Friday, March 7, 2014

Intense Competition Expected In King Island Race

On March the 8th at 1:30 am 20 yachts will cross the start line off Drapers Reef near Queenscliff and head into the maelstrom that is Bass Strait, in the dark. The 114 nautical mile race to Grassy Harbour at King Island is one of the favourite races of the year for the Ocean Racing Yacht Club of Victoria's membership.

A very slick record time was set for this race in 2002 by Cadibarra 8 at 10 hours and 8 minutes, but this race is notorious for its all or nothing nature. Although one of the shorter races in the calendar over the years yachts have found themselves variously beating into strong southerlies or lying becalmed just off The Heads.

Even as they reach Grassy Harbour they have to play a tactical game with the winds and tidal influences. Grassy Harbour provides a safe anchorage no matter what the weather. The hospitality of the King Island Boat Club is legendary but those last few miles have brought many a skipper unstuck changing their fortunes for this race and importantly the points towards the Offshore Championship.
This year's fleet is extremely competitive for Line Honours with the pointy end of the fleet more crowded than usual.

Primitive Cool the biggest boat in the fleet could be hard pressed by Paul Buccholz's DK46 from Geelong is oh so hard to beat being sailed by a team that rarely put a foot or indeed a sail wrong. Buccholz took Line Honours in the recent Melbourne to Hobart race down the West Coast, yet again and this crew are formidable in any weather. The two Reichel Pugh 46ers will be pushing them all the way particularly XLR8 driven by Ray Shaw a cunning and assured yachtie. Tony Walton's Hartbreaker has not been campaigned for very long by this crew so will be interesting to watch against the more seasoned crews.

In fact this is a very hard race to predict; Matthew Lawrence's Jazz Player and Greg Clinnick's Audacious are both giving away waterline length to the 46ers but are also both well campaigned boats. Jeff Dusting's Adventure Safety Jem and Steven Fahey's Cartouche have a little extra on the waterline but have perhaps not as yet challenged the 46ers with all three of the above ahead of them in the Boxing Day Dash. Matt Fahey has a new hand on board Primitive Cool which could see his 51 footer sweep the fleet on its way to the finish line.

What really excites these hardened yachties is the prospect of winning on handicap. This is where the weather also plays a major role, as no matter what it is, it will suit some better than others. Fall in a wind hole at the front and the small boats catch up. Pick up a lift at the front and the small boats are split off from the fleet. At this point it is too far out to predict the weather.

Ashley Trebilcock steering his Beneteau 40, Bandit has performed consistently well during the season. Richard Nichols on Seduction or Aiden Geysen on Streetcar and the cannily sailed Addiction in the hands of Richard McGarvie all are in the mix for the handicap places.

The skippers and crews cannot predict all that will happen on the racecourse but they can predict that a warm welcome awaits in Grassy and possibly the best steak sandwiches ever. There is a reason they love to compete in the King Island race.

ORCV Media Jennifer McGuigan

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