Wild Oats heading for third Brisbane to Keppel line honours victory

If the wind holds, by midnight tonight the 8th Club Marine Brisbane to Keppel Tropical Yacht Race should have a line honours victor in Bob Oatley’s supermaxi Wild Oats XI which is steadily chewing through the final 90 nautical miles of the 348nm coastal classic.

The staff and volunteers at Keppel Bay Marina are busy preparing for a slew of 21 red-shirts to arrive under the cover of darkness. There’s no race record this year for the defender, sailing for Hamilton Island Yacht Club. Their success, when it comes, will be marked by first access to a hot shower after a day and a half at sea and they’ll take home yet another piece of silverware to present to proud owner Bob Oatley. It will be the crew’s third line honours trophy in this event, the last two were recorded in 2011 and 2012.

Over the coming days each yacht to finish will be met by someone from the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron’s race committee and handed a pineapple, a Capricorn Coast tradition that began with the second race.

Skippering the V60 Spirit of Mateship is Past RQYS Commodore Russel McCart, the brainchild of this popular coastal race. “The first year we all brought t-shirts and froze,” he recalled pre-start. “The idea of the event is to have fun; no screaming at the start and staying out of the protest room.”

Peter Harburg’s Juan K 70 Black Jack, Matt Allen’s Carkeek 60 Ichi Ban and Phillip Turner’s RP66 Alive from Hobart are in close quarters abeam of Bundaberg in this tacking duel northwards to the finish line in Rosslyn Bay, south of Yeppoon on the Central Queensland Coast. The group of pocket maxis is likely to finish around three hours after Wild Oats XI.

This morning the bowman on Mark and Greg Tobin’s After Midnight, young John ‘Jono’ Ray, was handed the helm for an opportunity to dry off. Jono was repeatedly dunked during the night as the nose of the modified Farr 40 buried in the chop during a quick sail change when the nor’west breeze freshened to 20 knots.

Earlier this afternoon Mark Tobin reported they were travelling well in 13-17 knots of NW wind, which is a typical pre-frontal scenario. “There are heaps of whales around, at least a dozen, and plenty of dolphins,” added Tobin.

The fleet is preparing for a southerly change in the early hours of Saturday morning, however the sting has gone out of the original forecast change with less than 20 knots of wind now likely.

“Those who want to sail back south on Monday are better off staying tied up in the marina with strong sou’easterly tradewinds forecast for most of next week,” suggests Principal Race Officer Denis Thompson.

At 1400hrs today, Friday August 1, 2014, Chris Morgan’s J130 Ragtime was leading the provisional IRC overall results followed by another RQYS entry, James Irvine’s First 40 Mayfair crewed by a “band of local misfits who can sail well but do themselves injustice in various bars along the East Coast,” said comedian and crewman Jake Gundry.

On PHS results at that time point The Matrix was leading the scoresheet.

Rod Johannessen’s Beneteau First 40.7 Drake’s Prayer retired from racing this morning with a seasick crewmember, safely reaching Tin Can Bay adjacent to the southern end of Fraser Island. The racing fleet now stands at 34.

– Lisa Ratcliff

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