One of the toguhest of the Rolex Sydney to Hobart qualifying races is the Cat 1 Gosford to Lord Howe race.
The Bureau of Meteorology has forecast freshening north-easterly sea breezes for tomorrow’s start of the Hempel 38th Gosford to Lord Howe Island Yacht Race.
The Bureau forecast, giving at the race briefing at Gosford Sailing Club last night, is for 10-20 knot north to north-easterly winds on Saturday afternoon and early Sunday.
From there on the breeze should back to the north and freshen to 30 knots south of Port Stephens as the fleet beats its way up the NSW Central Coast, with seas rising to 2 metres on an easterly swell.
A southerly change is expected to move up the coast on Monday, possibly giving the fleet a late spinnaker run across the Tasman Sea to the island.
Line honours favourite is The Stick, a 21m sloop owned by Richard Christian from the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia and the biggest boat in the fleet.
Three boats have strong changes to win the IRC handicap honours – Roger Hickman’s Wild Rose from the CYCA, James Cameron’s Midnight Rambler from Drummoyne Sailing Club and Greg Zyner’s Copnicus from Manly Yacht Club.
Midnight Rambler, a Hick 34 won the Gosford to Lord Howe Island Race in 1999 when owned by Ed Psaltis and Bob Thomas from the CYCA, a year after taking out the storm-swept Sydney Hobart. However, this will be the first ocean race with Midnight Rambler for James Cameron, who bought the boat less than a year ago.
Anthony Sweetapple’s Quetzelcoatl should do well in the PHS division, but the hard sailing to windward early in the race, followed by the southerly front, and could favour the 40-year-old Polaris of Belmont, Chris Dawe’s Cole 43.
Polaris of Belmont has sailed in 26 Sydney Hobarts, probably as many Lord Howe Island Races, and has scored several handicap wins in this race between 1997 and 2010.
NSW Police Minister Mike Gallacher MP will start the Hempel 38th Gosford to Lord Howe Island Race from the water police launch Nemesis at 3pm tomorrow, with the start line between Barrenjoey headland and Lion Island on Broken Bay.