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Ready. Set. Sail.

by John Curnow, Editor, Sail-World AUS 13 Mar 14:00 PDT
Everyone gets involved as Maritimo 11 sets sail for the 2021 Sydney Hobart Race © Maritimo

On the back of a good run, it is often the time to go and have a crack at some of the events still left on the list. You could even argue that the timing just doesn't get better. The iron's hot and all that... Of course there is always the curve ball to consider, and it took a not-so-benevolent dictator, with a way too itchy trigger finger, to put the kibosh on a masterly plan.

When you're a 100-footer, you can't exactly go round the cans on a Wednesday afternoon, and lining up for Saturday's windward/leeward would be like a sprint event to see how much gear you could damage, in how little time. No. There are marquee events, and you get a few hit outs a year to hone your craft, learn, adapt, improvise, and hopefully win.

Black Jack's skipper, Mark Bradford commented, "We were always planning to do a Maxi Worlds, and this would have been a good year for a tilt at that. To be in the hunt internationally, you have to be doing well locally. We feel we are there now. The package is working well, and it is sad not have the ability now, due to problematic travel and logistics. The unknowns, as it were."

Scan the memory a bit, and you'll remember that Black Jack went all the way to Europe and back without being used in the Covid era. Doh! You get the sense that it is not so much a sore point as it is a really poignant aide-mémoire, and I don't think it took too much soul searching to throw Plan A in the bin, then open the drawer and pull Plan B out.

"We have four hundreds here (in Australia), so we are keen to keep at the domestic programme. The Pittwater to Coffs Harbour race is a step to get there (North), and there is the potential for a race record, given it is a fairly low average pace presently. Law Connect is in that race too, and it is always nice to have another hit out with them", said the North Sails Australia supremo.

"You always learn when you have a go, and can improve any weaknesses. You can get your combinations to gel better. Think of the last Hobart. We had Alex Nolan on Nav and Kevin Costin on Strategy. As time racing the supermaxis is somewhat infrequent, every chance has to be grabbed."

Now there are 31 entries so far for the 74th edition of Easter's Brisbane to Gladstone race. "This is where it all started; the pet event; the name's on the trophy plenty of times with the R/P66, then the optimised Volvo Ocean 70, and of course with this boat as well. One more victory will take us into Jack Rooklyn territory, and that will be special."

As for the rest of the calendar, well the boat will head back south in time for Sydney to Southport, then there's Brisbane to Hamilton Island, and then Hamilton Island Race Week itself. "It is sold out with loads of big boats", said Bradford, highlighting the level of excitement and expectation at yet another important one of those hit outs.

"We'll be there for the Maxi Nationals at the end of the year, and then it is all about Hobart once more. Glad to be back out at it again, and what a super year it will be. Any opportunity to sail a boat like that is amazing, and we get to do it again all year. No wonder so many others are also geed up for the whole spectrum of regattas."

Oh BTW, which one's Pink?

Up until Black Jack's arrival on the dance card, Stefan Racing, the Botin 80 that started life as Beau Geste, would have had the eyes lowered to the finish line. Skipper, Grant Wharington said, "Yes. There is definitely more competition now for Brisbane to Gladstone, but that is good news. Pray for plenty of breeze, hopefully at 80 TWA, and we'll drive the boat hard!"

"We are also looking good for Sydney to Southport, Brisbane to Hamilton Island, and then Race Week itself. After that lot we'll clean the boat up, check the rig, and get ready for Cabbage Tree Island race."

There are now just two partners in the syndicate, which will make it all a lot easier to run. "The boat took the Hobart really well. Cooksons (the builders) did a great job as usual. We got there in one piece, and it was a good result for the sponsor. A new mainsail is part of the plan, and we are looking at some optimisation in readiness for Hobart."

Now there are currently four of the 100-footers in Australia, which is a fair old proportion of them. Black Jack, her near and slightly younger sister ship Wild Oats XI, Scallywag, and then Law Connect. Now you never know, but by the time the big race comes around once more, we may five in the Land of Oz once more...

50, 40, and 30-Somethings

Leading this bracket are Botin 52 Ichi Ban from the hamlet immediately adjacent to the village of TeePees, and Line Honours winner from the 2021 B2G, Maritimo 11. The Schumacher 54 has been well and truly IRC optimised, and Michael Spies always has a talented crew on board, and they are always motivated. There is also the venerable Wellbourn 50 Yeah Baby in this grouping.

The R/P 42 Black Diamond is the former baby Black Jack. Not a Diamond is the Hudson Hakes 42 penned by the renowned Judel/Vrolijk house of brilliance. Mayfair is the Rogers 46 that can get a real wiggle on in a broad reach.

Ignition and Hip-Nautic are Jeanneau Sun Fast 3300s, and I bet they are going to be really well prepared, so that there can be no issues around gear failure. The last Hobart certainly highlighted just how well the new gen of short-handed boats can do with just 10m or thereabouts to play with. 308nm is like half a Hobart to go after, so if the breeze is kind, two days and one no sleep is all they'll need. Good luck. I'll be watching avidly.

Hot Seat, the Pogo 12.50, and Kerazy and Kerisma the Ker 11.3s will ensure there is plenty to look at on the tracker the deeper you go into the fleet.

At any rate, what it all says is that there is definitely a level of gusto for all the events on the calendar, no doubt propped up by latent demand after a couple of years on the sidelines. That's good for sailors, events, locales, and of course, anyone with a screen and a link to a tracker.

So let's go for a yacht. Indeed!!! Meanwhile, stay safe, and thanks for tuning into

John Curnow
Editor, Sail-World AUS

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