by Ian Grant
A prominent high pressure system in the Tasman Sea has provided an ideal forecast for the 64th QantasLink Brisbane to Gladstone yacht race starting off the historical Sandgate Pier on Good Friday morning.
Brisbane to Gladstone Yacht Race 2011
The system has extended a strong southerly air flow onto the South Queensland coast promising the fleet of 45 yachts representing Victorian, New South Wales and Queensland clubs with spectacular and fast spinnaker sailing conditions.
Wind recorders located at Cape Moreton, Double Island Point and Lady Elliot Island registered southerly gusts between 15-20 knots overnight while forecasters predict the wind to build along with a white crested 3m ocean swell.
This forecast and combined wind velocity will present the competitively strong fleet with a supreme test of ocean racing while enhancing the possibility of the 20 hour 40 minute 50 second record set by the Grant Wharington skippered Skandia Wild Thing in 2004 being challenged.
Wild Thing and the 2011 line honours champion the Peter Millard skippered Sydney maxi Lahana are listed as the joint line honours favourites ahead of the 2009 and 2010 champion Black Jack (Mark Bradford) while the smaller Royal Geelong Yacht Clubs impressively fast 16m Robert Hanna skippered Shogun V remains as favourite to win on corrected handicap.
However the expected rugged wind velocity and the confused nature of the three metre ocean swell promises to sort the best from the rest with the important helming skills to avoid time consuming and nerve bending wipe-out style broaches playing a major role in determining which crew will win the prestigious 64 year old Courier Mail Cup.
As expected all of the crews who have experienced the spray drenching spinnaker sailing aquatic sleigh ride in previous races have already revised the sail selection.
They have stowed their fresh wind sails in the anticipation of being better prepared for what promises to be a searching test of ocean racing skill and endurance.
The expected ocean racing conditions will favour the super maxi’s Wild Thing and Lahana to become involved in a 308 nautical mile match race when they become engaged in a duel for line honours.
Also record chase is certainly a possibility however either crew will have to reach the finish off Gladstone’s Auckland Creek before 7-40-50 on Easter Saturday to extend the record into a new time zone.