Melbourne Osaka Cup History 1991

Race Outline

The Yamaha Osaka Double-Handed Yacht Race 1991 is the second of its kind following the inaugural race in 1987. The race to be held every four years is a short-handed race crewed by two, which reduces the difficulty of recruiting a full crew, yet still allows a round-the-clock watch necessary in areas such as the Coral Sea. This race is open to yachtsmen who enjoy cruising in the South Pacific and also provides the opportunity to visit Japan. It is a unique race in that we have a separate division for the cruising yachts heavier than the racing yachts.

We do not impose severe restrictions on the hull and rigging of the yacht, allowing modification for short-handed sailing. However, the race rules stipulate that the participating yachts should comply with the ORC Special Regulations Category 0 which has the most severe safety regulations and that all crew-members must have sufficient short-handed sailing experience. Also, the race organizers provided each competitor with ARGOS PTT to trace their positions and Satellite EPIRB for emergencies.

Leg 1 – Port Phillip

This race is a scratch race without handicaps which is easy for the general public to understand – the race result as the order of arrival is the placing. However, in this type of race, large yachts have an unfair advantage over small yachts, so we divided the Racing Division into 3 classes, separating them by 2 meter length intervals. The length over-all of the yachts is between 10 and 16 meters, as larger yachts are difficult to handle double-handed and smaller yachts cannot hold sufficient provisions for this distance. The elapsed time differs according the performance of the yachts and the course chosen, however we imposed a time limit in which to finish the race and provided a subsidy for delivery cruise to the official finishers within the time limit.

As typhoons are being formed north of the equator in early May, it is preferable for all competing yachts to have passed this area by then. On the other hand, cyclones may still be formed in Australia’s eastern waters in March, so we fixed the start in late March, receiving median finishers in early May in Osaka.

The race started from the Port of Melbourne, a sister port of Osaka. There was some difficulty when the fleet went out of Port Phillip Bay because of the rip at the mouth of Bay which forced the fleet to go out in a short time period during the day when the current is right. Hence, this race was divided into two legs : the First Leg from Port Melbourne to Rye and the Second Leg from Portsea, near the mouth of the Bay, to Osaka. The fleet stayed overnight after the First Leg and started the Second Leg when the current in the rip was favorable. As the distance of these two legs greatly differ, the elapsed time of the First Leg was not included in the final race result. Accordingly, the Prize Awarding Ceremony for the First Leg was held after that Leg and that for the Second Leg was held in Osaka, even though the competitors must complete both legs except in the case of unavoidable circumstance. To avoid disqualifications in Osaka after 5,500 n.m. due to infringement of rules, we imposed time penalties except in the case of a serious infringement which would result in disqualification.

ARGOS System & Satellite EPIRB

The position and movement of the fleet was to be followed by radio sched. However, because the radio sched might not cover all communications due jamming or other reasons we provided ARGOS PTT (Platform Terminal Transmitter) and Satellite EPIRB to all competing yachts to identify their positions and handle any possible emergency cases. The ARGOS System was originally developed for meteorological observation, with the function of identifying the position of the Transmitter. The signals from PTTs are received by the satellite circling the globe and stored until it meets the land station in which the the information from PTTs is fed. The information is processed at the land station into the latitude and longitude of the yacht. In an emergency, a different type of signal is transmitted by pulling a pin on the PTT. After processing, the race headquarters can obtain the positions of yachts in 2-6 hours depending on the movement of the satellite. These positions were broadcast to the competitors on the radio sched, which was used to confirm their own positions and trace the movement of other yachts. EPIRB stands for Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon, whose emergency signals were conventionally received by aircraft on international routes or land stations and reported to the nearest search and rescue organization. Recently, Satellite EPIRB whose emergency signals are relayed to the rescue coordination centers via satellite have been developed and are already in use in several countries. As Satellite EPIRB’s have not been authorized in Japan, we asked the Ministry of Telecommunication for special permission to use them in this race and provided the competitors with the units by courtesy of TOYOCOM, a manufacturer in Japan.

Welcoming crowd in Osaka

 Applications of Entries

As soon as the Notice of the Race was issued on February 8th, 1989, three entries were received and we allocated the entry numbers on a lottery basis. We received applications from 1987 competitors which helped the steady growth in the number of entries. However, one year prior to the start, we had only 24 entries. By the deadline on October 31st, 1990, the entries had increased to 69, however, four withdrawals made the final number of entries 65 which included 3 Russian and one Bugarian entry. By the time of the start, 20 withdrew, one did not start even though she passed the safety inspection and two did not appear in Melbourne, which put the final number of starters at 42. The major reason for withdrawal was financial problems.

