October 15 - 21, 2023: Issue 601


Sydney To Auckland Ocean Race Winners: Let The Celebrations Begin!

Crew of Frantic, Skippered by Mick Martin, awarded the Sir Lipton Cup Trophy as winners of the inaugural Sydney to Auckland Ocean Race 2023. Photo: RPAYC

Wallaby wins International Trophy! Mick Martin, ex-wallaby and his crew onboard Frantic Racing have won the inaugural Sydney to Auckland Ocean Race 2023.

The team from Frantic Racing, skippered by Mick Martin, were presented with the Sir Lipton Cup trophy est. 1919, on Friday October 13 for winning the inaugural Sydney to Auckland Ocean Race on IRC.

Congratulations also to Mayfair who have claimed 1st on ORC and Antipodes who have claimed 1st on PHS. With the teams celebrating today dockside at the Wynyard Pavilion in Auckland.

The fleet was small on numbers, but big on adventure! Frantic Racing, Antipodes, Mayfair, Painkiller and Intiy - Forever are the first five to take up the Sydney to Auckland Ocean Race challenge. Three have already Conquered the Tasman and the organisers, RPAYC, are looking forward to Intiy and Painkiller joining the celebration in Auckland.

Full report below.

On Saturday October 7, 2023, the yachts and crews in the inaugural Sydney to Auckland Yacht Race left Sydney Harbour, bound for Auckland. 

Their start, adjacent to the famous Sow and Pigs near the Heads of the iconic harbour, saw them get underway in a 12-17 knot Southerly with sunny skies, before they turned left to go up Sydney’s spectacular Northern Beaches to a turning mark off Barrenjoey Head at Broken Bay, where they then turned right to head East, and make for New Zealand.

This is a 1250 nautical mile course, which is virtually double that of the famous Sydney to Hobart event, and sees the competitors deal with the many challenges the Tasman Sea can deliver, from becalmed to large swells, as well as true bluewater ocean conditions, where you can smell the land, once you get close enough.

On Thursday, October 12, the RPAYC reported:

Four of the five competitors elected to go the Southern side of the Rhumb Line in the dash to the top of New Zealand. By and large, you’d have to say it paid. Painkiller, the Bavaria 51 from the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron was the one exception, but they may have been on a slightly different mission, namely fishing, so that could well explain that.

The crews report that those affected have got past the early seasickness, and are now charging hard. Frantic would be the one to have done the most in that regard, and is all over the significantly larger Antipodes. The two vessels representing the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia are virtually neck and neck, with the early TP52 holding on to the slenderest of leads for now, and just at that.

As expected, the wind abated somewhat and went into a Southerly to Sou’sou’westerly trend and something in the order of 8-15 knots, accompanied by a Sou’westery swell of some 3m or so. This will be advantageous to drive the boats back up to the Rhumb Line and their turning mark atop New Zealand (just look out for the Manawatāwhi/Three Kings Islands), before they make down the East coast of the North Island and into home at Auckland, which for the leaders could well be later tomorrow.

The transitions have been interesting, with some crews reporting nearly no breeze as the stiff Sou’easterly gave way to the slightly warmer winds under the high pressure. Another shift is expected tomorrow that sees the wind clock even further right to the West and even Nor’west, and abate to light conditions overall, under dry but cloudy skies.

On Friday the winds are expected to strengthen once more for that predominantly Nor’west direction, before clocking back left to the Sou’west under a new line of low pressure. You would think Intiy from the host club, the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club will be best placed to capitalise on this. The Two-Handed crew have some ground to get back off the full crewed Mayfair from the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron that is around 242nm ahead of them. They have done just over 200nm in the last 24 hours, so that is commendable for short-handed and a 36-footer at that. 

Painkiller is some 488nm astern of the leader, and 161nm behind Intiy, so they would be wanting to use that Nor’wester to really drive them down to the turning mark.

The crew of Frantic with some friendly Tasman Sea Dolphins

Apart from watchkeeping, life on board always comes back to food. Sandwiches, coffee are mainstays. Mayfair’s Navigator Steve Taylor said, “Highlight so far has been the food, dinner and breakfast absolutely delicious. Reaching along in 16-18 knots, and also just found the stash of chocolate croissants so don’t worry about us!”

Painkiller went gourmet with Spaghetti Bolognese and salad to accompany a relaxed and comfortable ride under reefed main and jib, and added to the comedy by noting, “We do feel some sympathy for our fellow competitors who would have experienced a challenging night, constantly tweaking and re-adjusting sails as we were snug in our bunks,” said Scott Alle.

RPAYC Commodore Rob McClelland said, “What a great race. They have had something from just about all of the true, blue water manual – blast reaching, becalmed (or nearly so), huge shifts, and fresh to conditions to downright cold. Hard charging in the cold and wet gave way to sail changes to cope with the transitions, and then good rolling swells helped to push them all along.”

“Our partners at the Royal Akarana Yacht Club look set to see the leaders very soon. For those further back in the fleet it looks some more changes in conditions are about to beset you, so it is great you have had plenty of practice at it now as to be totally ready.”

