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Interest mounting in 2024 Pittwater to Coffs Harbour Yacht Race

by Di Pearson/RPAYC media 20 Feb 22:08 PST 22 March 2024
The fleet off the start line in a previous race © Andrea Francolini

The Pittwater to Coffs Harbour Yacht Race has always attracted an extensive array of seasoned offshore yachts and sailors from NSW and other ports, including this year, as owners sign on for the 38th running of the 226 nautical mile warm water race.

Starting at 1pm on Friday 22 March, Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club's (RPAYC) east coast classic is open to monohull, two-handed and multihulls. It has so far attracted yachts from Geoff Hill's 72 foot Antipodes down to Michael Blaxell's 30ft Highway Patrol.

Craig Douglas returns to the fold having taken third place overall last year with Popeye. His Beneteau First 47.7 holds the distinction of being the only fully crewed boat on the overall podium last year. Two-handed entries filled out first, second and fourth places.

"We've been working on the boat with Shane Guanaria from Doyles to optimise the sails. He's sailing with me again, so is navigator, Julie Hodder," Douglas says.

"We feel confident with the boat and the new sails. Keeping an old boat competitive (she's 24) is a lot of work. We're sailing to our rating and doing quite well," he says of his Pittwater to Coffs result and a subsequent second overall in the Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race, winning division in both races.

"It is a challenge though. I feel the pressure of those results."

On Popeye's preferred conditions, Douglas says laughing, "A hurricane on the nose! Seriously, uphill with a bit of strength suits us best."

Having sailed the recent Rolex Sydney Hobart two-handed with Showdown, Drew Carruthers has opted to sail this race fully crewed.

"This is my first major race since the Hobart (they were second two-handed entry to finish). I'm looking forward to getting on the water again and the Coffs is always a good race. The people are friendly and the Alfreds always look after us."

Carruthers who is predominantly a multihull sailor, bought a Ker 40 and renamed her Showdown: "It's a good monohull, but I'm a multihull man. It's a new challenge, and a challenge it's been sailing the last three races. Hopefully we'll get a bit of downwind this time.

"The boat is quite dynamic, it planes downwind. I do struggle a bit, as it's not as smooth as a multihull. We did the Brisbane to Hamilton Island race though and won the Two-Handed division in downwind weather."

Two Newcastle entries from the same club also did the 2023 Hobart and will be eying each other off throughout the race. The Sydney 40, Mako, owned by a syndicate and entered by Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club CEO, Paul O'Rourke, finished second overall in PHS for second in Division 1.

In the other corner, She's The Culprit, also owned by a syndicate, finished third overall in PHS to win Division 2. Let the games begin!

Geoff Hill and his Santa Cruz 72, Antipodes, took line honours in the RPAYC's inaugural Sydney to Auckland Ocean Race in October last year, ahead of crossing the line 13th in the 2023 Sydney Hobart, representing Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club in both.

"I did Pittwater Coffs races on my TP52 and Lyons 49 (both named Strewth) back in the day. I think I still have the record for the most tacks in the race. To this day I remember I did 46 of them," Hill recalled.

"Antipodes is a big heavy boat, so if we get a bit of breeze all will be good, but if it's light... I'll be looking at the weather, but I'll be working with what I get, I guess," he said, laughing.

"I'm looking forward to the race. I like it. It's not too long and it's challenging with the current and the weather. It's also nice to get to Coffs; the people are always welcoming and its warm," Hill concluded.

Coffs Harbour Yacht Club is gearing up for another great race and has volunteers ready to meet and greet teams on arrival and welcome them back to the Club.

Entries close on 8 March, so enter now at the official website: www.pittwatertocoffs.com.au

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