CYCA’s Bird Island Yacht Race predicted to be fast

BRINDABELLA holds the Bird Island Race record
Brindabella’s 15 year-old race record may come under threat if the Bureau of Meteorology’s forecast for the annual Bird Island Race, which kicks off the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s summer offshore season, comes to fruition.

The forecast for the 85 nautical mile race, due to start at 7.00pm tomorrow night, is for 20-25 knots from the south-east at the start, dropping steadily to 15 knots by Saturday morning, when showers are expected to arrive and stay for the weekend.

Still in the south-east by 4.00am on Saturday morning, the breeze may move a little more to the south, but it should be a fairly straightforward race, according to Phil Eadie, the navigator on Darryl Hodgkinson’s Victoire from the CYCA. 'There’s a cold front coming through on Friday afternoon, so we should get a good run up the coast; we could be around the Island by around 1.00am,' said Eadie of the race to the 7.2 hectare nature reserve off Budgewoi on the Central Coast.

'Once we get around the island, we’ll be beating into the wind initially, then sailing cracked sheets. I reckon we should be finished by 10.00am on Saturday,' said Eadie, who is hoping to make it back in time to race his Laser dinghy at Vaucluse on Saturday afternoon.

Brindabella broke the race record back in 1996, when owned by George Snow, who commissioned her design from Scott Jutson and stands at 7 hours, 42mins, 15secs. The perennial 24 metre maxi also still holds the Audi Sydney Gold Coast Race, set by Snow in 1999. Now under the ownership of Jim Cooney, ‘Brindas’, the biggest boat in the fleet at 80ft, will contest the race, and if the weather holds true, there is no reason why she couldn’t beat her record.

Others, like Andrew Wenham’s Volvo 60, Southern Excellence, and the overall winner of last year’s slow-going race, Stephen Ainsworth’s RP63 Loki, will be having a crack too. To beat Brindabella’s record, the line honours winner would need to finish the race by 02:42:14 on Saturday morning.

Other regulars taking part include Syd Fischer’s TP52, Ragamuffin, which won the race in 2009, Paul Clitheroe’s Beneteau 45, Balance and Victoire, under the guidance of Sean Kirkjian in Darryl Hodgkinson’s absence. His Beneteau 45 is in great form, having won Class B of the 2011 Audi IRC Australian Championship in August.

Two newcomers will also be on the start line. Ed Psaltis and Bob Thomas’ brand new AFR Midnight Rambler, a Ker 40 designed with Psaltis’ input. Geoff Hill’s TP52 Strewth, which he has been racing on the Asian circuit, has recently arrived in Sydney. Last year Hill finished third in the Rolex South China Sea Race and this year scored third in the Hong Kong San Fernando Race.

At a compulsory briefing held at the CYCA last evening, Cruising Captain John Keelty encouraged competitors to do the Club’s Medical Management for Mariners course, while Race Committee Chairman David Kellett went through radio sked procedures; all part of the Club’s strategy for the continued promotion of safe boating.

A short distance by ocean racing standards, the Bird Island Race is nevertheless a good race for shaking off the cobwebs and is an early prelude to the 2011 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. It is also the second race of the CYCA’s Blue Water Pointscore (BWPS), which commenced with the Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race in July-August.

The BWPS has been revamped this year. A Lion Island Botany Bay Race, scheduled for December 3, will replace the Audi Sydney Offshore Newcastle Yacht Race, and the series will now conclude with the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.

These changes will give crews another opportunity to hone their offshore skills in summer breezes and make for an exciting culmination to the series, with the winner to be announced in Hobart at the Rolex Sydney Hobart prize giving.

The Bird Island race starts off Point Piper on Sydney Harbour and finishes in Rushcutters Bay. The 26 boats of varying sizes are expected to dwindle home throughout Saturday.

Entrants are competing for the 55th Janzoon Trophy (IRC) and the 36th George Barton Trophy (PHS).

Victoire at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week 2011

Full race results and provisional Blue Water Pointscore Series standings here
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