The previous time champion one-design class yachtsman and ocean racing veteran Greg ‘Enzo’ Prescott contested the National Pies Launceston to Hobart Yacht Race was in a yacht designed more for harbour racing than battling the ocean.
Skippering his Melges 32, 2 Unlimited, Prescott won the AMS handicap division of the 2010 race around the rugged east coast of Tasmania. Subsequently, he went on to win consecutive Australian championships in this one-design class, sailed on more sheltered waters in mainland states.
A lightweight flyer, the 2 Unlimited had an outboard motor for auxiliary power, a removable keel for easy transport between regattas and few creature comforts below decks.
In late December, the Tasmanian veteran of 27 Sydney Hobart Races will skipper a luxuriously fitted-out Buizen 50 pilot house cruiser/racer called Infinity, just about the optimum in comfort for long ocean passages, racing or cruising.
Favourite for line honours is the fast 45-footer The Fork in the Road, skippered by Hobart yachtsman Gary Smith who was recently inducted into the Tasmanian Sporting Hall of Fame. The Bakewell-White 45 will be sailing in her fourth Launceston to Hobart, having taken line honours three times.
Nevertheless, Infinity is a fast boat with every chance of giving past line honours winner The Fork in the Road a good run for her money in leading the fleet over the 285 nautical mile race down the rugged and often rough east coast.
Prescott and crew member Charlie Cottier will be joined aboard Infinity by their teenage sons, both dinghy sailors, giving them their first experience of offshore yacht racing.
Infinity was shown to her potential rivals on Tuesday at the official launch of the National Pies Launceston to Hobart Yacht Race at the Derwent Sailing Squadron where Ms Elise Archer MP, Speaker of the House of Assembly, did the honours.
The Hobart yacht Kaiulani and her owner/skipper Malcolm Cooper will set sail in this eighth Launceston to Hobart Yacht Race knowing they have already established one record for the race.
The Tasmanian designed and built Snook 30 is the only boat in this year’s fleet to have sailed in all seven Launceston to Hobart, with the same owner/skipper.
Cooper, however, does share the number of L2H races with Ian Marshall who this year will skipper his Farr 1104 CDC Development (Tas) – Hot Prospect in its fifth race. One of the founders of this Tasmanian race, Marshall skippered a different yacht in the first two Launceston to Hobart.
This 2014 National Pies Launceston Hobart will start from Beauty Point in the Tamar River on Saturday, 27 December, with a 9.30am start to give the fleet two hours of ebbing tide to reach Low Head and sail out into Bass Strait.
The current fleet of 23 boats, with late entries expected, is slightly down on last year’s fleet which was battered by galeforce winds and wild seas off Tasman Peninsula and in Storm Bay. Only seven boats finished, with remainder of the fleet seeking shelter and retiring from the race.
This year’s fleet comprises 17 yachts from Hobart clubs, four from Launceston and one from the Royal Yacht Club of Victoria in Melbourne, Absolut, owned by Richard Gates. Abolut is an Archambault 35, a sistership to the 2011 IRC division winner, Archie.
– Peter Campbell