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Double-handers to duel in 2018 Pantaenius Newport Coffs Coast

by Mark Rothfield 13 Sep 22:15 PDT 27 December 2018
Pantaenius Newport Coffs Coast Race - Lee Condell sailing © Mark Rothfield

The 2018 Pantaenius Newport Coffs Coast race is set to become the latest major yachting classic to combine a double-handed division with its fully-crewed fleet when the gun fires on December 27.

In trialling the new format, race organisers from the Royal Motor Yacht Club Broken Bay and Coffs Harbour Yacht Club have recognised the increasing popularity and acceptance of two-crew racing overseas, including prestigious bluewater events such as the Rolex Fastnet Race.

Short-handed enthusiast Lee Condell initiated discussions with race director Rob Brown and is backing the move with sponsorship of divisional prizes for overall winners, mixed crews and all-women's teams through his yacht brokerage business Performance Boating.

"The Coffs race is an obvious step towards what we're seeing internationally," Condell says. "What drew me to it, initially, is there are only two nights at sea, maybe less – that's not too demanding for those who are considering short-handed racing for the first time.

"The delivery trip home is also easy for boats from the south."

Rob Brown says the Coffs race has a long tradition of welcoming boats of all shapes and sizes, along with crews of varying ocean racing experience, and he's confident the double-handers won't clash with the existing IRC, ORCi, PHS and AMR entries.

"In Europe they're not so much the radical water-ballasted flyers of the past, more standard cruiser-racers such as J/Boats, JPKs, Sunfasts, Sigmas and so on. Most are between 32 and 38 feet, so they're not too physically demanding," Brown says.

"Production yachts are the bread-and-butter of our sport and potentially a strong growth area for the Pantaenius Newport-Coffs Coast race as it becomes harder for some time-poor skippers to retain regular crews."

Condell caught the short-handed bug when his duties as a Jeanneau yacht dealer and broker began hindering racing opportunities.

"I became involved with the SSAA [Short-Handed Sailing Association of Australia] who run events over the winter months, which is a time of year when I can get away from work more easily," he says.

"It's a different style of racing, where you need to think in advance and know when to change gears. That starts before the race, when you look at the forecasting and the likely course... then you have to respond to changing conditions and execute manoeuvres, which adds another element that I really enjoy."

Condell intends to sail a 2000-model Jeanneau Sunfast 40 in this year's Pantaenius Newport Coffs Coast. It's equipped with furling headsail, boom bag and lazy jacks while flying symmetric kites that are typically letterboxed under the mainsail and down the companionway.

Production designs like this lend themselves to being managed by cruising couples, being more stable and having control lines running aft to within reach of the helm.

Allaying concerns about safety, Condell believes that the track-record for short-handed sailing in mixed fleet and offshore regattas speaks for itself. "It has been proven all over the world – the last Fastnet race, for example, had no fewer than 57 short-handed entries," he said.

"While the fully-crewed boats look to hug the shore all the way to Coffs, we tend to take a slightly more conservative approach," he says. "The rules allow for two people and an autopilot as the minimum. We obviously have to keep watch the whole time but there's no reason that can't be done safely."

Condell's co-skipper will be Queenslander Lincoln Dews, one of Australia's most successful watermen in Ironman events, prone paddling and competitive SUP racing where he is currently ranked #2 in the world. He actively races his father's First 34.7, usually as co-skipper and crew boss.

The Pantaenius Newport-Coffs Coast race is run by Royal Motor Yacht Club Broken Bay in association with the Coffs Harbour Yacht Club under Safety Category 3 Plus. Multihulls are also welcome to compete.

Co-sponsors include Road Tech Marine, B&G, Robert Oatley Wines, Musto, Pacific Property Management and Performance Boating.

For more information visit www.royalmotor.com.au/coffs-race

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