Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race - Wild Thing claims line honours

Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race
Peter Merten.
It was a thriller to the finish line of the Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race this afternoon, but Queensland’s Grant Wharington (Wild Thing) got the better of his two opponents and did not let a rain squall near the finish stop him from taking line honours in the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s annual 384 nautical mile race.

Wild Thing crossed the Main Beach finish line at 14.21.14 hours, taking two days one hour 21 minutes and 14 seconds to complete the course, well outside the open record set by Wild Oats XI last year of 22hrs, 3mins, 46secs and Loki’s record for conventional yachts of 26hrs, 52mins, 39secs, 43mins.

Wild Thing led the race from the Sydney Harbour start, leaving all in his wake in tricky light breezes. Wharington’s boat was only briefly overtaken once in the race, early this morning when John Honan and Peter Millard’s Lahana took the lead, but a short time later, Wharington had regained the lead and was not headed again.

All through this morning though, Lahana (NSW) and a second Queensland yacht, Peter Harburg’s Black Jack, made the going very tough for Wharington, staying within two nautical miles of their quarry all the way to the finish line. Lahana finished at 14.26.25 hours, just five minutes behind Wild Thing, with Black Jack crossing at 14.35.19 both were flying spinnakers.

Lahana’s navigator, Carl Crafoord, was the first to congratulate Wharington over the boat’s radio. 'A great race,' Crafoord said. 'It was so close right to the end,' Wharington responded.

'It was a bit of a painful situation – to get 30 miles in front of our nearest rivals and then 20 miles, and then to have them keep coming back at us, especially this morning,' the Queensland owner/skipper said.

'Since early this morning it became very challenging – we had to think more tactically to keep Lahana and Black Jack behind us,' said Wharington, whose yacht sailed across the line with full main and an R1, his biggest light air reaching sail.

'It’s our biggest jib for up to 12 knots of breeze – we used it at the start, and we used it to finish. A spinnaker is no good in the joggle we got in the light shifty airs, it just makes the boat too hard to steer to,' he said.

Wharington said the standout point for the boat was at the start of the race on Saturday when he leaped away in light winds. We had no issues and the boat sailed well in the light winds. We’re only sorry Wild Oats XI did not compete; it would have been interesting to see how it handled the light conditions we got throughout the race, apart from a couple of patches of 15 and 20 knots.'

This was Wild Thing’s only second offshore appearance since being lengthened from 98 to 100 feet late last year. As a 98 footer, Wild Thing won the 2006 race. Wharington will return to ocean racing with the 2013 Rolex Sydney Hobart.

The next yachts due to finish are Bill Wild’s Custom 55, Wedgetail (Qld) and Jim Cooney’s maxi, Brindabella (NSW), but the two will not arrive until very late tonight or in the early hours of tomorrow morning.

Now the race is on for the main prize of overall honours. At 3.15pm, Chris Bran’s Beneteau First 40, Brannew (NSW) was leading the chase from Andy Kearnan’s Summit 35, L‘Altra Donna (NSW) and Grant Dawson and Brent Dawson’s Ker 11.3, Kerisma (NSW).

The 25 year-old 1988 Sydney Hobart winner, Illusion, owned by Travis Read and Kim Jaggar, was last on line at 3.15pm. The Davidson 34 was 21 nautical miles north-east of Tacking Point with 203 nautical miles to sail to reach the finish line. The Northshore 370, Mortgage Choice Rumba (Robert Carr/Stephanie Cook/Kerry Burke) was just two nautical miles in front of her.

Two yachts retired from the race this morning, Midnight Rambler (Ed Psaltis/Bob Thomas/Michael Bencsik) and Breakthrough (Jonathon Stone/Mat Vadas) both cited time constraints. Midnight Rambler will sail back to Sydney with an ETA of midday tomorrow, while Breakthrough will motor sail on to Southport Yacht Club.

This afternoon, just before 2.00pm, Hugh Torode retired Shepherd Centre from the race, also citing time constraints, making it five retirements to-date, depleting the fleet to 42. Torode is heading for Coffs Harbour.

The CYCA’s proven yacht tracker system will allow family, friends and yachting enthusiasts to follow the race - and their favourite yachts - for its duration. Each yacht will be fitted with a Yellowbrick tracker that will obtain a position using the GPS satellite network, and then transmit that position back to Yellowbrick HQ using the Iridium satellite network.

Gold Coast website