Record fleet predicted for Launceston to Hobart race

After just two annual races, the Sargisons Launceston to Hobart (L2H) Yacht Race 2009 is set to more than double in fleet size when the 285 nautical mile race gets under way in late December.

A fleet of near 40 yachts is expected to line up for the start at Beauty Point on the River Tamar, making the L2H the largest and longest offshore race conducted by a Tasmanian yacht club, in this case a joint effort by the Derwent Sailing Squadron and the Tamar Yacht Club.

Entries have come in from both clubs as well as others in both northern and southern Tasmania, with multihull yachts being accepted for the first time for the 285 nautical mile ocean race.

Among the well-known skippers competing will be Andrew Hunn whose 40-footer Mr Kite took line honours and won the PHS division of the recent Tasports Maria Island Race, and Dianne Barkas, who on Saturday was named Sailor of the Year – Female at the Tasmanian Yachting Awards. She will be skippering her Sydney 38 Sullivans Cove Whisky.

Also competing again is former Olympic sailor Gary Smith with his Bakewell-White 45, Marineline/Focal.

State Cabinet Minister Lisa Singh officially launched the Sargisons Launceston to Hobart Race at the Derwent Sailing Squadron in Hobart today; her parliamentary colleague, Michelle O'Brien, will be the official starter on 27 December.

The concept of a coastal ocean race between Launceston in the north and Hobart in the south was to provide an event to attract smaller yachts back into offshore racing at a cost far less expensive and demanding than the long ocean races from Sydney and Melbourne to Hobart between Christmas and New Year.

In this respect, it has been an outstanding success, with numbers increasing from an original 17 starters in 2007 to 28 last year and an expected fleet of near 40 boats this year.

Among the entries are first-time long ocean skippers and their yachts, Chris Hadrill in his Northshore 38 Pyxis from the Geilston Bay Yacht Club and Anthony Ellis in his Lotus 10.6 Moonshadow from the Derwent Sailing Squadron..

Three yachts will be lining up for their third consecutive L2H race this year: Dianne Barkas' Sullivans Cove Whisky (Asylum), Jeff Cordell's Host Plus Executive and Kiaulani, Malcolm Cooper's Lovell 30, expected to be the smallest boat in this year's fleet.

Five yachts from the Tamar Yacht Club and a catamaran from the Mersey Yacht Club are among the entrants so far received from northern clubs, including TYC Past Comodore Richard Fisher in his Beneteau 40.7 Blue Sky.

In two innovative moves, the clubs have agreed to move the start from Low Head at the mouth of the River Tamar to off Inspection Head Wharf at Beauty Point, and to provide all yachts with satellite tracking units.

The change of starting line means that they public will have a close-up view of the fleet for six nautical miles before they head out into Bass Strait. Further on in the race, they will see the yachts as they race down the inside of Maria Island on the East Coast on the way south to Tasman Island and the finish in Hobart.

The website www.OceanTracker.net will display real-time information on the positions of individual yachts throughout the race, enabling race officials, the media and the public to follow the course of the fleet from start to finish.

OceanTracker.net was used for the first time in the Maria Island Race and over three days attracted a total of 6,158 unique visits.

In another change, the Sargisons Jewellers Launceston to Hobart Race will have three handicap categories for monohull yachts, IRC, PHS and AMS, newly introduced to Tasmanian racing, as well a division for monohulls.

The L2H will start at 1pm on 27 December 2009 from the line off Inspection Head wharf, an event that is expected to attract thousands of people on to the wharf, on spectator boats and along the banks of the Tamar to Low Head.

The historic foghorn at Low Head Lighthouse will be sounded to mark the first boat into Bass Strait.

The Tamar Yacht Club will present a trophy for the first boat out of the River Tamar and the handicap result of this dash to Bass Strait will be the first score for the Tasports Trophy which will include the Launceston to Hobart results and the King of the Derwent in Hobart on 2 January 2010.

The Sargisons Jewellers King of the Derwent will be the 33rd running of this iconic race on the river following the finish of the long ocean races from Sydney, Melbourne and, now, Launceston.

Traditionally, the King of the Derwent is held on the afternoon of 2 January over a ‘square course' that takes the fleet of visiting and local yachts around marks close to vantage points on the shore of the River Derwent.

The King of the Derwent will be the winner of the IRC handicap category, with the event also the final races for the Tasports Trophy for yachts that have contested the L2H and for the Ocean Racing Yacht Club of Victoria's Sovereign Series for yachts that compete in the Cock o' the Bay Race on Port Phillip and the Melbourne to Hobart Race.

– Peter Campbell

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