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Lipton Cup: Plenty of lead changes in 100th edition of historic race

by Janet Watkins/PCC 24 May 01:22 BST 24 May 2021
Orion II has just overtaken Limited Edition - 100th Lipton Cup - May 1, 2021 - Ponsonby Cruising Club © Ponsonby Cruising Club

The 1st of May 2021, the 100th Race for the Interclub Challenge Trophy, the Lipton Cup, was an amazing day and an awesome event celebrating 100 years of racing annually for the same trophy in the same boats under the same rules and over similar harbour courses for 100 years.

[The Lipton Cup trophy, made by the same silversmith who made the America’s Cup, was donated by Sir Thomas Lipton who raced the America’s Cup five times, but never won.]

Janet Watkins, the Race Officer for the historic 100th Lipton Cup reports:

The day dawned with a clear sunrise East and a few clouds over the Western hills. The forecast was good – light winds and fine! After the traditional early breakfast for the Race Management team and the sailors it was time to review the course planned on Friday’s forecast.

Saturday 5-10 knots from the SE to SW against strong outgoing tides (High tide 10.38) to be printed and signed for at the briefing, another part of the long tradition. For the Race Officer setting a course at 8.00am using the fixed harbour marks for what the weather in Auckland may do after mid-day is an “educated guess”! Because of the variable wind strengths, the course was set with 3 possible options for a shortened course off the PCC Club house at Westhaven.

Briefing, all present, Course sheets signed for, no queries, a good start!! Let’s go!!

On the marina the final safety checks were completed by the Club, spinnakers were being bagged, sheets coiled, the final checks were being made of patrol boats and race management equipment, the lunches were delivered, the countdown was underway!!

On the harbour with 5–7 knots the course was set at 160° for an on the wind start across the harbour to a windward mark. Yachts and support boats were milling around – looking good!

Astern of us a protected mooring area restricted the length of the beat to the first mark! Wind shift!! Now 140°. Top mark & start line reset to give more sea room astern and we were into the start sequence for the “Gaffers” – three 26 foot H-class and one 22 foot L-class. Clear start at 10.50. Not a classic race start with one boat struggling to peak his gaff halyard! This course went to the windward laid mark and then down the harbour on a similar course to the L-class but with 1 shorter leg.

10.55 L-class warning signal – light but sailable – course almost true and what breeze there was had gone! AP up! Luckily the tide was just on the turn but still slack while the yachts waited. 11.05 AP down and the fleet was underway – a clear start on a true line and beat to the windward top mark! Their course started with windward leewards, three times round the top mark then off down the harbour with the ebbing tide to No.15 - Bean Rock Buoy near the entrance. It was a tight reach to close hauled. Some boats sailed the southern side and Tamarau, who was third when they rounded the top mark, gained on the lifts along the northern shore to be first around No. 15 with a lead of 2 minutes over Orion II and Tamatea. The rest of the fleet were not far behind and ahead was the first of the H-class.

No. 8 next mark, 2.4 miles down the Rangitoto Channel was almost a spinnaker run! In the patchy air some carried their kite or a leader part of the way but it was slow going even with the ebbing tide. And then there was nothing! A fleet of boats on a glassy sea! Not good for the Race Officer’s nerves!! Rounding No.8, Tamarau was still in the lead but Orion II was only 30 seconds behind.

As the leading boats rounded the mark and headed back to No.15, slowly, in the gentle zephyr the rest of the fleet drifted down on the now strong outgoing tide to compress the fleet and, as the last boat rounded the mark, the breeze was back and the chase was on!

At No.15 Tamarau again had a lead of nearly two minutes with Orion and Tamatea 18 seconds apart closely followed by Limited Edition. Then it was a mile back down harbour to No. 7, sometimes a spinnaker, sometimes a leader and sometimes just the jib, a jibe round No. 7 and the 4.2 mile run up harbour to No.1 buoy off the Club house against the tide! The fleet split and who does the leader cover! Tamarau led Orion and Tamatea up the southern side while Limited Edition who was in 4th place, led Valeria, Rangi Manu and Tere Kanae along the North Shore.

Limited Edition was going well in a steady breeze while those on the city side were feeling the effects of the tall city buildings. Tamarau was still leading, Limited Edition was converging from across the harbour! Tamarau’s wind deserted her and Orion snuck through to take the lead – for a short while!! Rounding No.1 it was Limited Edition in the lead by about 2 minutes. From there it was a tight reach of 0.8 miles to No.2, a spinnaker run to No 1, back round No. 2 and a race to the finish.

Limited Edition led all the way only to be overtaken 11 seconds short of the line by Orion II who got the gun!! There were two very disappointed crews who had led for so long and Martin sailing Orion II, representing the Ponsonby Cruising Club, had his 10th win of the Lipton Cup.

But the race hadn’t finished there! Five other crews were battling it out on those three short legs.

After four and a half hours racing seven boats finished within eight minutes with the last two within sight. For all the spectators on shore and for the sailors it was a great and exciting finish to the 100th race for the Lipton Cup.

The Lipton Cup placings are: Orion II, Limited Edition, Tamarau, Tamatea, Rangi Manu, Valeria, Tere Kanae, Martanza and Komuri.

On Handicap the slower boats exceeded expectations: their results are Tere Kanae, Rangi Manu, Valeria, Orion II, Limited Edition, Tamarau, Tamatea, Martanza and Komuri.

The Gaffers fleet, which sailed a shorter course down the harbour and did not sail the last two laps to No. 2, arrived back at Westhaven just ahead of the L class in time to watch the finish of the great race just as pre-planned! Tangaroa, the God of the sea, was with us!

The race had its moments, its stacking breezes and its mill pond calms! There were times when I wondered if I needed to shorten to get a finish and then the puffs returned but those last four short legs off Westhaven in a nice steady breeze showed off the L-class Mullet Boats at their Classic Best.

Peter Montgomery, the Ponsonby Cruising Club’s Patron did us the honour of presenting the trophies and the prizes that our sponsors generously donated. I am sure Sir Thomas Lipton would have enjoyed the event – Thank You Sir Thomas!

S-W NZ: Apologies for the late publication, due to absence in Australia.

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