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Thirteen from Fourteen

by John Curnow, Editor, Sail World AUS 27 Mar 21:00 GMT
Ikon sailed well all week - Australian Yachting Championships at Hamilton Island Race Week © Salty Dingo

Not races in a sprint series. We're talking years! Yes. That's over a decade. Bruce McCracken's Beneteau First 45, Ikon, has just won Division One of the Range Series on Melbourne's Port Phillip to amass this most brilliant of achievements, and I dare say records.

Most recognisable for the black stick and hefty black kite, the Grey Navy (as in colour of crew shirts not a description of age) just keep getting the job done when it comes to this all-clubs-in-from-the-top-of-the-Bay style regatta. They're no one trick pony either, and repeatedly achieve the same level of performance at both Geelong's Festival of Sails, Newcastle for the Nationals, and then also Hamilton Island Race Week.

I have said it myself. Bruce McCracken could be the nicest guy in yachting, and if he is not, then he has to be President of the Association. At any rate, if you don't take my word for it, you simply just have to ask one of the crew. Yes.

Quite a few are family, so if you exclude them, then the others will certainly have to count, for just about all have been part of the voyage for something like 19 years now, which includes the previous boat. It has got to the point where even the next generation is starting to make a regular appearance on board, and that is a truly marvellous legacy.

Crew often talk about Bruce by saying, "He's a great helmer, is quiet, and just gets the job done." What is also true, is that the boat is never wanting for anything, and always looks schmick.

"We sort of did our apprenticeship in a different boat, learned a few tricks, and a few things we knew what not to do, then we hopped into the 45 and have had great success sort of from day one. I think it all comes down to the crew," noted McCracken.

We'll name a few, no doubt miss a couple (make our apologies for that) but clearly nice flows around the boat like that all pervading mist when you're doing 15 knots or more out at sea.

Kirwan Robb used to be the Sailing Master before moving away, Ryan Grieve kept me in the loop and will now kill me for naming him personally, then there is Bruce's wife Margaret, and daughter Breahn on the Main, as well as new Sailing Master, Rodney Muller who has clearly stepped up the plate marvellously after Robb.

BTW, Rodney is married to Breahn, so who said families cannot sail together? Here's proof, well and truly!

"The remainder of the crew have direct, long standing connections with either Kirwan or Rodney, so it really is a big happy clan, that is also clearly full of fierce competitors when the lines get slipped. The third generation is already on board. Rodney and Breahn's three kids are young, but come to do twilights."

Look out Hammo, because the Grey Navy is on the way back for 2024, which will be their fourth foray into the tropics, and Kirwan Robb is also stepping back on board for a bit of fun, which clearly remains part of the motivation, along with success, of course. It is like a Grand Tour, for they amount to something like 32 POB when the shore crew gets included, and take up five apartments.

Clan McCracken is nothing if not large, and as Bruce states, "It's great to catch up with them all, not only because some live away, but also because all the children come along, and they have an absolute ball getting away from Melbourne's Winter. It's really our holiday for the year.

"We'll start preparing the boat soon, and then in month or so it can take off to get there. We are keen. We have won Division Two twice at Hammo, one of which was also the IRC Nationals."

"We enjoy the different challenges that come from going North. Obviously it is not sailing around here with the same boats we sail with most of the year. It is in the challenges. New Crews. New boats. Different water and conditions, and this is what it is all about."

"Some new North Sails 3Di RAW kit arrived at the beginning of the season, and they've made quite a difference I must say. We're very happy with them, and when we put the sails up for the first time, the boat just took off. Ikon points higher, and is also faster. Half a knot for sure. I've enjoyed sailing with these sails this year, I must say."

"There is a new mainsail and medium jib, which we use across its entire range. Being heavy, we don't perform all that well in five to eight knots TWS, but with these sails, we seem to be able to hold in there with the other, much lighter, boats in that range, before it gets to our sort of pressure, and we can get going."

Ikon hails from Hobsons Bay Yacht Club, which is tucked right up in the Northwest corner of Port Phillip, almost at the mouth the Yarra River. They have continued to have success on the water, with Merlion a notable vessel, but it has also powered on ashore, as well. McCracken said, "The club's social membership has increased substantially and, you know, the club's come alive."

OK. There it is. There is so much more on the group's websites for you. Simply use the search field, or 'edition' pull-down menu up the top on the right of the masthead to find it all. Please enjoy your yachting, stay safe, and thanks for tuning into

John Curnow
Editor, Sail World AUS

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