HW42 Wedgetail exceptionally well in the tricky sea conditions to place third in both races.

In Division O Bob Oatley’s Wild Oats XI won her first race in this morning’s race three, but it was a hollow victory as Neville Crichton’s Alfa Romeo missed the start after a plastic bag jammed the water intake, overheating the engine which also powers the hydraulics that control the canting keel and the primary and mainsail winches.

“The boys had to manually bring the canting keel into a fixed vertical position – itself a good safety exercise – and then replace the impeller,” explained tactician Michael Coxon. “It took us 35 minutes and we were too late for the start.”

However, the two, near identical Reichel/Pugh 98s,both competed in race four. For half the 11 nautical mile race it looked as if the newly launched Wild Oats XI would beat Alfa Romeo, which has been campaigned since late August.

Helmsman Mark Richards won the start, accelerating Wild Oats XI away from the line to gain four vital boat lengths from Alfa Romeo which had made a late – and, as it turned out – wrong headsail choice.

With the better choice of headsail for the fresher winds and lumpy sea conditions, Wild Oats XI outpaced Alfa Romeo on the first beat to windward, rounding just over a minute in front and, with her slightly bigger white spinnaker gained a little more on the downhill run.

At the leeward mark, however, Alfa Romeo’s helmsman Adrian Stead capitalised on a mediocre spinnaker drop by the Wild Oat XI crew and gained an inside overlap that gave them the vital edge for the second beat.

It was still close, just 25 seconds at the windmark mark and again Wild Oat XI’s bigger spinnaker enabled to close the gap as they neared the finish line. “We managed a better gybe, the spinnaker filled faster and we picked up a wave to just cross the line in front,” added Coxon.

The winning margin was just seven seconds. On corrected time, Alfa Romeo, with a lower IRC rating handicap, also won by 1 minute 25 seconds, her third line and corrected time victory in the three races she has so far sailed.

Stephen Ainsworth’s Loki, a 60-footer which, like Alfa Romeo and Wild Oats XI is a Reichel/Pugh design but with a heavy bulb keel rather than a canting keel, sailed a much better race this afternoon to finish within 2 minutes 20 seconds of Alfa Romeo.

However, it was a not a particularly good day for the big boat, Konica Minolta, Stewart Thwaites’ 98-footer. She was three minutes late for the start this morning and again in race two when her headsail twisted just before the start. Then, her huge spinnaker blew in two on the first spinnaker run.

Konica Minolta still won Division 1 IRC race three on corrected time but placed fourth in race three. The consistent Yendys, with Sean Kirkjian on the helm for owner Geoff Ross, notched up two second placings with Dick Cawse’s 60-footer Vanguard winning race four after a third in race three. Syd Fischer’s Ragamuffin took third in race four.

After four of the scheduled eight races completed, the progressive pointscore for the Rolex Trophy.

Results (provisional)

IRC Division O

1. Wild Oats XI, Reichel/Pugh 98 (Bob Oatley, RPAYC) 3-2-1-2, 8 pts

2. Alfa Romeo, Reichel/Pugh 98 (Neville Crichton, RNZYS) 1-1-DNC-1, 9 pts

3. Loki, Reichel/Pugh 98 (Stephen Ainsworth, CYCA) 2-3-2-3, 10 pts

IRC Division 1

1. Yendys, Judel/Vrolijk 52 (Geoff Ross, CYCA) 1-2-2-2, 7 pts

2. Vanguard, Cawse/Lyons 60 (Dick Cawse, CYCA) 2-3-3-1, 9pts

3. Konica Minolta, Bakewell-White 98 (Stewart Thwaites, RNZYS) 5-1-1-4, 11 pts

IRC Division 2

1. Quantum Racing, DK 46 (Ray Roberts, CYCA) 1-1-1-2, 5 pts

2. Ginger, Swan 45 (Leslie Green, CYCA) 2-2-2-1, 7 pts

3. Wedgetail, HW 42 (Bill Wild, RQYS) 5-3-3-3, 14 pts