Race 5 of the CYCA's Blue Water Pointscore series, the Bird Island Race – the final event in the series before the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race – starts this weekend. At 10:00 on Saturday 1 December, a 41-strong fleet takes the line on stunning Sydney Harbour for the 85-nautical-mile drag race, the shortest and fastest of the series.
With three grand-prix, 100-foot super maxis making their way to the start line, the race to be the first out of Sydney Heads will be hotly contested, especially with Christian Beck’s InfoTrack returning after months of modification and preparation works.
This race will also draw some new entrants to the BWPS including Sean Langman’s newly-christened RP65 Naval Group, as well as Rod Wills’ X43 Great Xpectations and Phillip Neil’s Hoek TC78 Oroton Drumfire. These boats will be thrown into the deep end taking on many previous race winners including Matt Allen’s Botin-designed TP52 Ichi Ban and CYCA Vice Commodore Noel Cornish AM’s Sydney 47 St Jude.
“It’s great to see an ever-growing fleet throughout the entire series, there have been new underdogs in each race who could take out a win,” CYCA Sailing Manager Justine Kirkjian explains. “It keeps the competition evolving with teams able to make modifications and then come back stronger than ever to test themselves against the rest of the fleet.”
One team that has been working hard throughout this year’s BWPS and has so far been able to reap the rewards is last year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart Line Honours winner Jim Cooney’s Comanche team.
“Preparation has been great, we have either been sailing on the boat or working on the boat for the last month. Comanche has been going very well and the crew are comfortable with all the changes we’ve made and we are rearing to go,” said Cooney. “It’s always good to see how we are going against the other 100-footers, but more importantly it’s about adjusting our mindset to focus on race performance and tactics to make sure we are maximising our trim and making the best sail selection.”
The battle for handicap honours, however, will be in the hands of the weather gods with a light-air start predicted, followed by a building nor ’easterly breeze in the afternoon. These conditions play right into the hands of the lightweight, stripped-out, highly-competitive TP52 racing machines, of which there are four.
For the smaller entrants in to the race including Shane Kearns’ S&S 34 Komatsu Azzurro and Army Sailing Club’s Jarkan 925 Gun Runner the big deciding factor will be how far they are able to make it before the nor ’easterly sea breeze drops as night falls.
Café 44 at the CYCA will be serving hot food around the clock for the duration of the race.
By HAMISH HARDY