Handicap chase on in Brisbane to Keppel Tropical Yacht Race

The line honours victor is decided; now the handicap pursuit is on in the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron’s 8th Club Marine Brisbane to Keppel Tropical Yacht Race.

Bob Oatley’s RP100 Wild Oats XI took line honours for the third time in the event at 10.31am last night, giving them an elapsed time of 34 hours 31 minutes 43 seconds. Skipper Iain Murray reckoned it was a beautiful sail, though the wind was light and literally against them right from the midday start on Moreton Bay on Thursday July 31, 2014.

“We were against the current and on the wind the whole way. Over 348 miles we only had one sail change, but we tacked 47 times,” said Murray. Fitness coach and mainsheet Ian ‘Mothy’ Jarvin added, “It was the morning gym session for the guys down below changing bunks to move the crew weight from side to side every time we tacked.” Weight is distributed to keep the hull flat in the water and the boat nippy.

Unchallenged for line honours in what was a drama-free race – a storm cell on Thursday night at Indian Head causing a snap rain squall of 25 knots the only excitement – life on board the 100 footer was the focus. The smaller boat crews pack two to three dinners for a race of this length but Oats only need one meal to feed 21. “We had kebabs heated in the sandwich toaster…a first and a memorable experience in ocean racing,” smiled Murray.

As promised, the southerly collected the rest of the fleet in its path overnight and is driving them on to both the celebrations that are well underway at Keppel Bay Marina at Rosslyn Bay and the prospect of collecting overall and divisional handicap prizes. The largest in the fleet typically ‘wins’ the race according to the headlines. Crews out of line honours contention are usually racing to win their division and perhaps the overall handicap trophy under three different scoring systems: IRC, ORCi and PHS.

“There’s plenty of breeze out wide,” said PRO Denis Thompson earlier this morning. “The current IRC frontrunners Patrice, Celestial, Swish and Audere are barrelling along doing 12-14 knots. Given the forecast we knew the top handicap placings were going to come from the middle of the pack. Those guys are coming home with the bit between their teeth.”

Yachting Australia President Matt Allen’s Ichi Ban was the fourth and last big boat to finish at 6.47am this morning. Volunteers out on the finish boat are busy recording times for the steady stream of yachts chugging to the race end including Tony Kirby’s Ker 46 Patrice, Michael Martin’s TP52 Frantic, Sam Haynes’ Celestial and Russell McCart’s V60 Spirit of Mateship carrying a bunch of novice crewman from the Mates4Mates program, an initiative of the RSL’s Queensland branch.

First time crewman Craig Henderson, who was wounded in Afghanistan in 2008 when an improvised explosive device detonated directly underneath him, said challenges such as ocean racing are extremely beneficial mentally. “Mental illness is a big thing for many who have been to Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said on the dock at Keppel Bay Marina this morning. “Programs such as Mates4Mates help a lot of guys get off the couch and out of their comfort zone.” Henderson’s ultimate goal is this year’s Sydney Hobart yacht race on the 60-footer, a former round-the-world yacht.

Based on current speed the last boat in the fleet, Mark Hipgrave’s Beneteau First 36s7 The Healer is due in early tomorrow morning, Sunday August 3, 2014.

Keppel Bay Marina manager Kylie Smith and her team have put together a comprehensive social program as part of the finish festival. “It’s a spectacular day at the marina and a great opportunity for locals to come and meet the crews,” said Kylie. “The celebrations have started and will be going on all weekend.”

Click here for details on what’s happening at the marina this weekend.

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Handicap positions

– Lisa Ratcliff

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