National Launceston to Hobart race - Real rivals for handicap honours

Line honours favourite The Fork in the Road and Kiaulani, the oldest and one of the smallest boats in the fleet - Launceston to Hobart Yacht Race 2013
Peter Campbell
National Launceston to Hobart race, around Tasmania’s eastern coastline, gets underway on 27th December 2013. Yachties refer to them as the ‘book ends’ of the fleet, but The Fork in the Road and Kiaulani will be real rivals for handicap honours.

The Fork in the Road, Gary Smith’s Bakewell-White 45 and fastest boat in the 29-boat fleet, is favourite for line honours in the 285 nautical mile race which starts at 10am next Friday, December 27.

Kiaulani, Malcolm Cooper’s Snook 30, the oldest and one of the smallest boats in the race, could repeat her overall handicap victory of the Maria Island race last month.

Line honours favourite The Fork in the Road and Kiaulani, the oldest and one of the smallest boats in the fleet - Launceston to Hobart Yacht Race 2013
Peter Campbell

The Fork in the Road, owned by former Olympic sailor Gary Smith and Geoff White, has twice previously taken line honours in the National Launceston to Hobart race and Smith has undertaken a careful preparation aimed at breaking Helsal 3’s race record of 1 day 16 hours 28 minutes and 18 seconds for the 285 nautical mile race.

'I have a new lightweight sail that could be a winner in the light wind sail down The Mercury Passage between Maria Island and the East Coast mainland,' Smith said yesterday. 'I’ll unveil a surprise next Friday morning when we head out from Beauty Point for the early start,' he added.

The 33-year-old Kaiulani, a Tasmanian-designed and built timber 30-footer, has competed in all six past Launceston to Hobart (L2H) races and despite her age is still proving competitive in long offshore races. She recently won all rating divisions (AMS, IRC and PHS) of the Maria Island race, with The Fork in the Road taking line honours.

'The boat may be the oldest and smallest in the fleet but remains extremely competitive and revels in weather conditions hard on the nose,' skipper Cooper said yesterday.

'Along with three of the crew, Kaiulani has competed in all L2H races so far, and hopes to do many more,' added Cooper, who with his daughter Amanda Spinks-Cooper and Peter Taylor, are those three.

Both Cooper and The Fork in the Road skipper Gary Smith both agree that the weather down the East Coast will be the key factor in deciding the handicap winner of the L2H.

The long range forecast for the Rolex Sydney Hobart issued yesterday will give an indication of the weather the L2H fleet is likely to encounter.

With the 10am (slack water) start from Beauty Point on Friday, the fleet should be well across eastern Bass Strait and through notorious Banks Strait before a westerly front moves across Bass Strait in Saturday morning.

With the Tasmanian East Coat projecting a large wind shadow, this will provide a challenge for navigators as they reach down the coast towards Maria Island.

The Fork in the Road and other bigger boats such as Richard Fisher’s Believe from Beauty Point and Michael Pritchard’s Audère, should revel in the reaching conditions while Kiaulani’s crew will be hoping that the westerlies will swing to the south-west and freshen.

Alternatively, there is always the chance of a ‘parking lot’ near Tasman Island for the leaders, and this will certainly help the smaller boats such as Kiaulani, Stewart Geeves Young 88 Footloose and Ian Gannon’s Traditional 30, Take 5.
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