Safety Inspection

After arriving in Melbourne, the safety equipment of the competing yachts was inspected at the Sandringham Yacht Club in accordance with the race rules. When passed, yachts were delivered to the Victoria Dock in the Port of Melbourne for the installation of ARGOS PTTs and Satellite EPIRBs. As the safety inspection proceeded, the inspection officers pointed out that there may be a problem with the instalation of propellers on two of the yachts. The Race Committee asked the International Jury directly for the final decision in order to reduce the time for procedures and a Jury meeting was convened on March 21st. The Jury made the decision that the installed propellers in the aforementioned yachts did not conflict with the race rules. This decision, stipulated as final in the race rules, allowed the two yachts to compete. Although protests against these yachts were lodged after the finish of the First and Second Legs, they were all rejected.

The majority of the yachts passed the safety inspection. Those with a shortage in equipment or provisions were supplemented and the one that had a problem with radio gear was given radio equipment. All yachts passed the inspection one day before the start. The well organized safety officers at the Sandringham Yacht Club made this possible.

First Leg

After the safety inspection, 42 yachts were ready for the start, however, one entry informed the Race Committee that they would postpone their start due to a problem with the mast. After completing repairs, they delivered the boat to Port-sea and got ready for the start of Second Leg on the following day. However they received a 6-hour penalty as stipulated in the rules.

The First Leg started at 10 : 30 am (EST) on March 23rd when the fleet of 41 set sail with the starting gun fired from HMAS Warrnambool. Three yachts were recalled : two returned to the start line, however, the one that did not return was disqualified though she crossed the finish line first. Around 200 spectator boats watched the fleet cross the start line off Princes Pier in SSW winds of 5-6 m/s which then sailed along the east coast of Port Phillip Bay to Rye. Thirty-one yachts finished the First Leg within the time limit including one which was disqualified. The Award Ceremony for the First Leg was held at 8 pm at the Blairgowrie Yacht Squardron where the fleet stayed overnight. The awardees were :

Racing Division, Class A

First Place : “Lucky & Luppy” Second Place : “Fuji Logitech” Third Place : “I Kan Du”

Racing Division, Class B

First Place : “Arabesque” Second Place : “Komandor Bering” Third Place : “Beaver House”

Racing Division, Class C

First Place : “Flying Fish” Second Place : “Raika” Third Place : “Rattle and Hum of Kaio”

Cruising Division

First Place : “Knots” Second Place : “Marina City Club” Third Place : “Northmoor”

Start of the Second Leg

The yacht which did not race the First Leg started this leg, however, Tom Linskey of Freelance sustained burns on both his legs two hours prior to the start while cooking in the galley. He was hospitalized which made the number of starters 41 again. Tom was moved to a hospital in Melbourne and a rapid recovery allowed him to be discharged on March 28th. Then, he and his wife Harriet started at 7 am on March 30th, five and half days after the official start, with a supply of medical goods.

Tom & Harriet Linskey – Freelance

The gun fired from HMAS Warrnam-bool at 2: 15 pm (EST) set the fleet underway for Osaka, accompanied by clear skies and south winds of 4 m/s which assisted them through the heads one by one. Bass Strait between the southeast corner of Australia and Tasmania is notorious for its rough conditions. However, it was fortunate that the fleet started after a depression had passed the area and all yachts sailed through the Strait safely into the Tasman Sea led by the large yachts of R-A as expected.

Accidents during the race and distress of  Southern Dufour

When the leading group reached the east coast of Australia, various troubles such as broken rigging, torn sails, leakage from running aground happened under the rough conditions supplied by a low pressure system. However, all made makeshift repairs and continued racing. Two yachts broke their rudders.

On the morning of April 5th. The rudder of Marina City Club broke when she was sailing under winds of 10-15 m/s. As the crew did not feel any physical shock, it appears that the yacht did not hit a drifting object. They headed for Townsville arriving on the evening of April 13th. After fitting a new rudder, they left Townsville on the 18th and resumed racing. They finished in Osaka on May 21st, a 10% time penalty was imposed on them for outside assistance.

