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Ichi Ban claims fourth series win aims to re-write history in Rolex Sydney Hobart

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Ichi Ban claims fourth series win aims to re-write history in Rolex Sydney Hobart_2
Ichi Ban have claimed their fourth win from five Audi Centre Sydney Blue Water Pointscore series races. Hamish Hardy, CYCA Media.

Past Commodore of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (CYCA) and current President of Australian Sailing Matt Allen, has on the weekend skippered his Botin-designed TP52 Ichi Ban to her fourth Audi Centre Sydney Blue Water Pointscore (Audi Centre Sydney BWPS) series win from five starts so far.

Ichi Ban, which means 'number one' or 'first' in Japanese, is unquestionably living up to her name. The team are the current Overall Winners of the Tattersall Cup for the fastest corrected time on handicap in last year's Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, and will this year look to re-write history, becoming the first yacht to claim back-to-back titles over 50 years.

"We're extremely happy to have achieved four firsts and a second," said Allen.

"To get consistent results across five races in the Audi Centre Sydney Blue Water Pointscore is an incredibly difficult thing to do and the team are ecstatic! We've been very strong against the rest of the fleet for the last 11 months, so hopefully (with an ounce of luck!) we can put the boat in the right place on Boxing Day and the days beyond."

Allen, having just added the Bird Island Race win to achievements, has been in red-hot form in this year's Audi Centre Sydney BWPS – widely regarded as the pinnacle of Australian ocean racing. Allen started at the top with a series win in Race 1, the Noakes Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race, and didn't let up from there, winning all but one series race since then.

"We've been doing a whole lot of inshore and offshore races throughout the season which has really helped us make a lot of good changes to the setup and the boat," continued Allen.

In fact, the only boat able to defy the dominance of Allen and his Ichi Ban team is CYCA Vice Commodore Noel Cornish AM's Sydney 47 St Jude. Placing consistently well throughout the series to currently sit in fifth place overall, Cornish and team managed to wrench Race 4 – Cabbage Tree Island Race from Ichi Ban's grasp to claim the win.

And all the way from WA, Anthony Kirke's Enterprise has also had a stellar run throughout the series. Representing Fremantle Sailing Club, the Farr 40 skippered by the aptly-nicknamed 'Captain Kirke' currently sits in sixth place overall – a mere one point away from Cornish – and have now undoubtedly set their sights on the challenge to come on Boxing Day.

All eyes in fact now turn to Race 6 of the Audi Centre Sydney BWPS – the 628-nautical-mile, 'Everest' of ocean racing, Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. Ninety-one yachts are set to make up the fleet touted as the toughest in the history of the event, and as always, the Overall Win can come from any challenger. But Allen, with characteristic determination, has the final word on that:

"Ichi Ban is going a whole lot better than at this time last year and the team have just continued to improve. We're not leaving anything to chance and we don't have too many jobs to do now before the Great Race."

By DJ Munro

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