The welcome team on the dock comprises, Race Director Nick Elliott, Commodore of the RAYC Nick Hanson, and RPAYC members, Rear Commodore Robert Alpe, Rear Commodore Kirsty Hunter, and Mary-Anne Guerin.

On Saturday October 14 the RPAYC reported:

Three vessels are home in the inaugural Sydney to Auckland Race. First home for the Line Honours prize was Geoff Hill’s 72-footer, Antipodes. As such, they set the race record for the course at 5:03:37:57.

Hill spoke from the dockside, “We lost both masthead kite halyards, meaning we only had a fractional A6 built for Hobart duties left to us. So we went from, say doing 12 knots, down to just 10 knots. Frantic did very well and came up to within two or three miles of us. It was pretty intense sailing from both camps.” 

Reflecting on that, Hill also added, “…and we didn't have access to the tracker. So it took a while to actually figure out who was doing what, and where. We think we lost the halyards due to age. The boat has been up in Asia and with the stiffer, denser air we just think they simply did not handle it. We did put one crewmember up the mast, but it was too dangerous. So we elected not to take the risk and sail on, and I think that was the right course of action.”

“One of the kites we lost wrapped itself on the rudder, and the other blew the clew rings out. We had gusts up to 35 knots at one stage there, especially yesterday and the night before. Also, coming up into Auckland Harbour, we encountered about the heaviest weather I've seen since I did Hobart a few years ago. We had 25, 30 knots on the nose and nearby for most of the time.” 

The crew of Antipodes pull their water laden kite back on deck at the Barrenjoey Mark 

“It was a fantastic race… the classical open ocean race. I've done trans-Atlantics and transpacific races, and this is a real classic that we really enjoyed. We’ll come back and do it again, which is a pretty good sign. The yacht clubs were just fantastic with everything, especially their organisation. Great job. We'll be one of the first couple of boats entering for the next race", starting on October 11, 2025.

Mick Martin’s early TP52, Frantic, was next home, and that crew have won the Sir Lipton Cup Perpetual Trophy. With an elapsed time of 5:04:53:19, just over an hour behind the Line Honours Winner, the smaller vessel also had the joy of finishing in the last light of the day. Both yachts are from the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia. 

It is always nice to get the silverware, to which Martin commented, “It worked out pretty well. I just think we simply raced really, really well through, like, two red hot, dark nights at top speed. It was exhilarating. We like the adventure thing. Keeping up with Antipodes was a definitely a highlight.”

“What was really good was having all three finishers all tucked in together whilst quarantined. We had a few drinks, talked about how everyone had done well, and done so in one piece. It was great to be a part of something where people congratulated each other, instead of the usual derogatory remarks. Just like the old days… Lovely.” 

Dockside Mayfair and Frantic crews celebrate together in quarantine 

“The two clubs have organised a great event, and it was so user-friendly. All the documentations, briefings and so forth meant you could enjoy the race itself, and to get a beer and pizza when you arrived was wonderful!”

Third across the line was James Irvine’s Rogers 46, Mayfair, from the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron. Mayfair had an elapsed time of 5:12:59:21, which meant they finished in the dark, at 0159hrs this morning. They also sailed the shortest course, at some 1314nm to a 1250nm track, which is totally brilliant.

It means both the only two-handed entry, Intiy, with Marc Depret and George Martin representing the host club (Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club), and Graham Barrett’s Bavaria 51, Painkiller, representing the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron, are the craft that remain at sea.

At the time of writing, Intiy was travelling at a little over seven knots and had some 158nm left to travel, having passed Cape Reinga. Covering just 150nm in the last 24 hours proves that the Beneteau Figaro 3 has not had as much of the blast reaching type conditions she enjoyed earlier as they climb up to get over the top of the North Island. The high pressure system is directly over the top of them and a 2.5m swell persists. 

There is a shift to the Nor’west as new front comes in and it will go up range to 20-30 knots before clocking back to a more Westerly direction and abating back to 10-20 knots. Once around the top sometime during the course of Friday evening, Intiy will find a Sou’wester of 15-20 that will clock to the West’nor’west at say 10-15, which is bound to be more helpful for their trek South and into Auckland.

Painkiller is travelling at about six knots, but does have 376nm left to go. They will see a lot more of the blustery Nor’wester in the Eastern stretches of the Tasman, and a little more pressure in the Nor’wester that will have settled in on the top part of the North Island at that time. The swell will have also gone, and 1-1.5m wave will be all they have to contend with.

RPAYC Commodore Rob McClelland said, “It is terrific to have some of the fleet home already and for the major prize to also be awarded. Long-distance blue water racing is very much alive and we thank the owners and crews for embarking on this grand voyage with us.” 

“Thank you also to our partners at the Royal Akarana Yacht Club. The welcome team on the dock that consists of, Race Director Nick Elliott, Commodore of the RAYC Nick Hanson, and RPAYC members, Rear Commodore Robert Alpe, Rear Commodore Kirsty Hunter, and Mary-Anne Guerin will be there until the end to ensure everyone receives their Steinlager beer, and very special ‘I conquered the Tasman’ T-Shirt to mark the occasion. As soon as they have been cleared by Customs, of course.” 

Report by RPAYC. Photos By crew members, RPAYC and Royal Akarana Yacht Club