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Alive and Kicking - B2G

by John Curnow, Sail-World.com AUS Editor 7 Apr 15:00 PDT
Black Diamond - 14th Bartercard Sail Paradise 2023 © Southport Yacht Club

Kind of weird. They just ran the 76th edition of the 308nm Brisbane to Gladstone race. It's been annual, except for a wee hiccup in the COVID period. This year, unless you knew it was on, or had friends racing in it, it sort of flew under the radar, as it were. Alas one thing that was ALL OVER the radar at that stage were the Easter rains. Yes, it is pretty common to have it bucketing down in these parts at that particular time of year, possibly even a late cyclone.

It is also a race that is filled with names from both Line Honours and Overall wins, let alone some of the characters that have made it as famous as the rocks around Auckland Hill.

Commodore David Hamilton from the race organisers (the Queensland Cruising Yacht Club) added, "Well the rain looked like it was going to hold in for the start, but it didn't. We had fine sunny skies, but the downside to that is that the wind dropped out a right at the beginning, so it was a bit of a slow start for the racers. However it was clean, and the wind picked up throughout the racecourse, so it ended up being a really good event. We had 38 boats entered, with about 300 crew heading to Gladstone. Line Honours went to Wild Thing 100 in about 20 hours and 55 minutes."

Basically, it is an average of 14.6 knots, and they were about four and half hours behind Black Jack 100's record from 2022.

"Celestial took out the overall win (under IRC), with Alive and Tempo filling out the podium," added Hamilton.

Sam Haynes' Celestial, and the Duncan Hine Skippered, Alive, owned by Phil Turner, are no strangers to the silverware. As a mic-drop moment, three Hobarts between them in the last six years sort of underscores that point emphatically, as well as their state of preparation at any event. It was good to see Michael Smith's Kernan 44, Tempo, hold exactly as their name says for the drag up the Port of Gladstone to claim third place.

"There were rain squalls throughout the race, which all in all made it challenging, for sometimes it was wet, other times dry, and the wind just kept going up and down range the whole way. Many also commented on vigorous swells in the area atop Fraser Island, too."

"Change is one of the attractions of this race. They get such a wide variety of conditions, and many have commented on this, including the eventual winner, Celestial. They also won the Courier Mail Cup and the Adina watches for the crew. They have been up three times now from Sydney to compete in the race and they like the variety that they experience.

"Alive came in ahead of Celestial in terms of Line Honours for this year's Brisbane to Galdstone, so they collected the Four Cities Cup, which is the best performer combined out of results in Sydney to Hobart, and then Brisbane to Gladstone. This was also well received, and we hope to see more boats out Sydney join us in the future."

2024 also marked the first time in 59 years that the multihulls started as part of the same event.

Run as a co-operation, Hamilton said, "It seemed a little bit unproductive for us to be all expending the same number of resources to organise a race that goes in the same direction. It was a success, and of the four entrants, two finished. We do expect to get more and more multihulls moving forward, given the positive feedback received and how much the skippers and crews enjoyed direct interaction with the TP52s and other fast monohulls."

The majority of the crews stayed in Gladstone for Easter. Wild Thing 100 was there right up to Tuesday. All of this is great for the businesses in town, as well as keeping Gladstone Ports Corporation, the headline sponsor, happy as well. The latter is celebrating its 110th birthday currently, so it was all very much in keeping with the joyous theme.

Southport Yacht Club's Vice Commodore (Sail), Glenn Burrell, drove Black Diamond, his R/P42 from 2009 home in fourth place overall, after running in third for most of the journey. They were the highest placed Corinthian team in the race. Yes, they sailed in different everything to the flyers like Celestial and Alive, but like those two, the boat is very well turned out.

Apart from being the Business Development Manager at Cure Marine, Lee Randall is the Navigator on board Black Diamond, and spoke of their race, "You're always looking at the back of boats like those two. Black Diamond's obviously got a fair bit of pedigree about it, being an ex-Black Jack, and it has only ever been owned by Peter Harburg, and now Glenn."

"We went into the race with a fairly high expectation. We felt the boat was probably in the best space it's been in for a while, and we know we're very, very strong in those reaching and running conditions. We had spent a fair bit of time in the last three weeks preparing the boat and repositioning crew weight, which was our big thing for this race. We put in a lot of new bunks, and retrimmed the boat aft in anticipation of a fairly quick downwind run. I think it all paid off.

"As for the race, well, we had a reasonable start, although following a supermaxi into the start line is never optimal. It took us a good three quarters of an hour to get moving, but we were still in touch at the clearance mark. And for us, over the years, we've had this repetitive thing where we go really well out of the bay, and then fade through the middle section of the race. However, this time we didn't start as well as what we normally would have had to work our way back into it."

Last time I checked that's in the dictionary under the word: motivation. From there Black Diamond had a bit of horsepower gallop to Caloundra, with the big sails up and were right where they needed to be, with 50 and above in front of them.

"From there, it sort of all just worked its way out. We had a couple of faster boats come from behind us, which is always great. Then we had a real cracker across the paddock (up Fraser), although, to my mind, we were probably living on the rev limiter a few times. Every now and then you did think to yourself, I wish we had taken some of the grunt out of it."

The squally nature of the conditions are always going to push GP style boats and crew. "I often remind people that Black Diamond does not really like humans that much and would prefer if they were not involved. So every now and then it reminds us of such, and assert just exactly who is in control!

"We were in really, really good shape at the top of Break Sea Spit (atop Fraser Island), as we only had a couple of 50-footers in front (and the supermaxi) We may have pulled the trigger a little late in getting the kite up, and the 50s snuck away a little. Break Sea has a bit of a reputation for being a bit fearsome at times (as does the Wide Bay Bar at the bottom of Fraser BTW) for its sea state, as it is quite shallow, and the tidal influence is noticeable."

"Coming across the harbour we actually lost all power in the boat. As you know, all these modern boats are quite dependent on electrics and hydraulics and all the toys, so this made it a bit tricky. Plenty of plenty of fun times trying to sail the boat without its electric winches on. Additionally, the electro-hydraulics for things like travellers, vang, cunningham, outhaul etc just adds to the woes.

"Undercooked might be the word, and so we got to S2 heading to the harbour, probably about an hour later than what we originally wanted to, and that put us off the backside of a tide gate. This did allow Tempo to extend on us slightly going up the harbour, and ultimately beat us for third under IRC. We were second to Alive under ORC, as it turns out."

"So yes, all in all, we're very happy. The boss is very happy."

Black Diamond was built by Stallion Marine, which was a forerunner to what we now know today as Cure Marine in Coolum Beach.

OK. There it is. There is so much more on the group's websites for you. Simply use the search field, or 'edition' pull-down menu up the top on the right of the masthead to find it all. Please enjoy your yachting, stay safe, and thanks for tuning into Sail-World.

John Curnow
Sail-World.com AUS Editor

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