On the weekend of 7-8 December, Australian 5.5 Metres were all at sea competing on the iconic Palm Beach Circle for the first time for a couple of decades. The RPAYC event was a Pre-Worlds Practice Regatta and also to select the 5.5 Metre to represent Australia in the famous inter nation Scandinavian Gold Cup. The Gold Cup dates back to 1919 and has been competed in 5.5 Metres for nearly 70 years. RPAYC will be hosting the 5.5 Metre Gold Cup and World Championship from the 4th to the 13th January 2020.
Seven of RPAYC’s revived fleet of fourteen 5.5 Metres turned were towed out to be greeted by an 7-11kt ENE breeze with relatively choppy wave pattern. Like the actual Gold Cup to win selection you would have to win. The first boat to get 3 wins or win the 4th Race would be selected to sail for Australia. All the races were windward leeward, 6 legs with a distance of 6.6NM which is the minimum distance for the actual Gold Cup.
After and hour and a quarter of Race 1 John Bacon’s 2019 World Championship winning pre-1994 Evolution KuRingGai showed strong speed for a 25 year old boat. Bacon narrowly took the gun ahead of the post 1993 Moderns; Martin Cross’s and Bob Stoddard’s Beta Crucis and Brothers Matt and Rob Crawford with Matt Visser in KuRingGai 2. There was only 13 seconds between the three boats. The rest of the Modern and older Evolution and Classic boats finished in age order with Jason Antill’s, Damian Macey’s, Tom Spithill’s and Larry Eastwood’s remarkable Baragoola from 1968 nearly embarrassing the two other Evolutions the MacPhails’ Black Magic and Chris Handcock’s beautifully restored Rhapsody.
The wind had declined for the 2nd Race and unexpectedly veered to slightly to the East. The Crawford Brothers showed their Australian Team experience to gradually pull out what proved an unassailable lead to take out the second race. As “there is no second” and needing a win Beta Crucis gybed well left on the final run but to no avail. Alpha Crucis helmed by America Cup legend Rob Brown took second ahead of KuRingGai and Beta Crucis. The second third and forth boats finishing within 11 seconds of each other after 86 minutes of racing. With the win the Crawford brothers ensured their would need to be a 4th race to decide Gold Cup selection.
On Sunday morning following the tow out to the Palm Beach Circle the fleet was greeted by an easterly breeze of around 10kts which steadily increased to 14kts during the day. There was a difficult “washing machine” seaway. The 3rd race had some drama at the start with Alpha Crucis and KuRingGai 2 both over the at the pin end and Beta Crucis luffed over the boat end of the line by Rhapsody. Despite the bad start the increased pressure seemed to suit Beta Crucis and she gradually extended over the 6 legs to win 34 seconds ahead of KuRingGai to also qualify to sail in the 4th Race and deciding race.
The three boats that had qualified by winning a race lined up for a drag race at the 4th Race start. By the windward mark their was nothing between the 3 boats and they they round within a boat length of each other with Beta Crucis just ahead. She held on the run and rounded the leeward gate first with the boats behind splitting tacks and looking for leverage. Beta Crucis stuck to the left hand side of the beat which seemed to have paid in the previous days race while wtying to cover the nearest boat behind when feasible. The seaway had built uncomfortably in the increasing wind requiring concentration to avoid slamming. Beta Crucis rounded the windward mark for the second time with a slightly increased lead and then held this lead with the boats now regularly surfing down the run on the building waves. She gradually increased the lead over the next two legs to take the gun by 36 seconds over the KuRingGais’ which finished only a second apart with KuRingGai just getting the nod.
John Bacon’s KuRingGai took out the points score for the weekend with a consistent performance.
Cross commented “Bob, Martin and I are delighted to have been selected to represent Australia in the iconic Scandinavian Gold Cup against the other 6 Nations. This we thank our competitors and especially Steve Merrington and all his Team for a great pre-Worlds practice and Gold Cup Selection regatta. This has been invaluable in giving us some idea of what 9 days of competition will be like in January”.