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Beneteaus bring smiles to battle rain

by Flagstaff Marine/John Curnow 12 May 22:56 PDT

A forecast of up to 50mm of rain was nowhere near enough to deter the loyal Beneteau enthusiasts for the annual Beneteau Pittwater Regatta by Flagstaff Marine. During the morning’s Champagne breakfast and briefing the heavens did indeed open up, but there was no mass exodus.

Instead, it brought out smiles, loads of jokes, and of course, a lot of gear. Perhaps everyone knew that as the day marched on the rain would abate, mostly. In the middle of the afternoon a ray of sun appeared, and then promptly went away again. So yes, there were ‘happy chappies’ everywhere, even if they were partially obscured by the amazing array of what appeared to be brand new wet weather gear.

Everyone had listened intently to the briefing, then it was time to gather up the lunches and head to the boats to get to the start line, just adjacent to Scotland Island. Now Pittwater is often referred to ‘Shiftwater’, and although the direction stayed predominantly in the Sou’east to East quadrant, it cycled up and down range with a rapidity reminiscent of lifts inside a skyscraper. The left, or Western side of the track tended to have the better of it, but it was not an exclusion zone by any means.

Alert crews used it all well, and it tended to be from zero to say 12 knots, with a lot of the race closer to zero than anything else, but there were some busters that blew through out in Broken Bay that made it into the 20s. Crews with shy kites struggled to retain height after rounding Lion Island, and were soon looking at West Head (at best - with Flint and Steel Point more like it), so they were doused pronto, as crews gathered in sail in the 1.2 to 1.8m rollers that glided in with great regularity.

Speaking of gliding, given the day it was a rare sighting to catch a large 1.2m sea turtle also traversing Broken Bay from North to South. Just like the participants in the Pittwater Regatta, a spot of bad weather was not going to interfere with this glorious creature’s ambitions.

Today’s latest Beneteaus were represented by the powerful First 44 and sublime First 36, and then all the way back to legacy craft from 30 plus years ago, with the vessels spanning a not insignificant gap from 27 to 51 feet in length.

No doubt in a reflective mood given that Beneteau celebrates 140 years in 2024, Flagstaff Marine Director, Graham Raspass commented, “This is something we're very proud of. Beneteau owners are a family, and it's really fantastic to bring them together. I'm just the custodian of the brand at the moment. 140 is a terrific milestone, and I'm sure it will be around for another 140 years.”

Indeed the world famous brand has thrived under Raspass’ stewardship. He and co-owner Micah Lane have even more owners enjoying time on the water and an expanded footprint that goes from Rushcutters Bay in Sydney, includes Pittwater, Soldiers Point in Port Stephens, Runaway Bay on the Gold Coast, and now Airlie Beach in Far North Queensland.

“I really think it is the Beneteau brand that got me excited to get involved with the business in the first place. It really got me enthused, and I’ve loved the last 11 years, which includes 21 regattas both here and on Sydney Harbour, that our family of owners have so much fun at”, said Raspass. “We also get to represent Beneteau at the famous regattas conducted at Airlie Beach, Hamilton Island and Sail Port Stephens, so we never feel too far away from our owners, who are both family and friends to us.”

The Beneteau Pittwater Regatta was first run in 2000, and has done so every year since, bar one during the COVID era. Of all the myriad of weather experienced during that time, this is the first to be conducted in such significant rain conditions. However, in retaining a positive outlook, just like all the Beneteau owners and crew in the 2024 Beneteau Pittwater Regatta, it did mean all boats made it around Lion Island and back to Scotland Island in the allotted time window, which is good for all.

In the Spinnaker Division, Julian Bell brought the 51st Project down from Port Stephens for the event, and they sailed with intent, so the result made it all the more worthwhile. Industry stalwart, Carl Crafoord, took the new First 44, Firefox, and its crew to second place.

Tailwind had its usual large, and visibly happy crew on board. The only thing missing on the day was their expansive backstay flag, but given the weather it would have only been a soaking mess trying to wrap people up, so it was undoubtedly a very prudent choice by skipper, Shaw Russett. It also has to be said that this crew had a ding-dong battle with Banter all the way back down Pittwater, with often less than one boat length separating them.

The ever-present, and ever-smiling Elara won the Non-Spinnaker Division, which was a first for them, after having been on the podium several times. Naturally, they were very much delighted by this. Bob Swan’s, Elusive Spirit, finished in second place, with Uwe Roehm’s Currawong collecting third. The latter’s excitement during presentations would have you thinking they had collected the major prize, such was their enthusiasm, all day long.

The Beneteau Cup on Sydney Harbour will be in late October, 2024, so do keep a weather eye out for that announcement.

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