Owner/skippers Matt Donald and Chris Townsend watched on from afar as their TP52, Gweilo, produced another standout result in the 2022 Noakes Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race.
With Donald and Townsend competing at Cowes Week in the UK, Peter Merrington took on the role of skipper for the opening race of the 2022/23 Audi Centre Sydney Blue Water Pointscore.
The crew – which included Wade Morgan, navigator Andrea Green and Kyle Dodds among other mainstays – didn’t skip a beat, finishing second overall on IRC and winning Division 1.
It adds to Gweilo’s impressive list of results since Donald and Townsend bought the boat in 2018.
She was 5th in the 2018 Noakes Sydney Gold Coast, 4th in the 2019 Noakes Sydney Gold Coast and 2nd in the 2019 Rolex Sydney Hobart, also winning the 2020/21 Audi Centre Sydney Blue Water Pointscore.
"It was a long and arduous race," Merrington said. "It was always going to be an epic battle with nine TP52s out there and it pretty much started out that way from the get go.
"Pretty much all the TP52s were head-to-head up Pittwater and through the first night, there were a lot of lead changes. That was pretty fun, pretty tactical. It was a bit mind-bending for the tactics guys and navigators.
"Then on the second day, we got a bit of a break on the other TP52s and pretty much held on until the highlight of our race, which was having a pretty awesome tacking duel with Ichi Ban going around Ballina Head and Lennox Head.
"We swapped about 8 or 9 tacks going on each other’s faces, which was pretty fun."
Donald and Townsend "probably spent more time looking at the yacht tracker than sailing at Cowes Week", Merrington laughs.
They would have been biting their nails watching the enthralling battle between the 52-footers on Monday evening, with Gweilo racing against the clock to hunt down the overall winner – Sean Langman’s Moneypenny.
In the end, Gweilo fell just 24 minutes short on corrected time. But after the disappointment of retiring from the 2021 Rolex Sydney Hobart with forestay damage, the owners will be delighted with the performance of Merrington and co.
"We spoke to them after the race and they were really thrilled with the crew," Merrington said.
"It was a huge effort for our guys. Matt and Jock (Townsend) were stoked with the result. It was disappointing they couldn’t be here but great they could be so involved.
"They’ve got ultimate confidence in all our crew to look after the boat. I’d like to heap praise on the crew, because they worked their guts out. At times, we paused the watch system, which isn’t something we’d previously done, but it was required to get some more guys on the rail.
"They never stopped giving 100%, so they were awesome in that regard."