Sunday, 2 January 2011

Spectacular fleet of 50 yachts in favoured downwind start for 30th Pittwater to Coffs Harbour race

Hussy with chute up. Image copyright Damian Devine.

by Damian Devine

A spectacular fleet of 50 yachts will start the 30th Anniversary Pittwater to Coffs Harbour race in favourable downwind conditions, the first ocean race of the New Year starting today off Broken Bay.

The skippers' gathered at 0900hrs this morning for the mandatory weather briefing before they departed the marina for a 1300hrs start.

Barry Hanstrum from BOM presented the briefing said that, “the southerly change that came through Sydney at 2am this morning has already made its way to Norah Head, so Southerly winds will be the order of the day for the next few days.” Hanstrum went onto say that they forecast “strong South/South Westerly breeze in the magnitude of 20/25 knots throughout tonight as a small low forms off the Central coast. Swell will be in the range of two to two and a half metres with a four knot warm South flowing current comes into play around Port Macquarie. Thunderstorms are expected to pass through Sydney later in the day but should not have much impact on the race course.”So it looks set to be a fast downhill slide for the 30th Anniversary with all the skippers’ looking pleased with the forecast.

John Bacon’s owner / skipper of the Sydney 39CR ‘Hussy’ and one of the handicap contenders said, “The forecast looks great for us. The boat relishes these downwind conditions as this boat likes to sail square. So hopefully we’ll be in good shape and I can’t wait for the start,” said Bacon.

Garry Holder, owner/skipper of the ID35 ‘The Real Thing’, one of the “real” PHS handicap chances offered, “We’ve performed well in a number of the lead up Blue Water Series where we’ve had some strong Southerly conditions and achieved some good results. So the forecast is good for us and we’re looking forward to it.”

Line honors favourite will be Bob Oatley’s Reichel Pugh 66 foot ‘Wild Oats X’, the little sister to the 2010 winner the 100ft ‘Wild Oats XI’ skippered by Mark Richards. Having won this race twice before in 2005 and 2006 aboard this boat, she will be clear favourite to take home the coveted Coffs Harbour Bell Trophy and with the favourable forecast they could be set to break their own record of 18hrs 29mins 14secs, set in 2003 by its predecessor ‘Wild Oats IX’.

Obviously, to break their own record they need everything to go right and conditions to be in their favour and, to be in Coffs Harbour before 7:29am tomorrow.

The 'Wild Oats' franchise have collectively taken out five of the past eight Coffs races line honours in three different boats and also hold the current race record. There is a cracking fleet prepared for this race and ready to take out the handicap honours in the IRC, ORCi, PHS and Shorthanded Divisions.

For some it will be their first Coffs race. David Currie owns ‘Belle’, an LY60 from the Royal Brighton Yacht Club. “I entered the race 5 years ago with my Swan 60 but in the intervening months I broke my back and didn’t go sailing for a couple of years. Then I sold that boat and bought this one in Europe.” Talking about the 30th Coffs race, Currie said, “Really excited, you’ve got to go north these days, don’t you. I’ve done 10 Hobarts and now I want just to go North to sail the warmer waters.” Talking about his chances, Currie offered, “If it was a windward race the boats not bad on handicap but that’s not going to be. She is a cruising boat so we’ll have a fabulous trip anyway. It will be very comfortable and we're all looking forward to our first Coffs race.”

Skippers assembled for the briefing at RPAYC prior to the Pittwater to Coffs race start. Image copyright Damian Devine.

All the skippers' gathered last night at the RPAYC's Pittwater Room for a race briefing and welcome cocktail party with the skippers' getting for a group photo before the race.

RPAYC Commodore Russell Murphy said, “We extend a warm welcome to each competitor and we have no doubt the 30th event will once again be competitive, challenging and fun for all concerned. I wish everyone well. We have a fabulously diverse and competitive fleet ranging from Bob Oatley’s 66ft Reichel Pugh designed ‘Wild Oats X’ down to the Hick 30 ‘Carats n Kilos', with a host of boats of various sizes in between. We'll see you all in Coffs Harbour."
The Category Two 226nm race known affectionately as the “warm water classic” gives competitors the opportunity to turn left and enjoy a tactical challenge between the current and the beaches, as they track their way north around spectacular headlands to the warm and hospitable destination of Coffs Harbour.

For the record, the fleet will come from 3 states representing more than 12 yacht clubs extending from Hamilton Island in the North to Brighton in the South. There will be nine boats under 11m and four contesting the Shorthanded Division. In IRC there will be 29 racing with 20 in PHS.

Each boat has been fitted with a satellite GPS tracker and positions will be updated on the event website every 15 minutes during the race.

Follow all the action here on the event website at

The start line is between Lion Island and Barrenjoey Headland.