This weekend will see the 65th running of The Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania’s annual Maria Island Race Yacht Race over a 190 nautical mile offshore course around the south-east coast of the State, making it one of the oldest ocean races in Australian waters.
In contrast to 2011 the start of the 2010 race saw a beat to windward down the Derwent.
Sponsored this year by Tasports (Tasmanian Ports Corporation Pty Ltd), the Maria Island Race was first sailed in 1947, just two years after the inaugural Sydney Hobart Race.
Over the past 64 years the race has been won by many of the fastest and best sailed ocean racing yachts in Tasmania as a key event in their preparation for the Sydney Hobart and other major events.
The maxi ketch Tasmania, skippered by well-known RYCT member Bob Clifford set the current race record of 19 hours 50 minutes and one second in 1994 and then went on to take line honours the following month in the 50th Sydney Hobart Yacht Race from a record fleet of 371 starters.
This year’s Maria Island Race is a qualifying event for Tasmanian yachts entered in this year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race and three of the four yachts that will be representing clubs from this State will be competing this coming weekend: Cougar II (Tony Lyall), Dump Truck (Justin Wells) and Martela (Anthony Williams).
Westward wins the inaugural Maria Island Race
The 65th Maria Island Race will start off Hobart’s Castray Esplanade at 1900 hours (7pm) tomorrow, Friday, 16 November.
The demanding course takes the fleet down the Derwent River, around the Iron Pot and across Storm Bay to Tasman Island before heading north along the spectacular south east coast of Tasmania to round elongated Maria Island, off the coastal towns of Orford and Swansea, before heading back to Hobart.
In many ways, the return leg from Maria Island replicates the final 85 nautical miles of the Rolex Sydney Hobart with the added tactical pressures of sailing inside the island either going north or heading south.
Inaugural winner of the Maria Island Race in 1947 was George Gibson’s cutter Westward, which went on to win the Sydney Hobart that year and again in 1948. Westward is now berthed in Constitution Dock as part of the Tasmanian Maritime Museum’s floating exhibition of historical vessels.
The most successful yacht in recent years has been Roger Jackman’s Dr Who, which has won handicap divisions in seven races as well as taking line honours in several races.
Other prominent yachts to have won the Maria Island Race have been Kintail (three times), Bindaree (three times), Maria, Mirrabooka, Intrigue (four times), T42 Solandra (three times), Whistler, Archie, Mr Kite and Auch (twice). Last year’s Charleston, which won in 1979, was subsequently lost with all hands on the way to Sydney contest the Southern Cross Cup and the Sydney Hobart Race.
Auch with orange kite at the start of last year's went on to win the IRC and PHS categories.
The 2007 Maria Island made yachting history when a woman owner/skipper won the race for the first time. Sally Rattle, from the Derwent Sailing Squadron, sailed her Archambault 35 Archie to an IRC corrected time victory
Archie went on to win the Rudder Cup Centenary Melbourne to Hobart Race across Bass Strait to Low Head and then down the East Coast.
The 2005 Maria Island Race saw another historic win when David Calvert skippered his father Don’s yacht Intrigue to her second successive IRC win – 26 years after the Castro 40 was built to represent Australia at the Admiral’s Cup in England.
Last year’s overall AMS winner was the 2 Unlimited, Greg Prescott’s Melges 32 which last weekend won the Melges 34 East Coast championship on Pittwater, north of Sydney.