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Stunning sunset start for the 2023 Tollgate Islands Race

by CYCA 13 Oct 2023 03:39 PDT 13 October 2023
2023 Tollgate Islands Race © CYCA Media

A fleet of 22 boats were gathered near Point Piper for the 1900hrs start of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia's 260 nautical mile Tollgate Islands Race - the third of six races in the prestigious 2023/2024 Audi Centre Sydney Blue Water Pointscore.

It was a beautiful and sunny Spring evening with a light but constant 6-8kt NE/NNE breeze - enough to guarantee a good and even start ahead of the lengthy trip south to round the Tollgate Islands off Batemans Bay before returning to Sydney.

Anthony Johnston's Reichel Pugh Maxi 72 URM Group continued its recent good form, having won the 2023 Noakes Sydney Gold Coast Race back in July, to be first out the Heads. She had closely crossed last year's winner and race record holder John Winning Jr's VPLP/Verdier 100 Andoo Comanche four times up the Harbour before finally gaining their advantage when the larger boat lost some ground after heading deeper into Watsons Bay.

The pair were closely followed by the two TP52s, Seb Bohm's Smuggler and Mark Spring's Highly Sprung, ahead of Richard Harris' Cookson 50 Sticky, Alexander Flecknoe-Brown's Bakewell-White 40 Lightning and Daniel Edward's Matt1245 White Noise.

The J/99s led the two-handed fleet out to open water with Shane Connelly and Tony Sutton aboard Rum Rebellion and Paul Beath and Joe de Kock on Verite pushing out mid-channel, whilst the two Jeanneau Sunfast 3300s, Nigel Nattrass and Graham Biehl's Tumbleweed and the only interstate entry, Tasmanians Rob Gough and John Saul's Kracken III, made good ground up the eastern shore.

It could be a relatively slow night ahead if the forecast 8-15kt breeze - expected to swing into the west before midnight - fails to freshen early but should offer better conditions for competitors tomorrow morning than had been previously suggested.

It is possible that the crew of Andoo Comanche may better their race record time of 20 hours,16 minutes 49 seconds, set last year in the inaugural 2022 Tollgate Islands Race. Most of the fleet is expected to arrive back at the finish line near Watsons Bay on Sunday

The Club will be open for returning competitors throughout the night on Saturday and Sunday if needed to welcome and feed all competitors.

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