In just over six weeks’ time Jessica Watson, together with four other young crew, will compete in the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race, as part of their preparation to be youngest crew ever to compete in the Rolex Sydney Hobart.
Having turned 18 last month, Watson is now eligible to compete in the Hobart race later this year, but before she gets to the start line, she and her crew must come together in a competitive environment and put all the training into practice with the 384 nautical mile Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race which starts at 1pm on Saturday 30th July from Sydney Harbour.
Watson will be taking guidance from the boat’s skipper Chris Lewin aboard the Sydney 38 Another Challenge. 'I’ll be ok with taking directions from the skipper,' Watson said. 'Every boat is different and I’ve still got so much to learn about sailing and skippering Another Challenge, so this will be a great chance for me to watch and learn.
'I’m really looking forward to racing with some of our Hobart crew. We’ve done a little sailing together now, but this will be a great chance to put a little more pressure on us all,' Watson added.
Watson and the young crew will work with Lewin and four experienced Sydney 38 sailors, with the team hoping to be competitive whilst learning the ropes.
'This race will be a good learning experience for the younger crew members, as they will rotate through various roles on the boat,' Lewin said. 'It will be first time the crew will sail competitively together after their training earlier this year. It’s a great event to gain exposure to offshore racing.'
'The crew is coming together amazingly well. We’ve got a great mixture of sailing skills on board and lots of enthusiasm. Throughout the year, the crew are busy with their own sailing and projects, so when we come together at the end of the year for training, we’re going to be in an even better place,' Watson enthused.
Marcus Blackmore’s Hooligan and Stephen Ainsworth’s Loki will go head to head in the battle to claim this year’s Audi IRC Australian Championship when they take to the start line of the third event of the Championship, the Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race.
This will be Hooligan’s second offshore race since her arrival in Australia late last year. Blackmore claimed the overall win in his first, the Brisbane Gladstone Race, earlier this year.
Since hitting the Australian Grand Prix circuit late last year, Hooligan has claimed a string of victories along the east coast, but Blackmore has his sights set firmly on claiming the Audi IRC Australian Championship title.
'There’ll be tough competition from the defending champion Loki,' Terry Wetton Hooligan’s boat captain said. 'In an ocean race you can’t afford to dismiss anyone though.'
'Our ultimate goal is to secure the Audi IRC Australian Championship Division A win,' Wetton added.
Blackmore is keen for Hooligan to shake off her tag of being ‘just a regatta boat’ after winning the Rolex Trophy Series, and taking an enviable three point lead in Division A of the Audi IRC Australian Championship after wins in two regatta style events.
The line honours race between three super maxis Investec Loyal (Anthony Bell), Wild Oats XI (skippered by Mark Richards) and Lahana (Peter Millard and John Honan) will be attempting to break Brindabella’s 12 year race record of 27 hours, 35 minutes and 43 seconds, which Wild Oats XI and Lahana have failed to do in the past.
To date, over 40 entries have been received, including several interstate yachts, such as Bruce Taylor’s Caprice 40, Chutzpah; Calm, the TP52 owned by Jason Van Der Slot and John Williams; Nicholas Bartels’ Cookson 50 Terra Firma, Mike Welsh’s Beneteau First 40 Wicked from Victoria; and Leo Rodriguez’s Volvo 60 Merit from Queensland.
Entries for the Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race can be completed online until 1700 hours on Friday 15 July – simply log on to http://goldcoast.cyca.com.au/editorial.asp?key=4366
Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race website