Naturaliste Race promises chase from the front

Chasing hard – Black Betty will be pushing from the front to catch the boats behind.
Richard Steuart
The yachts at the front of the fleet will be chasing those at the back in the 50th Cape Naturaliste & Return Ocean Race, which starts off Fremantle on Friday evening.

The 235 nautical mile race, conducted by Royal Perth Yacht Club, is the eleventh and final heat of the Archambault Offshore Series, and four crews will be fighting it out for the handsome slumped glass trophy and one thousand dollar prize offered by the series sponsor.

Leading the series on 16 points is the toughest little boat on the west coast, Ian Holder’s 30-year-old Hillarys-based Whiting 32 Bad Habits. Bad Habits has an IRC handicap rating of 0.9400, the second-lowest in the fleet of twenty seven, and is the defending champion in the Archambault Series. With the yacht on the market, the race marks the current crew’s swansong.

On 18 points and pushing hard will be Gary McNally’s GP42 Black Betty, representing Royal Freshwater Bay, a full-carbon flying machine whose rating of 1.238 and recent form make it a favourite for line honours.

The rating differential means that Bad Habits can take 31% more time to complete the course than Black Betty, and still beat her.

Also out front will be Paul Eldrid and Scott Disley’s General Lee, from Royal Freshwater Bay. The Bakewell-White 37 pocket-rocket is in touch with the series leaders on 20 points, and with a competitive IRC rating of 1.191, will be hard to beat if conditions suit her hard-running sweet spot. What is certain is that the crew will be going for broke, leaving nothing on the course in the quest for victory.

Just sheet on and send it! General Lee will be rolling the dice.
Bernie Kaaks

The dark horse in the series is the slowest boat in the fleet, the new-generation S&S 34 Blondie, skippered by Simon Torvaldsen of the host club Royal Perth. Entering the final race on 23 points, Blondie’s rating of 0.923 is even lower than Bad Habits’. She could be 34% slower than Black Betty and still beat her. Potentially, Black Betty could be finishing when Blondie rounds the Bunbury wing mark 80 miles behind, but the yachts would be on equal terms on IRC rating.

With a bumper fleet of twenty seven yachts, there are plenty of points to be won and lost, and the end result will be a combination of the crews’ skill and luck. The weather forecast is benign but tricky. A fading breeze at the end of the race will suit the fast boats, whereas a building breeze may blow the smaller yachts home to glory. Can Black Betty at the front of the fleet catch Bad Habits at the back? Sunday morning will tell the tale.

Habits of a long lifetime – Bad Habits will be out to defend the Archambault Trophy in what may be her final race.
Bernie Kaaks

The race is also the sixth and penultimate heat of the Evolution Sails Blue Water Series for the Siska Trophy, in which Black Betty appears to hold an unassailable lead after patchy entry patterns by competitors.

Royal Perth Yacht Club has organized Yellowbrick Trackers for the race, which can be accessed via this link

The club’s website is

No dumb blond – Blondie shows that the indestructible S&S34 can make a competitive IRC racing machine.
Bernie Kaaks