by Di Pearson
Syd Fischer and Bob Oatley will rekindle their rivalry as Ragamuffin-Loyal once again dukes it out with Wild Oats XI in what would be a record-breaking Friday night in the Cabbage Tree Island Yacht Race starting at 7:00 pm. The race will mark the first time Fischer’s Ragamuffin-Loyal and Oatley’s Wild Oats race against each other since their showdown at the Rolex Sydney Hobart.
The 180 nautical mile race is a qualifier for the 628 nautical mile race to Hobart, and as such, has attracted 35 quality entries. Most will be eying their forthcoming competition in this race, which also acts as a form guide for Hobart.
This is the first time Fischer has raced the 100 footer he leased for two years in late October, ahead of buying the yacht from last year’s victor, Anthony Bell. Tonight will be a trial run for prospective crew members and those already committed, such as crew boss, David Witt of Nokia, Nicorette and Skandia fame.
Wild Oats XI is holder of the Rolex Sydney Hobart, Audi Sydney Gold Coast (Open record) and Cabbage Tree Island records. The crew is already in full race-mode, with New Zealanders, Robbie Naismith and Stu Bannatyne, flown in to join the rest, including Adrienne Cahalan Tom Addis, as they look to avoid a repeat performance of last year’s Hobart race. Yesterday, skipper Mark Richards had the crew out on a long ‘boot camp’ style training session.
With the Bureau of Meteorology predicting ideal 10-15 knot south-easterly winds on slight seas for Friday’s start, forecast to continue along the Central Coast and increasing in strength on Saturday to 20-30 knots, Wild Oats XI’s record of 14 hours 13 minutes 35 seconds could go.
Either way, the fleet will have an undeniably quick will downhill slide to the Island, although crews will have to juggle a 1.5 metre north-easterly swell along the way.
Back on the Harbour on Sunday, winds will be variable at around 10 knots, becoming north-easterly at 15-20 during afternoon, suiting the smaller boats keen to catch a good surf home.
Victoire, the Beneteau 45 Darryl Hodgkinson sailed to overall victory in last year’s race, will not be racing tonight. Second placegetter, AFR Midnight Rambler (Ed Psaltis/Bob Thomas/Michael Bencsik) will be. She will have a tough battle with the likes of 2008 Hobart winner, Quest, a TP52. Owner, Bob Steel, also won the 2002 Hobart.
Reigning Rolex Sydney Hobart champion, Loki (Stephen Ainsworth), which took line honours in last year’s Cabbage Tree race, is back. Others entered are Sam Hayne’s Rogers 46, Celestial, with Steve McConaghy on tactics; the Adrian Lewis skippered Geomatic from Victoria and Peugeot-Surfrider, the re-badged Beneteau 45 Balance, which will race to Hobart with a mostly French crew headed by Sebastien Guyot.
83, AFR MIDNIGHT RAMBLER, Sail No: 8338, Owner: Ed Psaltis, Design: Ker 40, LOA (m): 12.2, State: NSW
Two of the smallest yachts in this race and the Sydney Hobart are 1988 winner, Illusion, Kim Jaggar’s Davidson 34, and James Cameron’s Hick 35 Luna Sea, winner of the 1998 Hobart under the name AFR Midnight Rambler for Ed Psaltis and Bob Thomas.
At the other end of the scale is Peter Millard/John Honan’s 98ft Lahana and Jim Cooney’s Brindabella, which broke the 18 year-old record for this race in 2004, for original owner, George Snow, only to lose it to Loki in 2009, which in turn relinquished it to Wild Oats XI.
With three races decided, Loki leads the Blue Water Pointscore Series by four points from Celestial, currently on equal points with Syd Fischer’s TP52 Ragamuffin, which is no longer racing in the series, due to Fischer’s commitment to Ragamuffin-Loyal. AFR Midnight Rambler is a further three points back, so the event is still wide open.
Race 4 of the CYCA’s Blue Water Pointscore Series (BWPS), the Cabbage Tree Island race will not be the last chance for Rolex Sydney Hobart preparation. On offer over the coming weekends is Middle Harbour Yacht Club’s Sydney Short Ocean Racing Championship (held in conjunction with the CYCA’s Ocean Pointscore Series) from 24-25 November, followed by the Lion Island Botany Bay Race on December 1, the penultimate race of the BWPS.
From 7-9 December are the CYCA Trophy (Rating and One-Design) and Passage Series from 15-16 December and the not to be missed Sydney Harbour spectacle, the SOLAS Big Boat Challenge on 11 December.
For full race results of the Cabbage Tree Island Race and provisional Blue Water Pointscore Series standings log on the event website.