by Ian Grant
Sixty Five years ago Brisbane Businessman George Pickers set a trailblazing course into Australian ocean racing history when he steered his former Sydney Harbour racing yacht Hoana to win line honours in the inaugural Brisbane to Gladstone yacht race.
Brisbane to Gladstone Yacht Race fleet
Hoana completed the course in 47 hours 8 minutes 25 seconds winning the prestigious first to finish trophy by the comfortable margin of 2 hours 39 minutes 35 seconds over the Stan Spencer helmed Yawl Mahra while Brisbane Grocery chain owner Joe Manahan filled third place with Sarie Marais 1.
The year was 1949 when a small fleet of seven yachts set sail from the Humpybong Jetty before weaving a slow course to depart Moreton Bay via the Caloundra Fairway buoy.
Conditions on board were primitive with the crews forced to share their below deck accommodation with a crate of noisy homing pigeons which were released to carry position reports back to the race control centre.
Some pigeons made the flight home while others were reported to have met their demise in the cooking pot when the supplies in the larder locker dwindled.
Shortly before Hoana entered her third day at sea her crew triumphantly sailed into Gladstone Harbour on Easter Sunday and were greeted with a tumultuous welcome.
Remarkably Hoana’s average speed of a little over 6.5 knots remained unchallenged until the Alf Huybers owned and Norman Wright junior skippered Flying Saucer powered with amuch stronger spinnaker sailing trade wind busted the record by almost six hours when she completed the course with an average speed of 7.46 knots in 1955.
The present record of 20 hours 24 minutes and 50 seconds (15.09 knots) set by the Grant Wharington skippered Skandia Wild Thing in 2004 stands to be challenged.
The recently modified Wild Thing featured in a war of words when her entry was rejected for the 2012 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race on Boxing Day.
However skipper Grant Wharington has entered this year’s blue water classic with the purpose of defending her narrow line honours win last year over the Peter Harburg owned and Mark Bradford skippered pocket Maxi Black Jack.
Black Jack which set unmatched boat speed on a thrilling ride along the ocean shoreline of Fraser Island on Good Friday night continued to drench her crew in spray when she power sailed away from the fleet to become the 64th overall winner of the Prestigious sterling silver Courier Mail Cup.
Black Jack capped a brilliant year of racing in 2012 with her IRC Class win in the Rolex Sydney Hobart race has been entered to defend her 2012 Qantaslink Brisbane Gladstone victory.
Her expected line honours duel with Grant Wharington’s super maxi Wild Thing will be among the highlights of this year’s QantasLink blue water classic when another interesting fleet including the possible record challengers Wild Thing and Black Jack set the tactical strategy in place to complete the course off Auckland Creek before the record time expires at 7-35-10 on Easter Saturday morning.