Current Audi IRC Australian Class A champion, Rob Hanna and his Geelong based TP52 Shogun will carry the baton through to the 2014 Championship when the prestigious title, hosted by Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club from April 16-20, will be up for the taking.
In January the winning ball dropped Shogun’s way in the final race of the 2013 Festival of Sails and a new IRC Australian champion was crowned. But when it comes time to defend his title next April, Hanna will be overseas supporting his wife as she attempts to qualify for a European equestrian world championship.
“It’s an honour to be named Audi IRC Australian Champion,” said Hanna. “I wish competitors and the organisers the best for the next staging,” the Victorian yachtsman added.
The sale last week of Marcus Blackmore’s TP52 Hooligan, a two-time IRC national title holder, takes a couple of hot prospects out of the equation and leaves the field wide open in Class A at least.
Reigning Class B national champion is Bruce McCraken’s Beneteau First 45 Ikon from Hobsons Bay Yacht Club
(VIC) and Class C champion is Grant Botica’s Adams 10 Executive Decision from the Royal Yacht Club of Victoria.
Class C runner-up at Geelong in January was Roger Hickman’s Sydney based Farr 43 Wild Rose, which is enjoying a stellar year. Hickman and crew are fresh off a hat trick of wins in the CYCA’s Bluewater Pointscore coastal races to Flinders Island, Bird Island and Cabbage Tree Island, and hold a commanding pointscore lead. Botica may opt out of travelling the distance to defend his IRC honour in 2014, and given the amount of life Hickman is squeezing out of the “old girl” Wild Rose is primed.
“We are excited about complementing our offshore racing with a high level around-the-buoys regatta,” said Hickman. “I’ve done some Etchells events at Newcastle and it’s a fantastic venue. Travelling there and accommodation are easy and NCYC runs very professional yachting events, plus has excellent infrastructure.
“We’ll face tough competition within our division, particularly the Beneteaus…you have to get up early to beat them,” Hickman anticipated.
Victorian boats scored the trifecta at the 2013 Audi IRC Australian Championship. Rotating the title fight around the states changes the fleet makeup and there’s been an early show of local support for the 2014 edition. Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club and Lake Macquarie boats dominate the entry list so far, with a smattering of Sydney based candidates.
Drawing on its dominant population and IRC fleets, Sydney and Melbourne are sure to field strong challengers across the three divisions for the prestigious coast-to-coast championship.
NCYC is offering a couple of sweeteners to assist owners contemplating the series.
Berthing at the club’s world-class floating marina from 13 – 21 April is included in the entry fee for those owners who sign on for the double; the NSW IRC Championship at Sail Port Stephens and the Audi IRC Australian Championship at Newcastle.
Corlette Point Sailing Association, host of the annual Sail Port Stephens regatta, and NCYC have cooperated to offer IRC owners two top tier events within close proximity to each other, Sydney and Newcastle airport.
Sail Port Stephens has reversed its event calendar to open with the NSW IRC Championship and collaborated with NCYC so both regattas conveniently fall within the NSW school break. This gives non-sailing family members the perfect opportunity to enjoy the region’s many delights and be part of each event’s shore-based calendar.
NCYC is also offering a significant saving of $200 off the entry fee for entries lodged prior to 1 December, a deadline less than two weeks away.
The Audi IRC Australian Championships will be held from 16 – 20 April 2014. Registration will occur on 16 April followed by four days of fantastic racing off the white beaches of Newcastle and Stockton Bight, within close proximity to the Newcastle Harbour entrance and the NCYC.
Owners of IRC rated yachts, small and large, new and less new, who hold a Category 4 safety certificate are invited to compete.
This is the third year of the Audi IRC Australian Championship as a standalone event endorsed by the national body, Yachting Australia. Audi Australia is proud of its long association with sailing and the championship, which the brand has supported since 2007.
Refer to the website for the list of entries, Notice of Race and to enter.