Sydney to Gold Coast race weather will challenge crews

Scene at the CYCA prior to the start today.
Slow and steady will win the Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race Tacticians and navigators taking part in the 2011 Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race will need to keep their humour well intact if they are to survive the weather conditions that were dished up to them by the Bureau of Meteorology’s Michael Logan this morning.

At the race briefing, held at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, which hosts the event, the groans from crews were heard as Logan told those assembled: 'You will be looking at a weak breeze for the start – it won’t be more than 5 knots.'

Weather for the 384 nautical mile race, which gets underway at 1.00pm off Steele Point on Sydney Harbour today, was described by one navigator as 'most unusual.' 'It’s bizarre,' said race veteran Bruce Taylor, who owns the yacht, Chutzpah. 'I don’t think anyone really has a handle on the weather yet.

In previous years we’ve mostly had good solid breeze,' he said Sense of humour well and truly in place, Taylor added: 'We’ve brought the wrong toy with us – it’s like choosing the wrong dress. This will be your typical ‘blame game’ race. It’s going to be very light the whole way with breeze changes - so if it goes bad, we’ll be blaming our tactician and navigator – and I suspect a few others will do the same!'

The Victorian owns two yachts; a Sydney 38 and the one he will sail in this race, a Caprice 40, which is less suited to the conditions. According to the pundits, the race will go to one of the smaller boats in the fleet, such as the Archambault 31 Aroona (Anthony Paterson) or to one of the slippery TP52’s, such as Marcus Blackmore’s Hooligan or Syd Fischer’s Ragamuffin.

Renowned international navigator, Will Oxley, will be guiding another Victorian yacht, Living Doll to the Gold Coast. It is a Farr 55 owned by Michael Hiatt and some say it is one of the bigger yachts that excel in light airs, but Oxley was non-committal. 'It’s going to be a bit of a lottery and a rock-hopper,' Oxley said. 'You’ll have to know your draft well to finish this race,' added the Australian yachtsman, as a tongue-in cheek warning to all not to go to close to shore. Oxley said the race would be won or lost on Sunday night or the early hours of Monday morning: 'You’ll either being in the parking lot watching others sail through you, or you’ll be the one waving to those stuck in the lot,' he said.

Phil Eadie, a navigator of vast experience said they expect the wind to swing from west to a light nor’ easter by the start. 'We’ll be lucky to get 5 knots, but it’ll really grunt in by the late afternoon – we might even get 10 or 12 knots from the north-west,' he said laughing. 'It’s meant to be only 6 or 7 degrees tonight and the only good thing about the race for the navigator on this boat (the Beneteau 45, Victoire) is I can do my job from the warmth of a bunk!'

Victoire’s owner, Darryl Hodgkinson, said the race 'will be a bit of a squeeze. We’re hoping to squeeze into a top three place like we did in the Audi race to Newcastle in April.' According to forecaster Michael Logan, the 69-boat fleet will suffer light winds throughout the race, and even the bigger yachts, such as the Mark Richards skippered Wild Oats XI, won’t be immune. 'We’ll be rock-hopping all the way. The race could go to a bigger boat like us, or it will favour the very small boats in the fleet,' Richards said.

Whatever the case, Bob Oatley’s super maxi is armed with some of the best in the business; speed queen Adrienne Cahalan navigating and calling tactics will be Grant Simmer, who helped Alinghi to her win of the 32nd America’s Cup. 'We’ll have to wait and see. It might be a case of getting out the fishing line and doing a bit of trawling,' he added with a smile.

All eyes will be on one of the smallest boats in the fleet when round the world sailor Jessica Watson steps up to the wheel of the Sydney 38, Another Challenge. Entered in the Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race by her usual skipper, Chris Lewin, Watson will share duties with him during the race. 'There are five of my young crew and the rest are Chris’ usual crew. We’ll be racing using the ‘buddy system’, so that one of his guys pairs up with one of mine.

That way, we all get better at our jobs,' she said at the CYCA this morning. Of her chances in the race, Watson said: 'This is the first time we’ve sailed together as a crew, so we’ll just be doing our best.'

For full race results visit the official race website http://goldcoast.cyca.com.au or follow on Twitter http://twitter.com/asgcyr
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