Riviera wins the ultimate navigational challenge

Sydney, NSW: Precision, knowledge and experience kept Riviera Flybridge, Curly, on course to win the 64th annual Harry Peel Trophy.

As the most esteemed and long-standing power cruising challenge in New South Wales, the Harry Peel Trophy is a navigational time trial set over a 35-mile course where 90 per cent of the course is offshore.

Long-time navigator David Hinton has spent a lifetime on the water and aged 75, he still enjoys racing sailing yachts as much as navigating cruisers.  David was a boat builder by trade and between 1969 and 1974 he was race Secretary at the Royal Motor Yacht Club Broken Bay.  In 1975, he started navigating cruisers and found it very challenging and rewarding.

“Continuous chart work, teaching and setting navigation courses, competing in events and trying to be better than your fellow navigators has always been my driving force and it is so rewarding to come out on top,” he said.

“For the little amount of time we had on board Curly, owned and skippered by Jeff Butcher, it was a fantastic team effort to take home the trophy.

“To navigate and win back-to-back ‘Peels’ is very satisfying for me, it brings a feeling of absolute elation, not only for myself but also for my fellow team members.  On acceptance of the trophy this year, I turned around to see my course man, Darryle Dransfield with tears in his eyes and that really touched my heart.”

David said his biggest challenge in the Harry Peel Trophy was navigating a cruiser that he was unfamiliar with.

“It is important that you know your boat and what it is capable of in certain conditions and varying rev ranges.  We had limited preparation with a short training period the week before, notching up a total of only six miles,” he said.

“We started early on Saturday morning near Clarke Island in Sydney Harbour.  It was a bleak morning, mist and rain showers.  The shoreline was invisible at times and it was very hard to make out sight points on the shore, which meant we were running blind for a lot of the time.

“We were running on time to turns and magnetic headings and a lot of dead reckoning up to a turning point off Long Reef and then back towards Manly.  As we neared North Head, I said to my timekeeper, AJ, ‘Stand by, rain’s lifting, I need this transit time’.  On my call, AJ said ‘Bugger me, we’re only 15 seconds late.’  This was a big highlight for me after 13.6 miles into the event.”

The crew aboard Curly then headed further south past Botany Bay to Port Hacking.

“We were constantly gauging our estimated time to the various waypoints on our way to Port Hacking.

“The rain at times was torrential, sometimes lasting for minutes and making life for the navigator and crew quite difficult.  This is where knowledge of your boat is important.  Estimating the time on distance to the next course checkpoint.

“Another highlight for me was getting better visibility going south and settling the boat into the ‘Groove’, which means on course, on time, all the time.  It is an old navigator’s saying.  Easy to say, but hard to do.

“During this event we had NNE to NE winds to 12 knots with following 1 ½ metre swell, which is very hard to steer to and Curly handled the conditions magnificently.  Leaving Port Hacking northward bound we ran into 15 to 18 knots from the NE and heavy rain squalls.  Due to her sweet bow entry and planning lines, Curly  was untroubled to run at 18 to 20 knots into these contitions.

“Curly won the 64th Harry Peel Trophy because of her ability to track well in stern quarter seas.  She also had a good power to weight ratio for instant speed response; and the flybridge comfort for the team who worked extremely hard, was a significant factor towards this great win.”

The Harry Peel Trophy is not a speed event, it is a time trial using traditional navigation methods with maps, charts, hand bearing compasses and line of sight. 

The team aboard Curly felt extremely honoured to be awarded the impressive Harry Peel Trophy, which stands at about five foot high and was hand crafted in the 1930s from solid silver.  It is valued at more than $50,000.  Harry Peel, one of the original members of the Royal Motor Yacht Club discovered the trophy in an antique shop and donated it to the club as first prize for this respected event.