Tricky conditions set to challenge strong Sydney Gold Coast fleet

The Noakes Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race fleet of 76 is setting up for a light-wind coastal race from Sydney to Southport, starting on Sydney Harbour tomorrow, Saturday July 27 at 1300hrs AEST.

Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Gabrielle Woodhouse shared the outlook with competitors at the compulsory race briefing hosted by race organiser, the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, last night.

Woodhouse expects WSW winds below 10 knots for the start then mostly south to south-west 10 to 15 knots, gradually turning east to south-east around 10 knots later on Sunday and during Monday. The models aren’t yet lining up for Tuesday and Wednesday.

Wild Oats X navigator Adrienne Cahalan predicts an ETA of 1 day 19hrs for the Oatley family’s RP66, one of the line-honours favourites that will be crewed by the core of Wild Oats XI’s crew including skipper Mark Richards.

“It’s a really tricky forecast with the wind looking so light and a lot of current out there,” Cahalan said, adding “it will be nice to have a race that uses lots of different skills”.

Chinese Whisper’s co-owner David Griffiths: “The conditions are ideal for us. We are going with a crew of 14 and we think we have the ideal balance of weight and power. This boat isn’t as light as the TP52s but we have good waterline length, and a top team.”

When the 60-foot crews are tucked up at Southport Yacht Club enjoying south-east Queensland’s mild winter days, smaller boats like Joanne Harpur’s Tasmanian Jenneau Sunfast 36, Spirit of Freya, will likely still be enjoying the scenery along the NSW coastline.

Without a light-air asymmetric spinnaker Harpur knows her first Gold Coast Race could be a slow one: “We will struggle in light winds – the others will just pull away. What can you do? We’ll just try and finish with some dignity,” the skipper jests.

Two of the original 78 entrants – Ariel and Local Hero – have withdrawn leaving 76 boats to contest the opening race of the CYCA’s Audi Centre Sydney Blue Water Pointscore Series which also features the 75th anniversary Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.

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