Thursday, January 2, 2014

Clean Start For Club Marine Pittwater to Coffs Yacht Race Fleet

The 226nm Club Marine Pittwater to Coffs Harbour yacht race began to the north of Sydney’s Barrenjoey Headland in hot and fickle west nor’west breezes with the two clear spinnaker starts watched by a sizeable spectator flotilla.
Ragamuffin Photo: Crosbie Lorimer
For the 1:00 pm monohull start today, Thursday 2nd January 2014, the 36-strong fleet anticipated the roaring run-out tide and managed to stay on the right side of the line, set loose in the light winds and comfortable seas without incident by Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club race officer Stephen Merrington.
Perpetual Mocean Photo: Crosbie Lorimer
Warwick Sherman’s Ker Gts43 Occasional Coarse Language 2 hugged the pin end, winning the start and showing Syd Fischer’s TP52 Ragamuffin the way.
Photo: Crosbie Lorimer
At 1500hrs according to yacht tracker Occasional Coarse Language 2 was holding its own on the rhumbline off The Entrance well inside Ragamuffin, which is being skippered by Syd’s grandson, Brenton Fischer. The TP52 was heading out to sea to capitalise on the predicted southerly front and decent ensuing sou’easters. Soon after the remainder of the fleet followed suit.
Photo: Crosbie Lorimer
Steve Proud’s Kernan 44 Swish, Bob Cox’s DK46 Nine Dragons and Sarah Goddard-Jones’ Lyons 49 Wine-Dark Sea all put themselves in credit with favourable starts. Swish’s luck ran out early however and they are now heading slowly back to the RPAYC with a broken rudder, the first retirement from 40 starters.
Jimmy and Arthur Spithill Photo: Crosbie Lorimer
At 1.15pm the multihulls began their northern quest, Sean Langman’s 60-foot trimaran Team Australia like a mother duck leading her ducklings, Indian Chief, Morticia, Voodoo Spirit and Rushour off the start line.

At 1700hrs this afternoon Team Australia had cleared out and was sprinting up the coast past Newcastle travelling at 20 knots of boat speed.

There is no age limit for this Category 2 ocean race and noticeably there are many family combinations among the 400-odd sailors. Most are dads grooming their sons for ocean racing in a short bluewater event that keeps the fleet near to the NSW coastline.

Ragamuffin’s boat captain David Witt has his 16 year-old son Jonte under his wing and crewman Peter Britt has his 16 year-old son Harkon on board. Twenty year-old Murray Jones steered Phil Arnall’s Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club based Corby 43 Anger Management for the start, dad Clive is on mainsheet. Sean Langman has his 20 year-old son Peter among his Team Australia crew.

The usual sibling rivalry is playing out on the two DK46s. Rob Reynolds has Morgan White on Exile and Bob Cox counterpunched by taking older brother Mitch and dad Steve White on Nine Dragons.

Reynolds has deliberately bolstered his weaponry for the friendly feud between the like Middle Harbour Yacht Club boats, tactician Ron Jacobs and mainsheet Simon Reffold adding kudos to the regular team.

“When the nor-easter comes in tomorrow is when Exile will perform at its best,” said navigator Julie Hodder after this morning’s weather briefing. “The only thing we are worried about are the small boats being pushed up with the southerly,” she added, referring to the fact the smaller boats will leverage tonight’s anticipated cool change first.

The fastest in the fleet will be doing their darndest overnight to put as many miles as they can behind them, and may even stay ahead of the southerly change all the way to Coffs.

Among the interested watchers on the water for the start was two-time winning America’s Cup skipper James Spithill on the fly bridge of his power boat called 17, named after the Oracle trimaran he skippered to victory in the 33rd America’s Cup in 2010.

James, dad Arthur and sister Katie went out today to farewell younger brother Tommy who is on Bruce Hogan’s Marten 49, Perpetual Mocean, with a RPAYC youth crew.

“It was really cool out there; it was great to see the multis being part of the action and to see Tommy and the young guys on Perpetual Mocean up there at the start,” said James this afternoon at his home club, the RPAYC. After a well-deserved break over Christmas, following his team’s recent successful Cup defence, he is heading back to San Francisco tomorrow to return to work with Oracle Team USA.

The Club Marine Pittwater to Coffs Harbour fleet can expect a mixed plate of weather. A 12 knot SSW breeze has hit Sydney Harbour and will filter up to the fleet. Behind the change is what crews are waiting for; 15-20 knot sou’easterly winds.

Friday morning the Bureau of Meteorology predicts the boats will venture into no man’s land between Seal Rocks and Crowdy Head when the sou’wester transitions and swings easterly around to NW-NE.

The Bureau is talking of possible gale force winds offshore by late evening, Friday 3rd January 2014.

On Saturday a second front and strong southerly push of 20-30 knots could prove a handicap boon for any of the smaller boats still at sea.

Lisa Ratcliff

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