Sydneysiders will get to see a mini-preview of the Rolex Sydney Hobart when a fleet of 35 lines up for the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s Cabbage Tree Island Race, to start near Point Piper on Sydney Harbour at 7.00pm on Friday.
The 180 nautical mile race to the Island, which sits off Port Stephens on the Central Coast, is Race 4 of the CYCA’s Blue Water Pointscore (BWPS) and does double duty as a qualifier for the 628 nautical mile Rolex Sydney Hobart. For those entered, it is the most telling race ahead of the main event on Boxing Day in December.
Leading the charge for overall honours is Roger Hickman’s Farr 43, Wild Rose, the reigning Sydney Hobart champion and current leader of the BWPS. Joining him are rivals for both events; Rupert Henry’s JV62 Chinese Whisper, Paul Clitheroe’s TP52 Balance and Tony Kirby’s Ker 46, Patrice.
Clitheroe won last year’s Cabbage Tree Island Race, and only one point behind Wild Rose in the 2015 BWPS, the ‘Money Man’ will be doing his level best to defend that title. Chinese Whisper is on equal points with Balance and Henry’s strategy will be to claim the line honours and overall double.
Predictions from the Bureau of Meteorology show north to north-westerly winds reaching up to 25 knots in the afternoon and evening of Friday in Sydney. On Friday evening, offshore north of Port Macquarie, a 15-20 knot north to north-easterly reaching up to 25 knots is on the cards.
On Saturday, the Bureau says the fleet can expect a 20-30 knot northerly early morning, shifting southerly during the morning then tending south-easterly at 15 to 20 knots during the evening. Other weather models show variations on these predictions.
Whatever the case, others with their hat in the ring include 2013 Sydney Hobart winner, Victoire; Darryl Hodgkinson’s canting keel Cookson 50. She will be joined by sistership Pretty Fly III (Colin Woods), and 2015 Land Rover Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race winner, Quikstep Azzurro, the smallest yacht in the fleet at 34 feet.
Helsal 3, one of just two Tasmanian’s entered in the Sydney Hobart, will also race. Robbie Fisher/Paul Mara’s 20 metre Adams/Barrett design 31 year-old will revel in the heavier conditions on offer, while Adrian Lewis has sailed his Warwick 67 from Victoria via the Whitsundays. His luxurious but comfortable carbon yacht should also handle the ride well. Olympian Dave Forbes’ Merlin, which won last week’s Port Hacking race, is also among the line-up.
Missing from the fleet racing for the 53rd Halvorsen Brothers Trophy will be Bob Oatley’s Wild Oats XI, as she is still undergoing radical surgery at McConaghy on the Northern Beaches. Syd Fischer’s Ragamuffin 100 and Anthony Bell’s Perpetual Loyal are also non-starters.
Wild Oats XI set a new record for the race of 12 hours 15mins 55secs in 2012. And with the super maxis out of the way, the frontrunner for line honours is Chinese Whisper. Brindabella, Jim Cooney’s Jutson 80, also expected to finish at the front end of the fleet.
By Di Pearson, CYCA Media