Record fleet for Brisbane to Keppel Tropical Yacht Race

A new start time and strong interest in the northern East Coast sailing circuit has prompted a record 35 boat owners to answer the call for the 8th annual Club Marine Brisbane to Keppel Tropical Yacht Race.

The start of the annual feeder race to the popular Airlie Beach and Hamilton Island regattas has been brought forward by a day, to noon this Thursday July 31st, 2014. An extra day means Sunday afternoon trophy presentations and enough time for many crews to return home for the start of the working week. 

High profile race record holder Wild Oats XI skippered by Mark Richards took line honours in the Land Rover Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race yesterday afternoon, Sunday 27th July. The supermaxi’s retractable hydrofoil wing snapped mid-way through the race but boat manager John Hildebrand says it’s a non-issue for the Brisbane to Keppel race. “We have a replacement item that will do the job if needed. Given the forecast we probably wouldn’t have used the board anyway.”

The bulk of the quality line-up hails from Queensland and New South Wales. Tasmania is sending two of its statesmen north to much warmer waters – Michael Pritchard’s Beneteau First 45 Audere and Duncan Hine’s Alive, formerly the Queensland based RP66 Black Jack now sailing under the Derwent Sailing Squadron’s banner.

Following a quick restock of the cupboards, some crews are rolling on from the Gold Coast race that began last Saturday from Sydney Harbour and is still finishing, into the Brisbane to Keppel start on Moreton Bay. Matt Allen’s Ichi Ban, Sam Haynes’ Celestial which is poised to take out overall handicap honours in the Gold Coast race, and host club member Mark Bradford helming Peter Harburg’s Juan K 70 Black Jack all have their sights on back-to-back races.

The 348 nautical mile tussle in mostly sheltered waters is likely to take the maxis and pocket maxis a day to a day and a half. The majority of the fleet is due at the finish off Rosslyn Bay at Great Keppel Island overnight on Friday and throughout Saturday.

Paul Hughes, general manager of the organising club the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron, attributes the record fleet to the race’s growing reputation, more convenient timetabling and the ease of tacking onto a fun and established event to continue the advance northwards.

“The sailors love this race, it’s not an onerous distance and half of it is sailed inside the Great Barrier Reef which is good for those less confident about heading out into the open ocean,” said Hughes. “Plus the finish festival put on by Keppel Bay Marina is spectacular.”

For the first time in the coastal classic’s history RQYS has relaxed the requirement for every yacht to carry an HF radio, an expensive addition for owners who rarely race Category 2 events. The club is offering competitors the option of using a Satellite phone hardwired with a fixed external antennae rather than HF radio, stripping up to $3,000 off the cost of mandatory safety gear.

Mateship lies at the heart of sailing and the Volvo 60 Spirit of Mateship embodies this principle. The round-the-world yacht is now a vehicle for the RSL’s Queensland branch and its Mates4Mates not for profit charity which provides support to wounded, injured or ill current and ex-serving Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel and their families. 

Program manager Peter Huybers took nine ADF personnel and eight experienced crew to Hobart in last year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart and come this Thursday a new group of seven personnel will take their place alongside skipper and past RQYS Commodore Russell McCart and the regular crew.

“It will be our first Brisbane to Keppel Race under the Mates4Mates banner,” said Huybers. “I saw amazing life changes in some of those who went to Hobart last year; they went from being terribly unhappy to getting their lives back on track. It’s about rehabilitating and assimilating those who have been in war-torn areas and carry injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder back into community.”

Entries for the Club Marine Brisbane to Keppel Tropical Yacht Race stand at 35. The Notice of Race is online and entries may be received after Friday 18 July, 2014, at the discretion of the race committee with an additional fee.

The fastest course time to beat is 24 hours, 22 minutes and 20 seconds set in 2011 by Wild Oats XI. Given the crew’s calibre and the fact the supermaxi is in a league of its own at 30m or 100 foot, one of the smaller challengers is unlikely to give them the slip.

Follow the fleet from the start.

– Lisa Ratcliff

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