UK Sailmakers-powered boats won both IRC classes 1 and 2 and finished first overall in IRC in the 170-mile Bunbury and Return Ocean Race on Australia’s southwest coast. The race starts in the Indian Ocean off Fremantle, Western Australia, goes south 85 miles to Bunbury, and then turns back to Fremantle. Normally, boats would expect a 16-25 knot sea breeze that would swing easterly at 15-20 knots to Bunbury and then another strong sea breeze to bring them home. Not this year; the race was mostly light air.
UK Sailmakers Fremantle’s Geoff Bishop’s Summit 40 CHECKMATE got off to a good start and, after an upwind first leg, was first around the turning mark. The leg down to Bunbury was sailed in very light air, which shifted throughout the night. Both CHECKMATE and Phil Somerville-Ryan’s S&S 34 HUCKLEBERRY choose the inshore route, hoping for an easterly shift, whereas most of the fleet went offshore looking for a westerly shift. Place-changes happened all night as boats temporarily found the breeze they where looking for. The inshore course ended up paying off by allowing those boats to set Code Zeros and head straight at the turning mark. As the wind swung through to the north, spinnakers were set for the rest of the slow trip to Bunbury. The GP 42 rounded first and the next three boats rounded the turning mark within minutes of each other. Once around Bunbury, the fleet faced a light air beat to Fremantle. About 20nm north of Bunbury, the wind shifted west and then southwest allowing the boats again to set Code Zeros and then spinnakers for the trip home. While CHECKMATE crossed the finish line third after 32 hours and 49 minutes of racing, she corrected out to first in IRC 1. History books will show this year’s Bunbury and Return to be the slowest in the last 29 years.
HUCKLEBERRY sailed smartly winning IRC 2 and also corrected to first overall. She had the benefit of the strong southeasterly wind that came up too late in the race to help the faster boats — so she had that breeze longer pushing her back to the finish. HUCKLEBERRY sails with a full inventory of UK Sailmakers X-Drive upwind sails.
At the start of the race, there was a ceremony with classic aircraft, classic powerboats, and boats that were not racing as a remembrance to Rob Thomas and Paul Owens who lost their lives in last year’s Bunbury Race when their Davidson 50 FINISTERE lost its keel and capsized. HUCKLEBERRY’s crew was awarded the CYCA SOLAS Trusts Bravery award for rescuing four of the crew from FINISTERE. HUCKLEBERRY and her crew where a very popular winners due to their rescue efforts last year.