Quantum leaps to victory in final day at Rolex

Of the three divisions in the Rolex Trophy Ratings Series in Sydney, two of them were settled by tiebreak with only Ray Roberts’s DK46 Quantum Racing the clear winner. Recently returned to Sydney as the victor of the King’s Cup in Malaysia, Roberts won Division 2 with a string of 1st and 2nd places, scoring 8 points overall to runner-up Ginger’s 17 points.

The points gap wouldn’t have been quite so great if Swan 45 Ginger hadn’t been disqualified from the Saturday morning race following a spinnaker-touching incident with Quantum. “They were a pretty tough competitor to beat,” said Roberts of Leslie Green’s crew. “There was a massive 30 degree shift which put us back into 4th at one point, and we had to fight out way back up to 2nd whilst avoiding some covering tacks by Ginger.”

Quantum Racing emerges from this series as one of the big favourites for the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race a week from now. Roberts will celebrate tonight, but then he’ll be wrapping up some business commitments before focusing on the big race to Tasmania. “Tonight we’ll give it a big run and have a few champagnes and play hard, then we’ll be out practising later in the week.”

In Division 1, Richard Cawse sailed a blinder of a day with his 60-footer Vanguard, winning both races on handicap and finishing on equal points with Stewart Thwaites’s 98-foot Maxi Konica Minolta. With the tiebreak settled by most number of race wins during the regatta, Thwaite’s four victories to Cawse’s three gave the bigger boat the Division by the slimmest of margins.

Konica Minolta’s owner was elated. “We had winds of 11 to 26 knots, very shifty. One moment you were making the next mark, then you weren’t. But it was fantastic racing, beautiful waves, flat seas.” Thwaites now returns to New Zealand for a couple of days before coming back for a Sydney Christmas and then the Boxing Day start to Hobart.

Alfa Romeo’s defence of her lead in Division 0 became easier with Wild Oats XI’s non-appearance on the water today. Bob Oatley’s team decided that their limited time before the Rolex Sydney Hobart was better spent on shortening their long list of jobs on the brand new boat. Out on the ocean, meanwhile, Alfa Romeo was well reefed for the first start but if anything they had overdone it and the underpowered canting-keeled Maxi rounded the first mark just 44 seconds in front of Konica Minolta. However, Neville Crichton’s boat eased away from the opposition down the first run and, having shaken out the reef up the second beat, Alfa got into her stride. Crichton’s performance was sufficient to win that race and the series with a race to spare. Even if the 60-footer Loki won the last race, she would only match Alfa Romeo for points and the 98-footer would win on tiebreak.

Indeed this is what happened. Crichton used the afternoon for some reefing practice and other manoeuvres that will come into play during the Rolex Sydney Hobart. This left the race course clear for Stephen Ainsworth’s Loki to race to a straightforward final-race victory in Division 0. “I’m happy with the way it went,” said Ainsworth. “although we had trouble beating those 100-footers. They’re not rated that fairly, but then they’re also well sailed.”

If anything, Loki’s focus was more on the other 60-footer from Division 1, Richard Cawse’s Vanguard. While they were competing in different divisions, they were both racing around the same race track so they could draw a direct comparison with each other. “We were match racing with Vanguard a lot this week. They’re very good competitors, and we’ve lifted each other. At the end of the eight races, we’ve had four each, so it has been a good battle.” However, Vanguard won’t be lining up for the race to Hobart, so Loki will have to find other ways of benchmarking her progress in the 628-miler.

While the prizegiving at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia marked the end of racing at the Rolex Trophy this afternoon, Rushcutters Bay will only get busier over the coming days as crews make their final preparations for the big race in a week’s time.

Overall Results (after eight races)

Division 0

1. Alfa Romeo, Reichel/Pugh 98 (Neville Crichton) 1-1-DNC-1-3-1-1-6, 14 pts

2. Loki, Reichel/Pugh 98 (Stephen Ainsworth) 2-3-2-3-2-2-2-1, 14 pts

3. Wild Oats XI, Reichel/Pugh 98 (Bob Oatley) 3-2-1-2- 1-6-6-6, 21 pts

Division 1

1. Konica Minolta, Bakewell-White 98 (Stewart Thwaites) 5-1-1-4-1-1-3-2, 13 pts

2. Vanguard, Cawse/Lyons 60 (Dick Cawse) 2-3-3-1-3-2-1-1, 13 pts

3. Yendys, Judel/Vrolijk 52 (Geoff Ross) 1-2-2-2-2-3-2-3, 14 pts

Division 2

1. Quantum Racing, DK 46 (Ray Roberts) 1-1-1-2-1-1-2-1, 8 pts

2. Ginger, Swan 45 (Leslie Green) 2-2-2-1-12-2-4-4, 17 pts

3. Wedgetail, HW 42 (Bill Wild) 5-3-3-3-3-4-3-2, 21 pts