The other yacht was Southern Dufour which lost its rudder on the morning of April 21st. The weather was not very rough at that time and it seems she hit a drifting object. The boat started taking water and the crew had to abandon the yacht after contacting US Coast Guard in Guam. They took the Satellite EPIRB and other emergency equipment with them into the life raft. The yacht soon sank. Informed by Penta Comstat, some of the competing yachts nearby headed for the area, however, a US Navy aircraft sited the raft and a Coast Guard cutter was dispatched and rescued the two crew-members on the evening of the 21st, arriving in Guam the following evening.

Southern Dufour

Three crews incurred health problem excluding Tom Linskey. A&M Saila returned to Portsea shortly after the Second Leg start due to the Skipper’s back problem. They retired. Eureka Sun-chaser 3 entered Eden for medical advice for the Skipper who had a vertebrae problem and they resumed racing after treatment. Leg troubles ailed the Crew of Fine Tolerance and so they called into Truk Island on May 3rd leaving him there for medical treatment. He flew home soon afterwards and the Skipper continued racing single-handed finishing last in the race on May 24th. Even though it was made more difficult, racing single-handed conflicts with the race rule which requires two crew-members. Accordingly, a 10% time penalty was imposed on Fine Tolerance.

Three yachts retired : A&M Saila,Southern Dufour and Beaver House which lost radio communications on March 29th and informed the Race Committee of their retirement on April 3rd after they had entered Sydney due to mechanical problems.

Race Result

The elapsed time shows that the leading group in R-A had an average speed of 8 knots. Considering that they sailed the equatorial doldrums where the winds are unstable as well as areas with good winds, it seems that they sailed at around 10 knots on many days and reveals excellent performance of the yachts and seaman-ship.

The performance of R-C boats was outstanding : the first three yachts were racing ahead of all R-B yachts and were among R-A racers though they were the smallest in the Racing Division. If this race were handicapped, they could have won the race.

The courses the competitors took basically followed one line, except for the yachts that left the course due to troubles. Although yachts followed various routes along the east coast of Australia, they sailed along the rhumb line after the equator.

The result from the First Leg and the race development reveals the serious effects of troubles : some could not catch the leading places as they took a lot of time for repairs ; some were forced to sail at limited speeds after the troubles. In this type of long-distance race, sufficient preparation and prompt trouble-shooting are essential.

Comparison with the Inaugural Race

The comparison between the inaugural race and this race is as seen in the table below.

Firstly, the number of entries decreased and accordingly so did the number of starters. However, the ratio of starters to entries remained almost the same. The ratio of retirements drastically decreased this time owing to sufficient preparation based on the experience from the last race as well as the Bass Strait’s kind weather. In terms of speed, the leading group’s elapsed time was 10% less than the last race. Smaller yachts also sailed very fast as stated and those in the Cruising Division reduced the elapsed time too, This seems to be due to the weather throughout the race and the improved performance of yachts. However, the elapsed time of the last finish was twice that of the first finish, which was the same in the last race.

According to the ARGOS data, the average distance covered in the 1987 race was 5,500 n.m. as expected, how-ever, it was shortened to about 5,300 n. m. this time. This might be due to that the competitors following the rhumb line rather than selecting other courses. The shortest course connecting the points of land from Melbourne to Osaka with straight lines does not exceed 5,000 n. m., yet this course is theoretical. However, one yacht covered a little bit over 5.000 n.m. and we consider this to be the realistically shortest distance. We will wait and see if they can further reduce the distance in the next race. However, the yachts that covered shorter distance do not always finish earlier and it would be important to follow the course of good winds.


 1991 Race1987 Race
Number of Entries6590
Number of starters4264
Racing division(29)(37)
Cruising division(13)(27)
Number of retirements 317
Racing division(3)(11)
Cruising division(0)(6)
Number of finishers3946
Ratio- finishers to starters0.930.72
Elapsed time of 1st yacht
Racing division28d 6.5hrs31d 19hrs
Cruising division36d 17hrs38d 2hrs
Average speed of 1st yacht
Racing division7.5 knots7.2 knots
Cruising division5.9 knots6 knots
Average elapsed time
Racing division36.9 days41.1 days
Cruising division49.3 days47.3 days
Average dist covered by top 5 yachts5250 nm5410 nm

Images from the 1991 Record Book

Click to enlarge

Publisher acknowledgement