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Pittwater-Coffs Harbour 2013 - Strong SSE winds expected on race day

by Damian Devine on 28 Dec 2012
Ragamuffin Damian Devine
The 32nd Club Marine Pittwater to Coffs Harbour Yacht Race is anticipating a fast-paced race as favourable 20-knot south south easterly winds will likely blow across the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club on the opening day of the first ocean race of 2013.

A fast favourable forecast looks set for the first ocean race of the new year, the 32nd Club Marine Pittwater to Coffs Harbour yacht race hosted by The Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club.

When the quality fleet of 34 line up for the start, the forecast is looking good for a quick run north with a 20 Knot South South Easter predicted for the start, strengthening to 25 knots in the afternoon before backing down to 15-17 knots later in the evening and into the following morning as it swings more to the south. According to the seabreeze forecast, the southerly is expected to stay with the fleet all the way to Coffs.

If the forecast rings true, Bob Oatley’s 10 year old race record with the former 60ft Wild Oats IX could be under threat. The race record stands at 18 hours 29 minutes 14 seconds with a boat needing to average 14 knots and be in Coffs Harbour before 7:29am to break it.

With the absence of Wild Oats (six out of the past 10 years) and last year’s line honours and PHS handicap winner, Craig Ellis’ 57ft Future Shock, a new line honours winner will be crowned in 2013. The largest in the fleet, Bill Wild’s RP55 Wedgetail, will be the bookies line honours favourite but in hot pursuit will be Syd Fischer’s TP52 Ragamuffin who will be out to spoil Wild’s party, to get their hands on the coveted Line Honours Bell Trophy.

24 year old Tom Spithill, helmsman and tactics on board Bruce Hogan and Tina Clifton’s Marten 49 Perpetual Mocean, 2009 line honours winner said, 'there are a few different weather models out there and I don’t want to put my prediction on anything just yet. Regardless of the weather, competition wise it looks like it’s going to be pretty tight getting on the podium. Obviously, Ragamuffin and Wedgetail will be having a good battle for line honours, however the last spot on the podium looks to be pretty hard to pick with a handful of boats between the 45-52ft mark in contention.'



Spithill who will also act as crew boss with seven RPAYC youth development graduates doing their first major ocean race commented, 'With an average age on board of 28 and our youngest being 16, we certainly have the horsepower on board to keep the boat charging. Everyone’s pumped about it.'

The handful of boats Spithill is referring to in contention include the Kaiko 52 Merlin skippered by David Forbes, the Marten 49 Perpetual Mocean, the two DK46s Exile and Nine Dragons and the Farr 45 Pretty Woman skippered by Richard Hudson.

In terms of IRC handicap, there's a bunch of boats in contention including current Class 2 Audi IRC Australian Champion Darryl Hodgkinson’s Beneteau 45 Victoire, 2012 IRC winner Rob Reynolds DK46 Exile, 2012 runner up Bob Cox’s DK46 Nine Dragons, Ragamuffin, the Farr 45 Pretty Woman and the Kernan 44 Steven Proud’s Swish.


In terms of PHS, keep an eye on Garry Holder’s ID35 The Real Thing who relishes the downwind conditions, the RPAYC Commodore Rob Curtis’ and Ross Trembath’s Murray 42 Secret Men’s Business, third last year and Rob Hoile’s Beneteau 47.7 Kaliber who also performed well in the 2012 race.


Commodore Curtis said, 'The forecast is looking great for a fast race north and just glad it’s not looking like the bashing we had to windward all the way last year. There has been a lot of hard work into setting up the regatta at both ends and we know it will be another great event for everybody My crew and I are very much looking forward to turning left at Barrenjoey and heading North.'

The Category Two 226nm Club Marine Pittwater to Coffs race gives competitors the opportunity to enjoy a tactical challenge between the current and the beaches, as they make their way north along the scenic route to the finish in Coffs Harbour. The tactical decision will be whether to head offshore in the hope of stronger breeze but having to contend with the south flowing current or to hug the coast.

The race dubbed the 'warm water classic' is the first race of the Club Marine Pittwater & Coffs Harbour Regatta consisting of five races with another four races being staged in Coffs Harbour over two days on 5-6 January. The five races shall count for the overall regatta score with no discards and double points awarded for race one.

There will be IRC, PHS, and ORCi divisions. The regatta will also incorporate the second Australian Performance Handicap (PHS) Championships which will see boats competing for a trophy to become the National PHS champion. In IRC, there will be 27 racing whilst 32 boats will contest the Australian PHS championship. All boats entered have the opportunity to compete in both.

Plenty of regulars will be amongst the competition including a few 25 plus race veterans, skipper Richard Hudson, the Farr 40 Witchcraft navigator Brian Ellis and helmsman Peter Antill. In his 25 plus attempts to date, Hudson, has climbed the podium ten times with his most recent with syndicate owners Russell Murphy and Michael Lockley in 2009 when they captured a bridesmaid trifecta; with seconds in line honours, IRC handicap and overall regatta.



'I am looking forward to the regatta as I do every year and getting to Coffs for some great racing. It’s a quality fleet and very competitive, so we should see some very close racing,' commented Hudson who is currently navigating on board Ichi Ban on his way to Hobart.

Smaller boats have always been an integral part of the fleet and the 2013 regatta has again attracted a number of small boats to the event providing a race within a race towards the back of the fleet. The smallest to boat to enter is the Van De Stadt 34 Spindrift from Sydney Amateurs Sailing Club skippered by Brendan Lyon. Katinka, Paul O’Connell’s Cole 35 and Garry Holder’s ID35 The Real Thing are the next smallest.

Time will tell whether conditions for the 2013 Pittwater to Coffs Harbour Race are kind to competitors but one thing’s for sure everyone will have a good time and there will be plenty of action down on the docks in Coffs Harbour for locals to see.

The race will once again feature the Yellow Brick yacht tracking system with 15 minute updates. The tracking system will provide a real-time, graphical representation of the yachts during the race while up to date commentary is to be provided via Twitter and Facebook and on the event website.

The Club Marine Pittwater to Coffs race starts at 1pm on Wednesday 2 January Pittwater to Coffs Harbour

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