The gentlemanly midday start of the 8th annual Brisbane to Keppel Tropical Yacht Race on Moreton Bay for the record-equalling fleet of 35 yachts from Tasmania to Townsville was clean and quiet.
This afternoon off Caloundra on the Sunshine Coast Bob Oatley’s race record-holder Wild Oats XI comfortably leads the pack. The 100-footer, with one of Australia’s best-known sailors Iain Murray at the helm, is lapping up the building afternoon sea breeze and making good time, averaging 15 knots of boat speed. There’s plenty of clear air when you are the largest in the fleet but not much in the way of company, other than the sea birds.
Peter Harburg’s Juan K 70 Black Jack, sailing for the event host club Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron, Yachting Australia President Matt Allen’s Carkeek 60 Ichi Ban, Duncan Hine’s RP66 Alive and Wild Oats XI all opted for the pin end of the start line in the gentle 5 knots of north east breeze.
Black Jack helmed by Mark Bradford tacked right first while Wild Oats XI and Alive hung in and found good pressure close under Green Island. It was high and hot to the left and low and slow to the right where Black Jack wallowed for a bit. Alive put the boot in early and at 4pm on day one is leading the IRC Overall division. Now Hobart based, Alive is the former Black Jack and a fancied handicap chance.
The crew on the second Tasmanian boat in the fleet, Michael Pritchard’s Beneteau First 45 Audere have the choice of Rogan Josh, good ‘ole spag bowl or Thai Green chicken curry for dinner, the two latter dishes cooked in Hobart by the owner’s wife Bianca and one of the crew, Daniella Polita, and hand-delivered to Brisbane in a Coles cooler bag by Daniella.
Audere is a long way from home. Their journey began with the delivery across Bass Strait then the Sydney Gold Coast yacht race that wrapped up earlier this week, now their first Brisbane to Keppel and then onto Audi Hamilton Island Race Week starting August 16, 2014.
Back in the pack yachts are spread out all over Moreton Bay on a cool and sparkling winter’s afternoon, essentially in size order. A whale on the course early on meant crews had to keep a wary eye out and with the mammal’s migration north still going on crews will need to be vigilant throughout the 348 nautical mile coastal passage.
The fleet can expect 15 knot nor’westers tomorrow until the early hours of Saturday morning when a southerly change is set to change up the tempo with 20 plus knots of wind forecast to hit the racetrack.
– Lisa Ratcliff