Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania/TasPorts 71st Maria Island Race starts tonight

When the David Lyons-designed 40-footer, then named Micropay Cuckoos Nest, won the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race on corrected time she had to survive a galeforce battering in the Tasman Sea.

This weekend’s Maria Island Race looks far more benign for the 25-year-old yacht, now named Filepro and based at Hobart’s Bellerive Yacht Club.

Filepro is one of eight yachts using the 180 nautical mile TasPorts Maria Island Race as a qualifier for the Launceston to Hobart in late December.

Since her IMS division corrected time victory in the 1993 Sydney Hobart, Filepro has had a number of owners and names in various States.

A syndicate of BYC members have been campaigning the boat in Hobart since 2016 and she must rank a strong IRC and AMS prospect for the Maria Island and, subsequently, the Riversdale Wines Estate L2H.

The Maria Island Race, which starts off Hobart’s Castray Esplanade at 7pm this evening, is second only to the Sydney Hobart as the oldest post World War II ocean race.

All but two of the 16 boat fleet are preparing for the Launceston to Hobart, Sydney Hobart and Melbourne to Hobart Westcoaster races.

The Maria Island course is significant in that the return leg from Maria Island replicated the final 90 nautical miles of the Sydney Hobart and Launceston to Hobart races,  including round Tasman Island, crossing Storm Bay and the final leg up the River Derwent.

Moderate breezes and sea conditions are predicted over the weekend, although it will be very chilly as the fleet sails up the east coast to round Maria Island, a elongated island off Orford.

The Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania’s Maria Island Race will be the first long offshore race in Tasmanian waters for two former Sydney-based boats, Matthew Pilkington and Rob Gourlay’s Beneteau 45, Black Sheep and Greg Prescott’s modified Farr 40, 2Unlimited.

Both are contesting this year’s 74th Rolex Sydney Hobart with their talented crews pushing for success over this weekend.

Black Sheep’s navigator is Richard Hewson, who skippered Gold Coast Australia to an overall victory in the 2011-12 Clipper Round the World Race.

2Unlimited is the former Australian Farr 40 one-design champion Estate Master, with new owner Prescott a veteran of 27 Sydney Hobarts and a champion skipper in the Melges 32s.

Heading the Maria Island fleet is Mike Pritchard’s Cookson 50, Oskana, which with David Aplin’s MBD 36, Whistler, is contesting the Westcoaster.

Shaun Tiedemann’s Sydney 36cr Philosopher is campaigning towards the L2H in late December, followed by the Australian Yachting Championships on Port Phillip in January.

Peter Campbell 

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