by Ian Grant
The 308 n/ml QantasLink Brisbane to Gladstone ocean race proved to be an important learning curve for owner skipper Rod Jones and crew on board A5-Audi Centre Sunshine Coast.
Left to right Rod Jones, Greg McAllansmith and Glenn Bourke at the Royal Yacht club of Tasmania
Their fifth place on line honours behind the longer, faster and more modern yachts Wild Thing, Black Jack, Lahana and Shogun V in their first ocean race provided the crew with the important benchmark toward racing the remodelled former champion Heaven Can Wait to her full potential.
The impressive older generation 15.4 m ocean racer designed by Hugh Welbourn and raced with distinction under original owner Warren Johns showed that skipper Rod Jones and the nucleus of his crew who have the distinction of winning two Audi Australian ocean racing championships are heading on a gaining tack in what promises to become another impressive campaign.
Skipper Rod Jones has drawn up a plan to represent Queensland in the 2013 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race and while that challenge is a little over 20 months away it will provide the crew with the important time to ensure A5 –Audi Centre Sunshine Coast will be ready to race hard and fast on the wind tormented rhumbline to Hobart.
Meanwhile both skipper and crew remain committed to making sure that every ocean race result is a progressive improvement to gain the required handicap rated boat speed to prove that a well sailed older generation ocean racer can compete against her more modern rivals.
The Gladstone Race result for the crew who were ‘learning the ropes’ was a good start however their challenge slowly fell apart when they were slowed by a fading breeze after they weathered Breaksea Spit with 114 nautical miles to sail.
As expected the softening wind hampered the record challenge in what proved to be an exciting race for line honours between the 20.3 m Mark Bradford skippered Black Jack and the 30.8m maxis Wild Thing (Grant Wharington) and Lahana (Peter Millard).
Black Jack the well prepared Riechel /Pugh designed maxi chaser proved to be a distinct line honours challenger when she held a narrow lead after weathering Lady Elliot Island.
But they were slowly pegged back before Wild Thing claimed a 16 minute 29 second win however the Black Jack crew became the star performers to record a runaway two hour 43 minute 50 second corrected handicap win over the Peter Millard helmed Lahana to become the 64th winner of the prestigious Courier Mail Cup.
This result was a deserved reward for Black Jack’s modest owner Peter Harburg and his crew who besides winning line honours in 2009 and 2010 and finishing second overall behind the Marcus Blackmore skippered Hooligan in 2011 finally expressed the required dedicated team work to record a popular win.
A5-Audi Centre Sunshine Coast racing under the Maroochy Sailing Club burgee finished a creditable seventh overall to record an impressive debut for the talented team of sailing mates representing clubs from Mooloolaba, Maroochydore and Noosa.