Challenges fuel interest in 51st King Island Race

More than 30 boats are set to start the Ocean Racing Club of Victoria’s 114 nautical mile King Island Race, starting at 5pm on Friday 10 March off Queenscliff, with competitors chasing overall honours and the nine-year-old race record set by John Newbold’s Primitive Cool of nine hours 50 minutes 21seconds.

Royal Geelong Yacht Club’s Paul Buchholz is prepping his canting Cookson 50, Extasea, hoping conditions are ripe for record breaking.

Prizes at the end are large crayfish and King Island cheeses. If you don’t win a cray, participants say the steak sandwiches are worth the trip. That and the warm hospitality offered by the King Island Boat Club crew.

Buchholz says, “Having crays as prizes is a great idea. They’re something you can get your teeth into that you can enjoy.”

Getting to the finish first is not a given though. “There are quite a few challengers actually,” Buchholz admits. “Hartbreaker (Antony Walton) and Scarlet Runner (Robert Date) and MRV.”

Choosing overall favourites is complex, as the weather and tides are a major factor in in deciding the outcome in such a diverse fleet. Buchholz agrees.

“It is a difficult race. Very fickle. You have to choose whether to sail close to the island or not. The tides make it hard getting around the island. Navigational wise it really is a challenge,” Buchholz says. “It’s very hard to break the record too. You need good reaching conditions.”

How Bizarre among the favourites- Bruno Cocozza, ORCV pic
How Bizarre among the favourites- Bruno Cocozza, ORCV pic

Among the front runners touted for overall honours is Damien King’s Frers 61, MRV and the Scott Robinson skippered How Bizarre, a Sequest RP36.

“MRV does beautifully upwind. Medium wind would be perfect. Downwind is difficult, as old girl doesn’t surf.”

King, who is eyeing of “Ryujin (Alex Toomey) competition wise, had an unsuccessful run at MRV’s first attempt at the race. “Last year we got caught in a weird weather pattern. There we sat for six hours in a hole. We ended up turning round and going home.”

The Victorian said his crew were “the usual suspects, but I have to mention Jon Orr – he looks after catering, trims sails, steers. He does everything. We couldn’t do without him.”

King added, “I’m so pleased the ORCV holds these races, because without them there wouldn’t be offshore races. They’re passionate about racing and keeping us sailors happy.”

On a final note, he said, “We’re looking forward to the steak sandwiches at the end. Fingers crossed for an upwind race.”

Scott Robinson agrees: “You’d die for the eye fillet steaks. They cook through the day and night. It’s a fantastic scene. The reception at King Island is fantastic and the set-up is so good.”

He is praying for an upwind race too. “Our boat suits light weather on the wind. We don’t mind if it gets a bit heavier upwind either. It’s not a long race, so it’s a perfect. It’s nostalgic for me, I did it as a kid around 15 with my father. I did all the offshore races on Solent and Brumby, an Adams Half Tonner. Both were owned by my father and his brother.

“The ORCV has been doing a fantastic job of building the numbers up. It obviously makes the competition better. But at the end of the day, we just want to finish and get at those steak sandwiches – I can taste them thinking about it,” Robinson ends.

A new initiative this year comes courtesy of the ORCV’s ‘Clean Oceans’ activity. The Club will be water sample testing for micro plastics and plankton from two competing yachts. Immediate Past Commodore, Grant Dunoon (Blue Water Tracks) and present Commodore, Cyrus Allen (White Spirit), have been entrusted with this important job.

The King Island Race starts off Queenscliff in southern Victoria, then tracks across Bass Strait and to the finish at Grassy Harbour, King Island, off the north-western tip of Tasmania.

Follow the race on the Blue Water Tracks race tracker at: https://race.bluewatertracks.com/2023-king-island-race

All information at: https://www.orcv.org.au/

Di Pearson/ORCV media

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