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New Black Jack to be christened at Rivergate Marina

'Rolex Sydney to Hobart'    Andrea Francolini

Peter Harburg’s Black Jack stable will be unleashed with a christening and Australian sailing debut, this Saturday morning.

The Volvo 70, which contested the 2011-12 Volvo Ocean Race as Telefonica,was shipped from Europe to Australia in March. Due to an unexpected delay the 70-footer went straight from the container ship to the shed for modifications.

This left Black Jack’s crew a tight window of just five weeks to strip the old livery, rebrand the boat and complete sail handling modifications to make it more user-friendly inshore. Other performance enhancing modifications were also carried out, the details of which are being closely guarded.

Saturday’s guest of honour will be the boat’s namesake and patron, three-time Formula One world champion, Sir Jack Brabham, who was dubbed ‘Black Jack’ in the 1950s by his peers for his ruthless approach on the track and swarthy features.

Following the 9.30am christening and traditional spilling of champagne on the new boat at Rivergate Marina on the Brisbane River, the crew will finally have their first opportunity to take the 70-footer for a spin before it leaves Queensland waters next week to embark on its maiden Australian summer campaign. First stop is Sydney Harbour for the Audi Sydney Gold Coast yacht race starting July 27th, followed by the Brisbane to Keppel race.

The previous Black Jack, a Reichel Pugh 66, delivered a string of handicap successes to Harburg, a Brisbane property developer and race car collector and driver, and skipper Mark Bradford from North Sails. Following the Rolex Sydney Hobart last December, Harburg’s racing background got the better of him and he’s since raised the stakes with a boat that has much greater line honours potential.

An impressive big boat line-up is looming for this year’s Sydney Hobart and the Black Jack crew figure they will be nudging the front of the fleet minus the supermaxi price tag.

Harburg’s boats have always come in under the 70 foot cap to reduce the need for custom parts and make coordinating people to work on and campaign the boat at the highest level more manageable.

'Saturday’s christening of the 70-foot Black Jack and launch of our summer season is a great opportunity for Queensland. We believe it’s a first for the state on this scale and at this level of yachting,' said Bradford.

'The Hobart race is our main goal; there’s never really been the sort of calibre at the top end we are expecting this year with potentially six line honours contenders, including three Volvo 70s,' he added.

The new canting-keel Black Jack will carry the core race crew from the 66-footer with the addition of specialist Volvo 70 sailors Ryan Godfrey and Anthony ‘Nocka’ Nossiter. The full race crew will be 15 strong.

Tasmanian naval architect Alex Nolan, who has been with the Volvo 70 since its creation, has been working full time with boat captain Stacey Jackson to prepare Black Jack for its Australian debut this weekend.

by Lisa Ratcliff


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9:29 AM Thu 11 Jul 2013GMT

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