A record 28 Beneteaus of all ages and sizes took to Pittwater for the annual Beneteau Cup. This was the 18th time this annual classic has placed an armada on this delightful stretch of sea just North of Sydney. 16 of the prior events had been sailed in light Nor’easters, so statistically it was odds on to be the same again.
All of that meant the 170 Skippers and crew were going to need to have their eyes open for pockets of wind to propel their craft around the course. Some of the Beneteaus on display were just three weeks old, and others well and truly had 30 something years of water under their keel.
Naturally there was the typically jovial start to the day, with all manner of breakfasts and coffee consumed before they all left the quay at around 1100hrs ready for action. 11 of the Beneteau fleet competed in the Spinnaker Division, which shows a growing trend to take on the larger sails, with the remainder opting for the Non-Spinnaker Division. They ranged from 23 to 50 feet in length, and were a grand sight as they motored up to the start at Taylors Point.
Then just a moment before the first boats were to get away at 1200hrs, the breeze vanished, and the Answering Pennant was hoisted to signal the delay in proceedings. So the fleet moved on further up Pittwater, and yes, very soon there was enough to get them all away safely, if slowly. The Race Committee also made the decision not to test their luck too far, so the race would end up being to West Head and then Barrenjoey, not around Lion Island as hoped, before returning back down to the point of origination.
Division One got away cleanly and out came the kites, but it was not so pleasant for the next, but something better for the last of the four starts. It faded somewhat again, before kicking back in as the leaders all marched back down Pittwater. The best on offer for the day would end up being 8-10 knots in the puffs, but spent a lot of time in the 4-6 knot area, or much less if you happened to be unfortunate. Overall, the Easterly side of the track was certainly the best, and many did find the plethora of holes that were available out there.
There are always wonderful stories from inside the fleet, and this year would not fail. One of the most noticeable was the little Beneteau First 235 from the 80s, which is kind of ironic when you consider her size, or lack thereof, relative to the rest of the fleet. This year, Mini Bateau, was resplendent with a modified 18-foot skiff asymmetric spinnaker as part of her wardrobe that looked great and did help a lot in the conditions. Josh Patterson is the first to sign up his, Mini Bateau, for each and every regatta.
Talking with more people you find that many just do this as their one regatta for the year, but a lot are now choosing to bookend the Pittwater Cup with the Beneteau Cup on Sydney Harbour. This year that event will be on October 26, by the way. So amongst the perennials there are the newbies, and then each year there are more and more owners form the Harbour coming up to join not only the local fleet, but also those coming down from the Central and Hunter Coast areas.
So yes, this is certainly an event that is always about owners driving their own boats, and bringing family and friends along for the hoot. This is that ingredient you seem to almost forget, and then it takes just a little time to return to your vision each year that you partake in this fun, pleasant and rewarding event.
Indeed, these regattas really do make everyone feel like a winner, and with so many owners’ prizes and raffle draws, nearly everyone is. In terms of the results of the day, Nigel Edgar’s Elysian won the Non-Spinnaker Division, with Phil Dressler’s Czech Mate in second, and last year’s winner, Kevin Gray’s Eau de Vie in third. The latter proves that the handicapper can get it right, by the way, for this is a crew that love their sailing and perform consistently.
The new Beneteau Oceanis 41.1 Performance did so well as to take out the Spinnaker Division, but as Mike Coxon and Micah Lane from Flagstaff Marine were skippering her, she was instantly classed as DSQ (for disqualified). Certainly this newer generation craft can show a clean pair of heels when required, especially in the light airs, and her even newer siblings that are soon to arrive on these shores will be well received, indeed.
Having sailed the impressive Beneteau Oceanis 51.1 in Europe in very light conditions, I can attest to the new tulip based hull form’s efforts to offer volume inside, without adding unnecessarily to her wetted surface area. It is easy to see why two boats of that model have already been sold to Sydney owners, and why there is a nearly 12-month waiting list.
So in the Spinnaker division it meant the super humble and quietly spoken Bob Batchelor with his crew on Beau Soleil won the day. In talking with him afterwards he was thrilled to see that an older and smaller craft can get up for the win. Beau Soleil has been very much a regular part of the affair, so it is wonderful to see them achieve the top prize.
Second was Greg Newton’s Antipodes, which is one of the forty-five footers out there. The crew is known for sailing well, and also making sure that they are colourful on land, with some of the best crew shirts going around. Speaking of shirts, Paul Eriksson’s crew on Danske had their new, smart attire on, but could not replicate the full extent of the pace they showed last year due to halyard failure, so they had to take third place, which they did graciously, and enthusiastically.
In all, Debbie Holder from the host club, Royal Prince Alfred YC, and her team did a terrific job to get the racing completed for all without having to revert to a shortened course, or worse, abandoning the day.
Graham Raspass commented, “An event like this would not be possible without the help and support of our partners. Also, without the dedication of our terrific owners, we just would not see so many smiling faces out on the water, and on the dance floor later on in the evening. We look forward to seeing everyone on Sydney Harbour on October 26 for our next regatta, and prior to that, showcasing some great new