The Brisbane to Gladstone Yacht Race will set sail for the 68th time on Good Friday, March 24. With the reported chance of a cyclone forming around the Queensland coast this week the organisers, Queensland Cruising Yacht Club, and competitors are not straying far from their favourite forecasting site.
This year’s race has three very distinct interests. Queensland boat ‘Black Jack’ owned by Peter Harburg has been trying hard in recent years to beat the now twelve-year-old record for fastest ever elapsed time of 20 hours, 24 minutes and 50 seconds set by ‘Skandia Wild Thing’ in 2004. Unfortunately, despite taking both Line Honours and the overall win in last year’s race, the wind strength has not been favourable to the ex-Volvo 70 round the world craft. Skipper Mark Bradford will be hoping that the run of light wind races is finally at an end and the more than capable ‘Black Jack’ can make history with a new fastest time.
The second aspect of the race, and unquestionably the harder one to call, is who will win the race overall and be presented with the Courier Mail Cup in Gladstone.
If ‘Black Jack’ has a fast race and then the wind dies, she stands a good chance of back-to-back wins but if the wind holds then this highly competitive fleet makes it hard to predict a winner.
‘Kerumba’, a Ker 50, is always competitive, as is ‘The Fat Controller’. If the wind really favours the smaller boats then ‘Redjam’ has recently has a good run of form and you can never discount the experience on board ‘Corrobboree’ skippered by Robbo Robertson or the oldest boat in the fleet and four times winner, ‘Wistari’.
When asked for his pick, Race Director, Nigel Statham commented, “If you are looking for the dark horse of the fleet, then keep an eye on ‘Quest’, she has a long history and is now being campaigned by a well drilled and fast improving crew who are showing dramatic gains. The test will be whether they can perform at their best for the entire 308-mile race.”
The third interest for the 2016 edition of this great race is the first ever inclusion of a short-handed category. Three boats are lining up to be the pioneers in this category which allows a maximum of two crew members per yacht. QCYC Club boat ‘Samurai Jack’ has the most recent experience but all three boast a wealth of experience.
There is lots to watch out for in this year’s Brisbane to Gladstone Yacht Race, but first and foremost, it is the wind forecast.