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Matador charges to win first Act of Pallas Capital Gold Cup

by Nic Douglass 17 Mar 12:20 UTC 16-17 March 2024

David Doherty's Matador took the win in a closely fought Act 1 of the Pallas Capital Gold Cup over the ten boat fleet this weekend, sailed from the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia.

The tight racing, mini-battles throughout the fleet, and great tests of boat handling were the perfect start to what is set to be a hard raced Pallas Capital Gold Cup with just six points separating the top six boats under the TPR rule.

"It has come so far, just from the three years I have been involved. And a boat that's last in one race might be third in the next one, and it's just really compressed the field, it's really good", said Doherty of the TPR racing.

Koa, owned and skippered by Andy Kearnan was second on TPR, with Craig Neil's Quest placing third.

On IRC, it was also Matador with the top honours, followed by Marcus Blackmore's new Hooligan, and again Andy Kearnan's Koa.

Day 1

Saturday's opening race saw the ten-strong fleet head south from the Clarke Island start/finish line in Sydney Harbour start line to Port Hacking for a 36 nautical mile passage race.

The shared start line captured a few of the fleet up at the favoured boat end in the weak easterly breeze.

Koa won the start, nailing the shared line and finding clear air in a hole that opened up to leeward of the main pack, with Zen a few boat lengths to leeward, and Hooligan well towards the pin end of the line also starting well.

The lead changed on the way out of the harbour, with Zen pushing through to lead out of the heads with Matador close by, who passed on the inside as the two boats went through the heads. Zen went for the early drop on their Code Zero, and they were able to again take the lead from to leeward while Matador tried to drop theirs.

There were different tactics for the route south, with some opting to hug the shore, and others going a little wider. Ultimately, Matador won out with a wider approach, and they were able to unfurl their Code to inch forward again on Hooligan and Zen.

After several changes through the fleet Matador took first place on TPR, a perfect start to their campaign.

Day 2

Sunday's racing saw the windward-leeward course moved inside Sydney Harbour. After a lengthy delay waiting for the breeze to fill in, the first race of the day got away in 8 knots at 105 degrees with a two lap, nautical mile course about two hours after the scheduled time thanks to a patient race committee.

Zen were clear leaders from the start and managed the shifty part of the course under Bradley's Head to extend around the first top mark. Hooligan made big gains downwind and managed to sneak inside Zen at the bottom gate. Quest followed, and immediately tacked to take advantage of the left-hand shift that had filled in across the course.

Quest sailed a fantastic race pushing on to second place across the line and took the same position on TPR to Koa who continued to add to their good start in race one, with Peter White's First Light in third. Matador made an excellent recovery after getting caught up at the start to finish fourth on TPR.

Race two saw the course reset to 110 degrees and once again the start line was a tough contest for the ten TP52's. Koa was again the winner of the start, and led around the top mark. Unfortunately they had a mechanical issue with their winches from there on, and went backwards for the remainder of the final race, but salvaged a third position on TPR to take second overall behind Matador, who again took fourth for the race.

Meanwhile, Hooligan extended down the first run to put daylight in between themselves and the fleet, and even with the most harsh handicap of the bunch, took the win on TPR in the final race to secure 5th on TPR overall.

First Light, the most improved of the regatta, finished in second place, following multiple ducks and weaves up the works with the fastest boats in the fleet. They were elated with their performance as one of the newcomers to the fleet, finishing fourth overall.

"Super boost to the crew", commented White on the result. "Just on top of the world".

"The class is terrific, the camaraderie is wonderful. Look here we are mixing it up, and a year ago I found it hard to even talk to them [meaning the leaders], because they are just above our level, so to be up here now is just a reward for all the hard work that we have put in over the past year, and our learning in the class", concluded White.

There is plenty more to come for the four-act Pallas Capital Gold Cup, with Act 2 part of SailFest Newcastle and the IRC National Championship 5-7 April, then Act 3 as part of Sail Port Stephens and the IRC State Championship 19-21 April, with the final Act 4, to be sailed in Pittwater from the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club on 18-19 May 2024.

Thanks to sponsors Pallas Capital and Zhik for their support.

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