By Jules Hall – Owner of J/99 Disko Trooper
After two years of COVID cancellations it was very special to have the Noakes Sydney to Gold Coast race back in action, and the inaugural running of the two handed division.
The race started on Saturday 30th July in glorious winter sunshine on Sydney Harbour…..but no wind. It took nearly two hours to get out of the heads, and eight hours to get to Barrenjoey Headland, just 20nm north!
That evening the pressure gently filled in from the NW. Having positioned ourselves beautifully on the inside of the fleet we were a little ambitious getting the Code 0 up. Only to lose ground to leeward in heading pressure. Whoops! Being further offshore we lost the left hand pull of the land and found ourselves increasingly headed. Our inside advantage firmly gone!
Sunday morning we were bashing to windward in 17 kts of breeze five miles offshore from Port Stephens. Approaching Seal Rocks we took the hit to get back in close, weaving our way through the rocks to round Sugarloaf Point nice and close. We made a few gains there.
North of Sugarloaf the breeze increased to the mid 20’s. We peeled down to the #4. A slow, wet job. We lost a bit there, but thought we had the right set up for the night only for the wind to ease and the #2 to go back up a few hours later. We did that peel quicker helped by flatter water!
Tacking Point was a decisive moment of the race. Beating up the shoreline to the south of Port Macquarie we discovered a hyper local land breeze. Only extending 200m offshore it was pulling the wind 20 degrees left and a couple of knots stronger. We managed to hook into that. The boats around us got just a little too far offshore and found themselves 20 degrees lower on the making port tack. Result!
The next day was the day of the tack. So much so we made an Instagram reel about it (@disko_trooper). Philosopher (Sydney 36) was hot on our tails. In and out of the bays they were always there. Never more than a mile astern! Bouncing along the shore to stay out of the south flowing East Australia Current both crews were wishing they had a couple more crew to share the load.
The breeze shut down at Coffs Harbour. We managed to get ourselves three miles in front of Philosopher, sneaking off the coast. Only to lose two of those miles on the way back in, nervously covering them. Error. The next day the southerly flow started to build. The code 0 became the A sail which became the S sail. And then we poled back and pointed for Cape Byron in 15kts of southerly breeze and sunshine. Back on the shore we waved to the tourists at the famous cape. The whales were everywhere, flapping their fins so we knew to miss them, occasionally breaching for show time. What a display!
We hit Cook Island off Point Danger just as it was getting dark. Philosopher was now dead abeam. We lined up for the inside route to gain a couple of boat lengths. Then the breeze lifted us. So we snuck around the outside. From there it was a drag race to the finish. We made a final play for the lead as we approached the line, heading to the shore to try and pick up a bit of left hand land breeze now it was night time. It wasn’t quite enough and Philosopher crossed the line 4 minutes in front.
What a match race!
We ended up winning IRC two handed by one hour and forty three minutes on corrected time. KD4, the Dehler 44 who finished in the fresh afternoon pressure secured second, Philosopher bumped to third, two hours twenty minutes behind on corrected time. [Editors note: Disko Trooper also won the combined fleet IRC Div 4).
Huge congratulations to all the boats that made the race. The weather was tricky and the coastal navigation is far more involved than the Sydney to Hobart race. For the two handers that meant juggling the demands of weather, nav, sailing and rest. Not easy. But we all learned a lot.
Thanks to Noakes Group for their sponsorship of the race and the teams at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia and Southport Yacht Club for the excellent race and onshore management.