by Ian Grant
Coastal forecasts remain as the most important factor as the 48 crews representing Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland decide on their sail selection to contest the 308 n/ml QantasLink Brisbane to Gladstone Race over the Easter weekend.
All skippers including the current race record holder Grant Wharington who power sailed his super maxi Skandia Wild Thing to a remarkable 15.09 knot average in 2004 remain hopeful of a favourable spinnaker sailing forecast.
As the seven day countdown began this morning the wind recorders at the Cape Moreton and Double Island Point lighthouses registered peak gusts between 20-30 knots suggesting there was still some ‘grunt’ left in the South East trade winds.
Also the weather bureau issued a strong wind warning of a 25-30 South, South East breeze and building three metre seas for coastal waters between St Lawrence to Burnett Heads this morning.
But as all Gladstone Race crews understand that a lot can change in the next seven days however they remain hopeful of experiencing a favourable weather pattern when they line up for the start of the 64th blue water classic at 11am on Good Friday April 6th.
The return of race record holder Wild Thing to test her proven boat speed against last year’s line honours champion the Peter Millard skippered Sydney super maxi Lahana promises to involve both crews in a tactical match race for the prestigious first to finish trophy.
Naturally they are hopeful of a strong wind forecast and should this be the case the race record of 20 hours 40 minutes and 50 seconds will enter a new time zone.
But first either crew will have to cross the finish line off Gladstone’s Auckland Creek before 7-40-50 on Easter Saturday morning to register a new record.
Intense interest also surrounds a classic contest for overall handicap and the associated honour of sipping the traditional seafarers ‘Nectar’ (Rum and Coke) from the 64 year old Courier-Mail Cup.
Heading this challenge is the impressive Royal Geelong Yacht Club TP 52 Shogun V skippered by Robert Hanna.
Shogun V is a more modern version of last year’s champion the Marcus Blackmore helmed Hooligan which after winning Queensland’s premier blue water classic went on the win the 2011 Audi Australian Ocean racing championship at Hamilton Island.
As expected Robert Hanna and his high performance crew remain hopeful of repeating that result.
But they will face a supreme test to finish ahead of a number of interesting Queensland challengers including the eight time Courier Mail Cup winner Saltash ll and the 2012 Sail Paradise champion Jessandra ll owned and raced by Team Vodafone V8 super car principal Roland Dane.