The spirit of the eighth edition of the Melbourne Osaka Cup was duly celebrated on Saturday 5 May 2018 with a truly inclusive gathering of participating crews, family and friends along with race management and volunteers from host clubs from sister cities Melbourne and Osaka.
The 2018 race has been considered to be one of the most challenging by many of the repeat competitors, serving up wild weather in Melbourne, cyclones and monsoonal rain off Queensland and extreme wind patterns from glass outs to gales and storms across the latitudes for the 5500 nautical mile race. It was fitting that at the end of a frenetic and at times frustrating race, the celebration of outstanding seamanship and achievement be quietly reflected upon. The Osaka Tenmangu Shrine (circa 10th century AD) again provided a perfect space for the formalities, commencing in the inner sanctum with a special thanksgiving service for the safe passage of the competing boats and crews and a special blessing for the two remaining boats still at sea.
Moving to the outer room for the official presentation of trophies, Chairman of Osaka Ports commented on the long maritime connection between Melbourne and Osaka ports which predates the sister city relationship by many years.
An outstanding performance by Rupert Henry from Sydney on his sleek Judel-Vrolijk 62 Chinese Whisper with co skipper Greg O’Shea saw them out of the blocks for the fourth and final staggered start on 1 April, chasing down the fleet and smashing the long standing race record by two days with a line honours elapsed time of 21 days 12hr 41min 13sec, also securing ‘ichi ban’ positions across all divisions of AMS, IRC and PHS to be the overall Champion. With the cache of official trophies, a broken vinyl record was added as a reminder of the fun spirit of the event. Rupert sincerely affirmed all race finishers as winners for their efforts in this marathon event.
Second place in both AMS and PHS divisions went to the slowest boat with the youngest co skipper in the race, Tamar Yacht Club’s Vice Commodore Joanna Breen onboard her S&S 34 Morning Star with co-skipper Peter Brooks from neighbouring Port Dalrymple Yacht Club. First out of the blocks on 15 March as sole starters, they both celebrated their respective birthdays on the day of the main fleet start 25 March, with Jo turning 29yrs. Despite early equipment issues with loss of wind gear from the masthead and autopilot failure, their determination to remain competitive was never dimmed. In true Corinthian spirit and with great seamanship they continued to lead the race until overtaken by Chinese Whisper in the final 24hr run to their finish after 39 days 15hr 23min 56sec.
The remaining podium places were hotly contested by the remainder of the fleet with many boats hitched for days endlessly crossing paths and tacks with others. Amongst this group, were four Jeanneau Sunfasts comprising three 3600s and the smallest boat in the fleet the 3200 model The Edge.
From Fremantle WA, previous owner of The Edge, Todd Giraudo with co-skipper David ‘Dubbo’ White upgraded for the Osaka Cup to a 3600 model named Kraken and took out second place in IRC and third place in AMS and PHS.
Fellow Sunfast 3600 sailors, father and son team of Rod and Tyson Smallman from Sandringham Yacht Club (SYC) Victoria filled third place in IRC after a fight-to-the-finish tussle with Kraken and took out the prize for the First SYC boat to Osaka. Of note, Tyson shares his birth date with the inaugural Melbourne to Osaka Race in March 1987 and along with young Joanna, heralds a new generation seeking the challenge offered by this iconic international race.
The event also attracted several repeat competitors. Bill Gray and Aaron Haigh who raced Matrix in their 2003 campaign returned with Pogo 40 Matrix Reloaded this year. Dubbed the ‘Blues Brothers’ they steadily worked their way through the fleet to finish only 2min 26 sec behind local Japanese entrant Keiichirou Morimura and Masa Omote on the Dehler 38 Bartolome who cleared out and led the way for their bunch as they approached local home waters.
South Australian Tom Crabb, a 2007 entrant on his modified Adams Southern Light returned to race on Daniel Turner’s Jon Sayer designed Runaway for the boat’s third Osaka event.
John Bankart from Sunshine Coast Sailing School joined Steve Ho aboard his Felci 45 Surfdude for his third Osaka attempt.
Victorian Laurie Ford made history as the oldest competitor in the race having turned 80yrs young in January this year and lined up for his third race aboard Spirit of Downunder, teaming up with son Tim Ford as co-skipper for the last two events.
Two other females also competed in the event in mixed teams. Annette Hesselmans and husband Gerard Snyders raced their Radford 12 Red Jacket. Sue Bumstead and Grant Dunoon currently remain at sea but on track for Osaka on Grant’s Moody 54 Blue Water Tracks. Having suffered both bow thruster and autopilot problems requiring pitstops which have incurred time penalties, their commitment to finishing the race demonstrates true grit in the face of adversity.
Along with competitors, family and friends have bonded with support for each other and been blown away by the legendary Japanese hospitality extended at Osaka Hokko Yacht Club. Several competitors are already sketching plans for the next race in 2023.
– Written by Rosie Colahan