The Fork in the Road aiming for fourth line honours in Launceston to Hobart

The Fork in the Road may not be the biggest boat in the National Pies Launceston to Hobart Yacht Race, but she is a hot favourite to record her fourth line honours victory in the 285 nautical mile race starting tomorrow, Saturday, 27 December. With fresh west to north-westerly winds forecast for Bass Strait Saturday and Sunday, The Fork in the Road could well break the race record of 1 day 16 hours 22 minutes and 18 seconds set by Helsal 3 in the 2011 L2H race.

Skippered by Gary Smith, a former Fireball dinghy class world champion and Olympic sailor in the Flying Dutchman class, the Bakewell-White 45 is one of 24 yachts contesting the eighth annual race around Tasmania’s rugged north-east and east coasts.

Smith, recently inducted in the Tasmanian Sporting Hall of Fame, skippered the Tasmanian-built 45-footer to line honours in the 2008, 2012 and 2013 L2H races. In last year’s gale-battered race The Fork in the Road also was overall winner on handicap.

Two yachts in this year’s fleet are bigger than The Fork in the Road, the Buizen 52 Infinity and the Marten 49 Tilt. However, Infinity is a cruiser/racer and Tilt will be raced for the first time by new owners Peter and Catherine Cretan after being delivered from Western Australia only last Friday who plan to sail a conservative race.

Nevertheless, both Infinity and Tilt will be interesting competitors with Infinity and luxurious boat and Tilt a state-of-the-art design concept in offshore yacht design.

Smith, a member of the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania, is not only confident of notching up the yacht’s fourth line honours win but also breaking the race record of 1 day 16 hours 22 minutes and 18 seconds set by Helsal 3 in the 2011 L2H race.

“In 2008, sailing under the name of Crotty Legal & Dental, we set a record for the original course when the race started from Low Head,” Smith recalled yesterday. “Our fastest time for the longer course, starting from Beauty Point, was only an hour and 33 minutes outside Helsal 3’s record, so we have the potential to break the record.”

The Bureau of Meteorology has forecast for Bass Strait for Saturday is for west to north-westerly winds of 15-20 knots, increasing to 25 knots in the afternoon, which should give the fleet a fast spinnaker run eastwards once they clear the Tamar River at Low Head.

While the winds will ease to 10-15 knots in the evening, Sunday’s forecast of 15-20 knot north-west to northerly winds should continue to give them fast sailing down the Tasmanian East Coast.

Most of the fleet in the L2H are in the 30-40’ LOA range and, depending on the weather, the overall winner, decided on AMS handicap scoring, should come from one of these boats. However, if The Fork in the Road breaks away from the fleet she could repeat last year’s win.

Among the mid-range sized boats with strong prospects of an overall AMS win or a PHS division win are The Protagonist, a Beneteau First 40 skippered by Stuart Denny from Bellerive Yacht Club; Port Dalrymple Yacht Club entrant Obsession, David Allan’s Sydney 38; N-Yacht, Phil Wilkinson and Glenn Frame’s Beneteau 461 from Bellerive Yacht Club; and the sole Victorian entrant, Absolut, an Archambault 35 owned by Richard Gates from the Royal Yacht Club of Victoria.

Thirty-footers have done well in long races in Tasmania in recent years, including Malcolm Cooper’s Snook 30 Kaiulani which won all three handicap categories in the Maria Island Race in November, and Footloose, Stewart Geeves’ Young 88 which was overall winner of the 2010 Launceston to Hobart Race.

Kaiulani will represent the Derwent Sailing Squadron in what will be the eighth L2H race for skipper Malcolm Cooper and his boat. Another skipper sailing his eight race is Ian Marshall, this year with the Farr 1104 CDC Development(Tas), better known as Hot Prospect.

Also in the fleet is Ultimate Challenge, a Dubois 40 which won the Sydney Hobart Race in 1989 and also represented Australia at the Admiral’s Cup. Purchased recently by DSS member Peter Jenkins this famous yacht has yet to reproduce the performances of her earlier years.

The National Pies Launceston to Hobart Yacht Race starts from off Inspection Head wharf at Beauty Point on the Tamar River at 9.30am tomorrow, Saturday, December 27, to give the fleet two hours of outgoing tide. However, if winds are light, race officials may move the start line down the river towards George Town and Low Head where the river flows into Bass Strait.

– Peter Campbell

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