Ray Roberts promises to leave nothing on the race course when he contests the 2010 Meriden Marinas Airlie Beach Race Week IRC class championship over the Whitsunday Sailing Club courses in mid August.
The popular Cruising Yacht Club of Australia owner skipper who lost his 2008 championship in a thrilling tactical duel against the Michael Hiatt skippered Living Doll last year has made no secret about his desire to steer the Cookson 50 Evolution Racing to victory in 2010.
This will be his final shot at winning the prestigious championship series before he replaces the 2008 Meridien Marinas Airlie Beach Race Week champion and dual Brisbane to Gladstone Race winner with the former American owned 2007 Rolex Sydney Hobart race champion Rosebud.
No doubt the memories associated with last year’s result where the Evolution Racing team missed their chance to win back to back titles by the narrow margin of 40 seconds in the final race have remained.
Both the champion skipper and crew who have recently completed a successful circuit of regatta racing in Thailand and South East Asia will certainly be tactically prepared and ready to protect their reputations.
However while their past results suggest that Evolution Racing deserves to be rated among the pre-regatta favourites they will need to be tactically prepared to answer the challenge from the impressive Jim Farmer owned and skippered New Zealand sloop Georgia.
Jim Farmer QC has strong ties with the Black Magic Americas Cup syndicate which suggests that there will be an AC influence in Georgia’s crew when the sole New Zealand challenger enters into a tactical arm wrestle for the 2010 IRC class trophy.
There is always far too much pride at stake when Australia and New Zealand go head to head in a sporting contest and this is again expected to become another trans-Tasman dogfight with the Ray Roberts helmed Evolution Racing facing an uphill battle to sail on equal handicap rated speed with the new Georgia.
As expected Georgia and Evolution Racing share the early favouritism among the early entrants which also include the Craig Piccinelli skippered Wobbly Boot and the Ian Thomson helmed SOS Racing.
Wobbly Boot which has entered the Grand Prix class championship for the first time has a consistent record in Whitsunday Sailing Club events which suggests her crew could press a claim with an advantage of local knowledge.
For Ian Thomson the challenge of fleet racing will become a welcome change after he completes his present solo circumnavigation of Australia.
Meanwhile Ian Thomson remains totally focused on proving his stamina and solo sailing skills by mastering the cold and inhospitable weather systems as he tracks a course for Tasmania’s South West and South East Capes before ‘turning the corner’ towards his home port of Airlie Beach and the warmer winter sailing environment in the Whitsunday Islands as the new solo round Australia record holder.
- Ian "Stripey" Grant