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Whisper becomes a shout for the Groupama Race

by Lisa Ratcliff / OCC 12 Feb 2020 17:21 PST From 21 June 2020
2015 Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race - Chinese Whisper hurtling to Hobart © Andrea Francolini

Retirement has afforded David Griffith the freedom to pick and choose the ocean races he fancies will best suit the Sydney-based Reichel/Pugh 62 called Chinese Whisper he jointly owns with Rupert Henry. The unique New Caledonia's Groupama Race is now marked in the team's calendar with their recent entry.

A demanding South Pacific adventure of 654 nautical miles, the Groupama race is biennial and in 2020 the event returns, timed to follow on from the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia's PONANT Sydney Noumea Yacht Race. The CYCA's longest bluewater race of 1,064nms made a comeback in 2018, drawing an encouraging fleet of 22 and feeding good international numbers into the Groupama race that year.

"I've got this wonderful boat that is best used and perfectly designed for long races," said Griffith. "My last Hobart before 2019 was in 1983 or 84 then work and children came along so I stayed closer to home, sailing Etchells. Now I've retired I can get back into having as many adventures as we can; there's no point having Chinese Whisper sitting there doing nothing."

Under the direction of sailing master Michael Coxon and a top-notch crew including Stacey Jackson and Tom Braidwood, Chinese Whisper scored seventh on line honours and fifth overall in the 75th anniversary Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race last December. The boat underwent some mods prior to the big race, including a longer bow sprit and the bulb moved aft, which improved performance says Griffith.

Following Port Lincoln Race Week, where Rupert Henry will step aboard, Chinese Whisper will be tweaked again. Decisions are being finalised between the owners, original designers Judel Vrolijk and Coxon on potential changes with the key objective to remove weight. "It's a 10 year-old boat so we'll do what's possible to make it as relevant as we can before the two long races, without penalizing ourselves on IRC handicap too much."

The Whisper team have a big year planned. From the Groupama race the boat will return to Sydney for the Noakes Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race start, then continue north for series of races and regattas. Following the 2020 Rolex Sydney Hobart the campaign could shift to Europe and/or the Caribbean.

Chinese Whisper is the largest entry so far among a joint New Caledonia and Australian field, which is expected to expand to New Zealand and include the 2018 line honours winner Miss Scarlet.

As well as fully crewed (minimum of 3 crew) monohull and multihull categories, organising club Cercle Nautique Calédonien is, for the first time since the debut Groupama Race in 2008, offering a shorthanded division (minimum of 2) plus a cruising division.

Enter here before Wednesday May 20.

A crew party on Friday June 19 marks the start of the pre-race celebrations and on Saturday June 20 competitors will attend the official race and weather briefing. For the planned 10am race start on Sunday June 21, New Caledonians will be out in numbers on boats and along the waterfront, where the international fleet parade past in the opening short legs of the course.

The race boats then make for open water, sailing anti-clockwise along the east coast, through the beautiful UNESCO listed lagoon to the north and back down the west coast to the finish just inside Noumea's Port Moselle harbour.

Both the current monohull and multihull race records were established in 2016.

For more information visit the event website.

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