Jack O’Rourke | Race fleet braces for northern exposure

SYDNEY SHOWDOWN: Supermaxis Wild Oats XI and Comanche will once again go head to head.
SYDNEY SHOWDOWN: Supermaxis Wild Oats XI and Comanche will once again go head to head.

A strong 55-yacht fleet will make final preparations for the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s Noakes Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race for the annual winter dash north.

The opening race of the CYCA’s 2018-19 Audi Centre Sydney Blue Water Pointscore Series has yachts from five Australian states represented.

The fleet will set off tomorrow, Saturday, July 28, from Sydney Harbour at 1pm, with a record four 100-foot supermaxis and various boat of different makes and models sail north along the NSW and Queensland south-east coast to the finish line off Southport’s Main Beach. 

A new Noakes Sydney Gold Coast entry is Hugh Ellis’ RP63 Voodoo, which last raced in Australia as Alan Brierty’s Limit. Spotting a gap in the size range and familiar with sistership Loki’s success, including a Rolex Sydney Hobart overall win in 2011, the Victorian skipper bought the Reichel-Pugh out of the US to be competitive in Australia’s major offshore races.

The 33rd edition of the 384-nautical-miler will mark the boat’s Australian re-entry and Ellis has grand plans to compete in the CYCA’s Blue Water Pointscore series with a carefully assembled amateur team that is moving across from his Cookson 12 called Voodoo, or “little Voodoo” as it’s now known.

“Most of the crew have the experience; it’s about us working out the boat’s idiosyncrasies. It’s fast and violent,” Ellis says.

“There are still good sailors in Victoria, just not the boats under them. We are signing up for a two- or three-year east coast campaign.” 

With six TP52s entered, it sets up an exciting handicap contest for that size range and overall trophy, should consistent running and reaching conditions eventuate.

Between the four 100-footers competing, with 2017 Sydney Hobart racers Wild Oats XI, Comanche, InfoTrack and Black Jack, the most significant known modification post-last year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart is Comanche’s pedestal winches upgraded to hydraulic winches. 

For longtime Wild Oats XI helmsman Mark Richards and two-time America’s Cup-winning helmsman James Spithill driving Jim Cooney’s Comanche, it will be the first time back in close quarters for the pair and the supermaxi crews since last year’s Boxing Day skirmish on Sydney Harbour.

The smallest boat in the fleet is the Army Sailing Club’s 9.3 metre Jarkan design called Gun Runner. The Noakes Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race marks the start of a 55-day Army training exercise with four novice crew arriving every five or six days through to the end of Airlie Beach Race Week. 

“The Army believes sailing has similar values: courage, initiative, teamwork and respect,” says boat captain Murray Stewart. “We put 200 novices through the boat every year and last year’s Hobart race was the first time in 20 years the Army has competed in that event.”

The start of the Noakes Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race will be live streamed on the Noakes Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race website and the Noakes Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race Facebook page.

Jack O’Rourke is a contributor to Ocean Media

ULTIMATE FLOATING VILLA: The Bavaria E34 Sedan includes a large sunbed, easy walkways, electric sunroof, bow and stern thrusters and swim platform.

ULTIMATE FLOATING VILLA: The Bavaria E34 Sedan includes a large sunbed, easy walkways, electric sunroof, bow and stern thrusters and swim platform.

Ship to shore

Ensign Ship Brokers will be showcasing the Bavaria E34 Sedan, little sister to last years European Power Boat of the Year award, the Bavaria E40, at the upcoming Sydney International Boat Show. She offers an incredible amount of space and volume and comfortably sizes up to larger models from her competitors.

Other key features are the centrally positioned helm which is accompanied by the upstairs galley and saloon surrounded by huge glass windows which provide panoramic views of your surroundings. Separate entries to each of the 2 cabins which both boast their own bathroom, ensures maximum privacy and comfort aboard.

Silver lining

The Australian Youth Team will leave the 2018 Youth World Championships with a silver and two bronze medals. Otto Henry and Rome Featherstone, winners at last year’s event, secured the 420 boys’ silver medal prior to the final race and were justifiably pleased.

“We started off a little bit slow, but came back and enjoyed the conditions,” Henry said.

“We sailed a great week and did the best we could; it ended well.”

Featherstone added, “In the race that decided if we solidified silver, we won it, so that was a good note to finish on. It was tough; the whole week was.”