by Ian Grant
Sunshine Coast ocean racing sailors are in the process of placing their bets on which local crew will achieve the top scoring result in the Brisbane to Gladstone Race starting on Good Friday.
Hopefully Mooloolaba Yacht Club skipper David Turton and his Likatiger crew will experience improved luck when rudder failure dashed their hope of finishing with a high scoring result last year.
Likatiger one of the smallest entries in the 47 yacht fleet is a downwind sprint machine and her owner skipper believes his sloop will capitalise should the spinnaker sailing trade winds and wave surfing conditions prevail.
Both size in sail power and waterline length will handicap the chance for Likatiger to race in company with her major club rivals Audi Sunshine Coast Alegria IV (Rod Jones) and dual Gladstone Race winner Bob Robertson (Cracklin Rosie).
But skipper Dave Turton and 2004 World Etchells champion Greg Torpy form the nucleolus of a crew who have the skill and coastal passage race experience that will provide Likatiger with a better than even money chance to feature in the Performance class corrected handicap places.
However the Likatiger combination will need moderate to fresh spinnaker sailing winds to blow over her deck to help save her lower handicap rating against the speed sailing Rod Jones skippered Audi Sunshine Coast sponsored Alegria IV.
Skipper Jones and crew have the long race form on the board to be ranked among the best following their maiden race success in the longer Club Marine Brisbane to Keppel Race last August where they outpaced the 2010 Brisbane to Gladstone Courier Mail Cup champion the Bill Wild skippered Wedgetail.
This result suggests that Rod Jones and his dual Audi Australian IRC championship winning crew hold a firm grip on the first Sunshine Coast entry to reach Gladstone while Cracklin Rosie, Likatiger, the Jennifer Fitzgibbon helmed Soothsayer and the James Morris skippered Eressea duel for the best of the rest.
Meanwhile all of the 47 crews remain focused on monitoring the coastal weather systems and are hoping the present rig and sail testing trade winds continue to blow over the Easter weekend.
Rod Jones and his tactical team including navigator James Walker, Sean O’Rourke and 2009 World Etchells champion Bucky Smith would welcome the opportunity to race in similar 40 knot winds which buffeted the entire Queensland coast earlier this week.
They are specialist ‘brute breeze’ sailors who all understand what it takes to log the fast sailing miles and while the long range forecasters are expecting the present southerly wind system to hold but remain sceptical about predicting the velocity.
However the Audi Sunshine Coast racing team headed by skipper Rod Jones remain hopeful of adding a Brisbane to Gladstone trophy to their impressive list of success in the Australian offshore blue water classics.