Thirty-four starters for Cabbage Tree Island Race tonight

A fleet of 34 yachts will set off on tonight's 180 nautical mile Cabbage Tree Island Race, a qualifier for the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, both of which are hosted by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia.

With a start time of 8.00pm on Sydney Harbour, the race takes the fleet northwards up the coast to a rocky outcropped Cabbage Tree Island (situated just north of Port Stephens), and back to Sydney Harbour.

The annual 180 miler, organised by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, is traditionally a last-chance look at the form of some of those entered for the 628nm race to Hobart on Boxing Day.

This year's line-up will be minus the 2009/10 Blue Water Pointscore (BWPS) and the Tasman Series leader, Ed Psaltis and Bob Thomas' modified Farr 40, AFR Midnight Ramber (CYCA). The two, who won the 2007/2008 BWPS, are on their way back from the Gosford Lord Howe Island Race after finishing fourth overall.

However, the leader, along with other Gosford Lord Howe Island competitors who have signed on for the BWPS, will receive average points for the Cabbage Tree Island Race, as it is not possible for them to compete in both.

Going into this race, Psaltis and Thomas only have a four point advantage over Geoff Ross' RP 55 Yendys (CYCA), Anthony Paterson's Ker 11.3 Tow Truck (LMYC) and David Beak's Mr Beak's Ribs, a Beneteau 44.7 (CYCA), the defending BWPS champion, with Syd Fischer's TP52 Ragamuffin (CYCA) just a further point adrift in the BWPS.

All four will be on the start line tonight. The four will also compete in the Rolex Sydney Hobart, for which BWPS points awarded may not be discarded and first place receives zero points.

Psaltis and Thomas have a bit more leeway in the Tasman Series (PHS class) as they hold an eight point lead over nearest rival Tow Truck, then a further three points to third placed Mr Beak's Ribs, with Swish (Steven Proud) and Menace (Niven James) fourth and fifth respectively.

Other Cabbage Tree entries of note include Loki, Stephen Ainsworth's RP63 and Bob Steel's TP52 Quest, while the biggest boat is the Open 60, Broomstick, owned by Michael Cranitch and Ray Wallace, all representing the CYCA. Given timely downwind conditions, Broomstick should give the likes of Loki, Ragamuffin and Quest a run in the line honours stakes.

Sailed at a time of year when conditions are unsettled, more often than not this is a tactically complicated race, where yachties can find themselves in a ‘hole' or two on the race course as they negotiate unpredictable winds – both in strength and direction.

Currently, the Bureau of Meteorology forecasts easterly winds of 8-13 knots on slight seas for Friday, but competitors can expect a change on Saturday, with winds from the east-south-east at 10-20 knots throughout the day, which should push the boats along quickly.

The Cabbage Tree Island Race is the fourth event of the BWPS and is followed by the Rolex Sydney Hobart in December and finally the Audi Sydney Offshore Newcastle Race in March, at which time the winner will be announced.

– Di Pearson

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