SPORT - Rod Jones wins Audi IRC Australian Championship for a second time
At the close of Audi Hamilton Island Race Week last night, Rod Jones from Queensland, the inaugural winner of the Audi IRC Australian Championship in 2006, was announced the winner of the coveted title for a second time.
For his determination and fortitude, Jones, who won the final race to claim Division 2 honours by just two points,
Sailing in the Grand Prix Division 2, Jones and his crew on the updated Alegria, an Archambault 40, fought off serious Championship challenges from other yachts including second placed Graeme Wood’s JV 52 Wot Now (NSW) and third placed Living Doll, Michael Hiatt’s Farr 55 from Melbourne, both sailing in the Grand Prix Division 1.
To out-race his three main rivals and take the 2009 crown, the Queenslander also had to finish at the top of his division at Hamilton Island, where he faced serious challenges from Dekadence, Phil Coombes’ DK46 from Victoria and Andrew Saies’ Two True Evolution, a Beneteau First 40 representing South Australia.
An elated Jones said: “We’re pretty excited; although I’m not sure it’s sunk in yet. It’s my team and team work — they get me around the racecourse and I just do as I’m told — most of the time!
“I’m lucky to have a well-bonded team. All of them are good. I’ve got Adrian Finglas calling tactics, Bucky Smith (winning crew of the 2009 Audi Etchells World Championship) trimming and James Hawker navigating. All the crew are good,” he said.
Jones and his team, including decorated and respected sailor Finglas, a Beijing Olympic and Paralympic sailing coach for the Australian Sailing Team, sailed an impeccable Championship.
The Audi IRC Australian Championship comprises four events, of which three count; the newly re-badged Audi Victoria Week (formerly Geelong Week); Audi Sydney Harbour Regatta; Audi Sydney Gold Coast Race; and the final event, Audi Hamilton Island Race Week.
Alegria’s crew won Division 2 in the first two Championship regattas. They looked the clear winners of Division 3 in the Audi Sydney Gold Coast Race in July, until being on the receiving end of a penalty, which dropped Alegria to sixth place. Had it not been for that, the Queensland yachtsman would have come to Hamilton Island with the Audi IRC Championship already won.
“We copped the penalty for missing a radio sked. We opened the door to adversity and they drove the bus in! The lesson is, ‘don’t miss a radio sked!’ Having said that, it made us try even harder at Hamilton Island,” Jones explained.
Announcing the winner,
Audi Australia managing director, Joerg Hofmann, congratulated Jones and his team for such a close finish: “It’s great to see such sportsmanship between yachts. We are happy to see Rod and his crew win again. It was a hard fought battle, but obviously the best boat and crew have been victorious.”
In 2006, Jones drove home in Audi’s sporty Q7 SUV, so what happens with the new car? “Good question,” says Jones. “I’m an Audi fleet owner — we love them in our family.
“My mum and sister both drive Audi’s and my wife and I have three now. I didn’t want to count my chickens before they hatched, so I didn’t think about winning it, but probably I’ll end up claiming it,” he laughed.
Hofmann will present Jones with the keys to a new Audi A6 Allroad Quattro at the official Audi IRC prize giving at the new Audi Lighthouse in Sydney on September 30.
The opening of the 2010 Audi IRC Championship commences with Audi Victoria Week at the end of January.
Photos: Alegria and her winning team; The prize — an Audi A6 Allroad Quattro. (Photos by Andrea Francolini/Audi).