From Airlie Beach Race Week:
The stars of the day were the Sports Boats with three windward/leeward races. The competition was close across the 11-boat fleet, but it was Noel Leigh-Smith and his Viper QLD that delivered outstanding results.
The start of today’s racing was held back for over an hour as PRO Ross Chisholm anxiously monitored the breeze line creeping in from Hamilton Island. The crews took the time to relax. Menace’s Howard Spencer took a short nap on the deck. Mike Roper’s Ropabull team came prepared with over-sized water pistols while the Holy Cow! team got in some practice in making their now signature Cow Tails; a little fruit, a splash of fruit juice, ice and a liberal amount of Mount Gay Rum, then on with genset for the final touch.
When the AP flag finally came down the IRC Racing, Performance Racing, Cruising and Multihull Performance divisions all headed out on Course 11 to White Rock and West Molle Island. The Multihulls were sent on Course 5 around Pioneer Bay while the Sports Boats stayed inshore.
The long delay to the first race start didn’t distract the competitors. Race 1 start was clean with Leon Thomas’s Guilty Pleasures and Noel Leigh-Smith’s QLD Viper keep tight with each other. Brett Whitbread’s Crank was at the pin end and Jason Ruckert’s Mister Magoo at the back of the starters. First time around the top mark and Crank crossed ahead of Guilty Pleasures. John Rae’s Vivace was right beside Crank around the mark.
It was a slow run while the race committee shortened the next leg to .5 nautical miles. There was little between Vivace, Crank and Guilty Pleasures in the last half of the race.
Race 2 was sailed in similar conditions. Crank and Vivace were on top of each other again. The dirty air from Guilty Pleasures and Vivace cost Crank as they struggled to find speed across the line. Crank then tacked out to port to clear itself, beared away behind Bobsled and out to the right in clean air.
The short course and steady six knots had the fleet spread out trying to find a good line to the top mark. Guilty Pleasures was around first with Crank putting in a short tack to make the rounding. Next was Vivace several boat lengths behind.
By the finish and a slight right-hand shift the top three had closed the gap as they covered their gybes down the run, finishing a matter of seconds apart.
The race committee got in the third scheduled race for the Sports Boats with only Barry Bendt’s Rip it Up the only recall. The breeze was right and up to eight knots.
Guilty Pleasures skipper Leon Thomas said there was a good battle going on right through the three races. “Crank has had a great day and we think they got the better of us. The Viper and Magoo also had a great day on the race course.
“Race 3 we got a bit carted at the start and it was always catch-up mode after that. We had a few boats that decided not to give way when they should have. Once Crank and Vivace got a head start of us, they are quicker than we are so we can’t catch up,” Thomas said.
Mister Magoo’s Jason Ruckert was smiling at the end of the long day. “We had a lot better day today. Good light winds and the knots we had on the spinnaker actually held today. The problem yesterday is the spinnaker came untied and we had no halyard to pull the spinnaker up,” Ruckert said.
But the real star of the day was the clean-sweep team of Viper QLD led by Noel Leigh-Smith. Three wins from three races was a superb outcome for the Viper 640. “We weren’t surprised by our results in those conditions. The boat goes very well and I have two good crew. You had to go the right way and we did. We are very happy with the day’s results, but tomorrow is another day,” Leigh Smith said.
Nice job Noel......but there are lots of races and lots of rum to go! It aint over until the fat lady passes out.