by Di Pearson
The sixty nautical mile Lion Island Botany Bay Race is expected to be a furious battle ground for skippers and their boats as they try to build momentum ahead of the prestigious Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race in December. Pointscore pace-setter Loki will try to further extend his lead in the Blue Water Pointscore Series (BWPS).
Loki is gunning for glory
Heading the line-up for Saturday’s race, which takes the fleet from Sydney Harbour to Lion Island near Pittwater, then to Botany Bay in the south, before returning to the Sydney Harbour finish line at Rushcutters Bay, is the Pointscore leader, Loki, Stephen Ainsworth’s Reichel/Pugh 63, which won the BWPS in 2010/2011.
Just three points adrift of Loki, is Sam Haynes’ Rogers 46, Celestial. With Steve McConaghy calling the shots and the right weather, Haynes, who did not finish the last two Hobart races, is more determined than ever to make the finish line and claim the BWPS for his own.
With Syd Fischer out of the picture since swapping his TP52 for super maxi Ragamuffin-Loyal, AFR Midnight Rambler, the Ker 40 belonging to Ed Psaltis, Bob Thomas and Michael Bencsik, is next best placed, just three points behind Celestial.
Behind them, the going gets much tougher, because Roger Hickman’s Farr 43, Wild Rose, is a further seven points in arrears. However, a good Hobart result could solve all for this great ocean racer.
In the series to decide the ORCi winner, Celestial leads AFR Midnight Rambler by three points, with Tony Kirby’s X-41, Patrice Six, a further seven points behind. In PHS, it is Celestial leading again, this time from Loki, Andrew Wenham’s Volvo 60 Southern Excellence and James Cameron’s Hick 35, Luna Sea – the three on 13 points each and representing all sizes of the spectrum.
However, all it will take for the smaller boats aiming for IRC victory to claim the BWPS trophy, is for a similar scenario to last year, when the weather in some parts of the series favoured the smaller boats, and knocked Loki right out of the picture, even though she had won the opening two races and the Rolex Sydney Hobart.
In all, 17 yachts are entered for the Lion Island Botany Bay Race, including Greg Zyner’s reliable Copernicus, Southern Excellence, Warwick Sherman’s Occasional Coarse Language 2 and the two smallest boats in the fleet, the Davidson 34 Illusion (Travis Read/Kim Jaggar), and Luna Sea.
Neither Wild Oats XI (Bob Oatley) or Ragamuffin-Loyal (Syd Fischer) will be on the start line when the gun goes at 10.00am on Saturday, sending the boats on their way in Race 5 of the BWPS. Instead, it is believed both plan to do some private offshore training, preparing for the 628 nautical mile race ahead of them on Boxing Day.
The Bureau of Meteorology has predicted 15-20 knot north-easterly winds for the start, with the chance of thunderstorms, leaving the yachts to beat their way to Lion Island, making it tougher on the little boats. While along the coast from Broken Bay to Port Hacking, the fleet can expect 20-30 knot north to north-easterlies on an easterly swell, making for a fast ride home.
If anyone, in all probability, Loki, is to beat Lahana’s record of 6 hours 27min 41sec, set last year, they will need to finish the race by 4:27:40 on Saturday.
Prior to the Rolex Sydney Hobart, yachts will get more time for practice with the CYCA Trophy (Rating and One-Design) from 7-9 December; and the Passage Series from 15-16 December. Then on 11 December, there is the not to be missed annual SOLAS Big Boat Challenge.
For full race results and provisional Blue Water Pointscore Series standings log on to: Blue Water Pointscore Series