Thirty years on and Jim Dunstan and Zeus II are still winning

3 September 2012

Peter Campbell

More than thirty years after they won the Sydney Hobart ocean race, Jim Dunstan and his Currawong 30, Zeus II, are still winning races, albeit on Sydney Harbour these days.

Zeus II began the Royal Sydney Squadron’s 151st season of yacht racing on Saturday with a win on corrected time in Division 3 on a showery and windy first day of spring on Sydney Harbour.

Dunstan, a past Commodore and Life Member of the Squadron, skippered Zeus II to a memorable victory in the 1981 Sydney Hobart and 23 years later came within less than five minutes of winning the race again in what was also Jim’s 25th Hobart Race.

Jim retired Zeus II from ocean racing after the 2002 Sydney Hobart but has continued to race her in Division 3, a division made up largely of old ‘half tonners’ of the IOR era of ocean racing.

Zeus II, designed by Peter Joubert, a professor of mechanical engineering and part-time yacht designer, has an overall length of 9.1 metres and is one of the smallest yachts ever to win the Sydney Hobart.

In Saturday’s opening race of the RSYS season she finished fifth in fleet in Division 3, winning on corrected time by 15 seconds from Mystere (Malcolm Shaw and Andrew Rodger). Line honours and first place on handicap went to Windsong 2 (John Vickery).

The windy weather certainly favoured the former ocean racer, with a 20-26 knot southerly breeze that frequently gusted to 30 knots, even 37 knots mid-afternoon.

RSYS general committee member Ian MacDiarmid sailed Hell Razor to victory in Division 1, winning from newcomer Duende (Damien Parkes), third place going to Sydney (Charles Curran) which also took line honours.

MacDiarmid said a significant factor in Hell Razor’s win had been a new rudder, designed by Andy Dovell for the BW36. Built by Tim Webster using carbon and foam, it is based on a carbon stock, allowing the rudder to be thinner.

“The old rudder needed the Lord himself at the wheel to sail in a straight line,” MacDiarmid said after his win. “In our first sail on Saturday with occasionally 20 knots running, I could let the wheel go for long periods of time and Hell Razer was totally under control…this would have been impossible with the original rudder.”
MacDiarmid said the Division 1 fleet had winds of 20 knots, at times up to 33 knots, on the last beat from Manly to the finish in Rose Bay and “she was, for the first time, tracking straight and sailing easily at good speeds.”

A first-up winner in a strong Division 2 fleet was Zig Zag 2, Graham Thompson’s J35 from the Royal Prince Edward Yacht Club. Zig Zag 2 took the double of line and handicap honours, winning from Arcturus III (Peter Davenport) and Ambitious (David Matthews).

The fresh weather affected Division 3, with only three boats finishing as the southerly built up during the afternoon. First place went to Beowulf (Stafford White) from Daydream (Cheryn Croker) and Brother Hood (Tony Craven and Jack Rigg).

Only a dozen International Etchells fronted up, with Doug McGain helming Ciao to a comfortable win from Vincero (Nick Kingsmill and Peter Gardner), third place going to Touch Pause Engage (Michael Stovin-Bradford).

The small fleet in the International Dragon class enjoyed close racing, with former Olympic sailor Carl Ryves steering Sidewinder to victory from Indulgence (Robert Alpe) and Liquidity (Richard Franklin).

Only two boats started in the International Yngling class, with Miss Pibb (Hamish Jarrett) winning from Black Adder (Gary Pearce).