Just seven seconds separated ocean racing yachts The Fork in the Road and Tilt in a dramatic duel up the Derwent on Saturday to the finish of the 31 nautical mile Betsey Island Race, the fifth race of this summer’s Combined Clubs’ Long Race Series.
From Long Point at Lower Sandy Bay to the finish line off Castray Esplanade Battery Point, the two yachts were only a few boat lengths apart as they carried their big white spinnakers on a shy reach, at times their hulls overlapped.
Helmsman, sailmaker Steve Walker from Wynyard, steering The Fork in the Road in defensive mode, forced the overtaking Tilt high above the direct line between Long Point and Battery Point. Nearing the finish, he luffed the bigger boat above the line to just retain the race lead and cross the line a mere seven seconds in front.
“It really was an exciting finish, probably the closest I’ve been in boats of this size,” owner/skipper Gary Smith said after the finish. “In fact, it was a close race all way to Betsey Island and return and augers well for another clash in next weekend’s 90th Bruny Island Race.”
The Fork in the Road, a 45-footer, and Tilt, Peter Cretan’s 49-footer, were within a few boat lengths of each other as they led the fleet down the Derwent and out into Storm Bay, rounding Betsey Island from the inside, and then back up the river in a fresh easterly breeze, at times reaching 20 knots.
For the leaders, and for most of the fleet, this meant a two-sail reach with “slightly cracked sheets” from the Iron Pot back up-river to Long Point where most boats were able to hoist big reaching spinnakers.
“We delayed hoisting our spinnaker as we concerned that we might sail through the Sandy Bay Sailing Club starting line for their big dinghy fleets; Tilt, coming from astern with her kit filled closed the gap,” Smith explained.
“At times, Tilt’s bow was halfway along our hull, but Steve’s fine steering and tactics, along with constant sail trimming by the crew, include Drew Meincke on main, gave us a great victory,” he added.
The Betsey Island is a longtime major event on the Derwent Sailing Squadron’s calendar, this year attracting 58 entries, including casuals, although there were only 38 starters.
One of the veteran yachts racing in Hobart, Roger Jackman’s Doctor Who, scored her second successive Long Race Series win in taking out the PHS category of Group A. In second place was The Protagonist (Stuart Denny) and third Pirate’s Pride (Peter Masterton).
Harold Clark’s Invincible won both the AMS and IRC rated divisions of Group A. In the AMS division Invincible won from Intrigue (Don Calvert) and Pirate’s Pride and in the IRC division, she won from Doctor Who and The Protagonist.
In Division B, Derwent Sailing Squadron Commodore Steve Chau’s Young 88 Young Lion won the AMS and PHS categories, taking first place in AMS from Footloose (Stewart Geeves) and Silicon Ship (David Wyatt and Gordon Clark). In PHS, Young Lion won from Mischief (K Weber) and Trouble (Dave Willans).
Steve Mannering’s pilot-house cruiser/racer Camlet Way won Group C from Kindred Spirit (Peter Alcock) and Trick Cyclist (T Trick).
Camlet Way had the lowest corrected time under PHS scoring and will be declared overall winner of the 2016 Betsey Island Race.
Despite a misty morning, the fleet of 38 boats made a spectacular sight as they beat to windward down the river into a freshening easterly breeze.
All three Groups were sent on the full course, with another hard work to windward to round Betsy Island, leaving it to starboard and once, clear of the lee of the rocky island in Storm Bay, had a spinnaker run back to the Iron.
Coming up the river, most boats had a fast two-sail reach, but it was not until most of the fleet were abeam of the Garrow that spinnaker could be hoisted and used effectively in the finish dash to the finish off Battery Point.