by David Salter
This year’s tenth annual BBQ cruise to Lord Howe Island looks likely to attract a record fleet of participants.
Interested skippers and crew gathered at the Orient Hotel in Sydney to swap notes for the 2012 cruise - Lord Howe Island Cruise
At the traditional ‘Quiet Little Drink’ for interested skippers and crew held at the Orient Hotel in Sydney, a quick roll-call confirmed at least eleven probable starters for the 2012 cruise, plus another six wishing to be noted as 'possibles'.
The event is an entirely informal cruise-in-company with no rules or organizing authority. Its only fixed point is that participating yachts should get to the island in time for the fund-raising BBQ at Ned’s Beach on the first Tuesday after Melbourne Cup day. This year that falls on November 13.
All proceeds go to the Island’s public school. The yachties have raised more than $25,000 for the school’s Parents & Citizens group over the past decade.
There has been heightened interest in the 2012 cruise following the recent cancellation of this year’s Gosford-Lord Howe Island yacht Race. The 416nm Gategory One race normally precedes the cruise by a fortnight.
Nigel Stoke, skipper of Fidelis, the only yacht to have participated in every cruise since it began in 2003, believes the strong continuing interest in the event reflects an underlying change in offshore yachting.
'During a period when fleet numbers for the big blue-water events have been static or falling, the cruise keeps slowly building,' he says.
'I think there are a lot of people who own good, seaworthy boats, love to sail offshore, but don’t want to compete against the latest carbon rocket ships. The cruise really suits them.
'The bonus, of course, is that they arrive at one of the most magical destinations within safe cruising range of the East Coast mainland. It’s hard not to have a good time on Lord Howe,' says Stoke.
Among the 17 yachts to register their interest in making the 860nm return passage for the 2012 BBQ are Polaris of Belmont, Allira, Funnelweb, Morning Bird, The Indefensible, Southern Belle, Indigo, Manly Ferry, Landfall, Sylphide, Commitment, Heather Mist, Taratibu and Fontana.
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Skippers and crew swap notes at the ‘QLD’ held at the Orient Hotel in Sydney on 14 June