Hobart retirees join promising Pittwater to Coffs Yacht Race

Two Rolex Sydney Hobart retirees are the latest Pittwater to Coffs Yacht Race additions bringing the fleet to 42 boats as close to 450 sailors set up for the favourable forecast suggesting a quick trip north after the 1pm start this Saturday.

Sailing master on Karl Kwok’s 80-foot line honours defender Beau Geste, Gavin Brady, would prefer the southerly flow that is anticipated to fill in on Saturday afternoon reach Sydney earlier. “Hopefully the system speeds up, the race is still far away in weather terms but the good news is there’s no north predicted, just south and south east winds. 

“Even if it’s light the big maxis still rumble along nicely. It could be a nail-biting finish close to record time. By tomorrow there will be more certainty; it’s too early to talk about a record-breaker,” Brady added, following a shakedown in Sydney for the international crew competing under the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club’s burgee.

Sydney Hobart casualty Mick Martin has repaired the engine and mainsail batten on his Newcastle based TP52 Frantic and is almost ready for the Pittwater to Coffs race start this Saturday, January 2, 2016 to the north of Barrenjoey Headland. 

Fellow retiree Peter Hickson is tight-pressed in comparison given he’s still putting a crew together and the replacement 70-foot wire forestay belonging to his TP52 called M3 is on its way on a red-eye flight from Perth tonight rolled up in oversized baggage. 

Senior Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) forecaster Jake Phillips advised this morning a 10 knot southerly airstream is likely at race time, producing a colourful spinnaker start. Various models agree the S-SE breeze could build to 15 and then 20 knots locally during Saturday afternoon.

Depending how a low pressure trough develops and moves across from Norfolk Island, Sunday’s forecast is for similar strength winds from the sou’east and unsettled, cool conditions, including the chance of showers and rain periods. “There could be a decent easterly swell develop with the low pressure system, possibly 2-2.5 metres by the time it reaches the coastline and fleet,” Phillips advises.

Over 12 years there have been many yachts attempt to break Wild Oats IX’s (Bob Oatley) longstanding 2003 Pittwater to Coffs race record of 18hr 29min 14secs, but none have succeeded. The average speed required for the monohull record is 12.4 knots over 226 nautical miles, a target easily achieved by the slippery Beau Geste and other yachts of that size and ilk. 

For the three multihulls in contention, their record to beat is 17hrs 3mins 5secs, or 13.2 knots average speed, again very doable, particularly in a running (wind behind) and reaching (wind side-on to the boat) race, the fastest modes of sailing.

The Bureau’s long range outlook points to a running/reaching scenario for the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club’s 35th run up the New South Wales coast with no indication of headwinds out of the north-east or the patches of dead wind that have preserved Bob Oatley’s record for so long.

All skippers and navigators will be updated on conditions by the Bureau when they attend a compulsory race and weather briefing at the RPAYC on Saturday morning at 9am.

The best land-based vantage points for the 1pm start is Barrenjoey Headland and in particular the lighthouse area.

Brent McKinnon, NSW distribution manager of Club Marine is looking forward to being on the water this weekend to witness the spectacle as the fleet depart the entrance to the Hawkesbury River and Pittwater. “Club Marine is excited to continue the association with this longstanding event and the RPAYC and we and look forward to meeting competitors on their arrival at Coffs Harbour Yacht Club.”

Frantic’s crew managed to sail wide of the worst of the winds that buffeted the Hobart fleet and the boat was in good shape until a crewmember went to start the engine in order to declare they were fit to cross Bass Strait. As well as an engine that wouldn’t start and batteries losing power, Martin and his crew had by this time sustained a broken mainsail batten.

“There were a few reasons why we weren’t able to continue,” Martin said today. “Instead I’m getting some crew together for a run up north. We have provisions ready to go and reckon it will be a ‘one chooker’” – meaning a one day trip.

Peter Hickson’s West Australian TP52 called M3 joined the Coffs fleet today. His appointed rigger will start work tomorrow first thing morning to fit the original forestay to the boat while Hickson continues to put a crew together from his and other Sydney Hobart withdrawals, and contemplate an entirely different racing calendar in 2016. “With the repairs we’ll miss a fair bit of our WA season start so we’ll probably leave the boat on the East Coast for the year,” the skipper commented.

On January 5 RPAYC will host the Solitary Islands race, a picturesque island short course open to competitors in the 35th annual Club Marine Pittwater to Coffs Race, and on January 7 Southport Yacht Club’s inaugural Bartercard Coffs to Paradise race will get underway leading into Sail Paradise. Details of SYC events here.

All boats competing in the race to Coffs Harbour will carry a tracking device to allow 24 monitoring via the official website, where all race information is posted.

View the starting list here.

By Lisa Ratcliff /RPAYC media

JPK August 2023
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