Pittwater to Coffs Harbour Yacht Race 2012 fleet had spread 20 nautical miles from top to tail between Belmont to Norah Head at the first sked reported at 1800hrs this evening.
At the sked, the Volvo 60 Bruce Absolon’s 'Spirit of the Maid’ was in a neck and neck battle with Craig Ellis’ ‘Future Shock’ with both boats within a few hundred metres of another. Host clubs Richard Hudson’s ‘Pretty Woman’ was third closely trailed by the Kaiko 52 ‘Merlin’. The lead boats were travelling between 7-8 knots in a building 20 Nor’ Easter.
Nick Johnstone’s Lidguard 50 ‘Santana 3’ was the first retirement with a broken D shroud mid afternoon and made his way back to the RPAYC. William Hutchinson’s ‘Freya’, a Hanse 411 retired at approximately 1900hrs.
The fleet were graced with a 15 knot Nor’ Easter to get them off the line for a spectacular start at 1pm for the 31st Pittwater to Coffs race, making their way towards Cape Three Points at a blistering pace.
The fleet were evenly spread down the line with a slight pin end bias, seemingly offering the shortest route out of Barrenjoey. The best of the start was to be seen at the pin end with 'Santana 3' the first to jump, closely followed by 'About Time', 'Pretty Woman' and ‘Spirit of the Maid’. 'Future Shock’ came off the middle of the start line in good clean air to take the early ascendency, opting for a path close to the western shore before tacking out to get around Cape Three points.
Michael Logan from BOM presented the weather briefing earlier in the day at the host club the RPAYC, summing it up beautifully, 'I will keep it brief, in two words, North East.' He did elaborate but essentially with a stationery high covering the Tasman this is the forecast for competitors, summer has finally arrived and with perfect sunshine, 26 degrees and a building sea breeze, providing the perfect ingredients for a great start.
By 8pm, the bulk of the fleet were off Lake Macquarie with the lead boats off Newcastle Harbour, all sticking close to shore, with a lot of place changes happening. It's obviously a tricky part of the race as the first night settled in. Future Shock had taken the lead over Spirit of the Maid but had broken a couple of headsail halyards in the process.
Bob Cox's DK46 Nine Dragons will be hunting for handicap honours - 2012 Pittwater & Coffs Harbour Regatta - Damian Devine Click Here to view large photo
The lead for IRC is constantly changing with the two DK46s ‘Exile’ and ‘Nine Dragons’ from the MHYC skippered by Rob Reynolds and Bob Cox respectively performing well as to is Phil Arnall’s smart looking Corby 43 ‘Anger Management’, the two Beneteau First 40s Tony Kinsman’s ‘Blunderbuss’, and Graeme Hall’s ‘Close Halled’ and the Hudson/Murphy/Lockley Farr45 ‘Pretty Woman’ all doing well up front. Mark Griffith’s Sydney 38 ‘Old School’ is within reach of the leading bunch and ready to pounce.
In PHS, it's the Coffs Harbour boat Paul D’Olier’s Sydney 41 'B52' leading from RPAYC’s Commodore Rob Curtis and SMB syndicate Murray 42 ‘Secret Men’s Business#1’ with Rob Alder’s Cookson 12 ‘OCL One’' and ‘Kaliber’, the Beneteau 47.7 enjoying the stronger conditions, the front runners in the Division at this early stage.
But there’s still a long way to go and as the sun set on the first night, it was going to be a long, bumpy night for the crews and boats in the 31st Pittwater to Coffs race. On current predictions the first boat is not expected to cross the finish line until 10pm tomorrow night ensuring the race record of 18hrs 29mins 14secs, held by ‘Wild Oats IX’, is defintely safe for another year.
Richard Hudson owner / skipper of the Farr 45 ‘Pretty Woman’, one of the handicap contenders said prior to the race, 'The forecast should suit us, we have some brand new sails and a good crew on board. The strategy will be to get off the line cleanly, find clear air and find the straightest route there. Obviously looking for those pockets of land breeze early tomorrow when the breeze softens will be one of the keys and could be crucial to the outcome. We’re hoping this will be our year but time will tell. We'll give it our best shot. It should be a good race.'
The five race regatta kicks off with the Pittwater to Coffs Harbour Race followed by two sprint and two 20nm offshore races in Coffs Harbour on fifth and 6th January to round out the regatta. The Pittwater and Coffs Harbour Regatta offers IRC, ORCi, PHS and shorthanded Divisions and also incorporates the inaugural Australian performance handicap (PHS) Championships.
Each boat is fitted with a 'Yellowbrick' satellite GPS tracker and positions will be updated on the event website every 15 minutes during the race. A brand new addition to the race is the Yellowbrick iPhone App, available on iTunes. Pittwater and Coffs Harbour Regatta website