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Spirit Marine French Yacht Challenge: drama filled day on Moreton Bay    
Sat, 27 Oct 2012

It was wild day on Brisbane’s Moreton Bay today in this year’s Spirit Marine French Yacht Challenge and the first race of the Queensland Beneteau Cup.

The crews found themselves battling more than just the rest of the fleet in today’s race. The forecasted strong southerly arrived early and then built. Then the fleet had to battle wind against tide in the long leg to the finish line.

Several wise skippers put a reef in their main as they hovered around the start line and watched the south-easter tickle the 15 knot mark.

Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron RO Sylvia Talbot then heralded the start of the day’s racing with a resounding rendition of the French national anthem. Then it was down to business. The 17-boat Cruising Division were first off the start line on a 17 mile track to Lockyer Beacon then around Mud Island before heading back to the finish.

The generous start line length ensured the fleet were able to spread out comfortably except for Ben Shipley’s Jazz and Keith Baker’s Sundance who, just after crossing the start line, touched briefly before parting ways to continue their race and ultimately towards a protest hearing.

Leading the fleet across the line towards the pin end was Richard Mark’s Beneteau First 42, Euphoria II, followed very closely by Paul Giles’ Jeanneau 39i, Lookout. Defending champion, Michael Schmidt’s little Sun Odessey 32, Flight Deck, ran the line and across on port staying well clear of the rest of the fleet. He stayed on that tack for quite some time while the leading boats hung onto their starboard tack.

Next off was the Performance Division. The biggest boat in this fleet, Dave Waller and Jane Virtue’s First 50, The Matrix, suffered from an early start and were forced to return and re-cross, loosing valuable distance on their closest rivals, Tony Kinsman’s Beneteau First 40, Blunderbuss, and Trevor Bailey’s Beneteau First 45, Carbon Credits.

Blunderbuss continued to lead the fleet on the two mile beat towards the first mark. They powered around the first mark and onto Mud Island with the breeze building towards 25 knots, gusting to 30, on the outer parts of the course. To the surprise of The Matrix team, Kerry Spenser’s Jeanneau, Pharlap, was next around the mark. 'You have to pardon the pun, but the dark horse out there was Pharlap,' The Matrix’s skipper and regatta handicapper, Waller said.

In the Performance division Euphoria held its lead over Lookout and Peter Brooks’ Oceanis 473, Neptune.

The breeze built and so did the drama. Around Mud Island and spinnaker up, The Matrix decided, rather than go bare-headed for a gybe, they would keep the spinnaker up. Next thing the pole was in the water and The Matrix on its ear. Luckily no major damage occurred.

On Carbon Credits they found themselves with a spinnaker drop that became a nightmare. No amount of action could seem to get the spinnaker down and they were seen rapidly heading north in the general direction of Mooloolaba. Adding insult to injury, their engine refused to fire and a call to the volunteer coast guard was their only rescue option.

The later part of the day continued to unfurl with drama on many of the boats. To the credit of the Cruising Division only three boats retired from today’s race.

On handicap after a super battle on the water, the winner of this year’s French Yacht Challenge division 1 non-spinnakers, was Peter Brooks’ Neptune ahead of Paul Giles’ Lookout and in third Euphoria II. In Division 2 first place went to James Irvine’s Jeanneau 409 Mayfair followed by Tony Kinsman’s Beneteau First 40 Blunderbuss and into third was Dave Waller and Jane Virtue’s The Matrix.

The handicap results for the first race of the Spirit Marine Queensland Beneteau Cup were in division 1, first place to Neptune, second place to Euphoria and third place for Sundance. In division 2, Blunderbuss leads overall from The Matrix with third place being held by Peter Uscinski’s First 42s7, Medina.

Racing in the Beneteau Cup continues tomorrow with two windward/leewards. The race managers, and no doubt many of the skippers, are anxiously looking closely as the forecasted early morning 25 plus knots, hoping it blows through tonight. In meantime the fleet members are imbibing in some French refreshments, celebrating another exciting French Yacht Challenge.

Full results are available from the RQYS website, go

by Tracey Johnstone

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