As entries poured into the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia's Sailing Office today, sailing manager Justine KIRKJIAN had to make a few quick phone calls to increase the order of skippers' bags due to the unexpected boost to the fleet size to 74,
"Entries have surpassed expectations, which is a positive sign for our flagship event, the upcoming 60th anniversary Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race,"
said Kirkjian late this afternoon when entries for the Ingles Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race officially closed.
Of the 74 entries, four are from Victoria, two are from the ACT, one is from New Zealand and the remaining are New South Wales based yachts.
The contest for line honours will be hard fought between Grant WHARINGTON'S 98-foot super maxi Skandia and the equally sized New Zealand super maxi Konica Minolta, formerly Zana (Stewart THWAITES), which finished just 14 minutes astern of Skandia in last year's 628 nautical mile Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, the one and only time these two giants have gone head to head.
But Victorian businessman Grant WHARINGTON doesn't just have line honours in this race in his sights; he has plans to achieve a unique sailing double. Wharington will skipper Skandia in the Ingles Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race, which starts on Saturday July 31 at 1.00pm from Sydney Harbour.
Once he crosses the finish line off Main Beach on the Gold Coast he will dash north to race his Etchells one-design class yacht, Sutu II, in the Etchells World Championship at Mooloolaba where the first race is scheduled for the afternoon of Monday August 2.
Wharington explained his plans after outsailing America's Cup skipper John BERTRAND to win the Etchells Australian Winter Championship off Mooloolaba last month.
"We will have to dial up a big southerly for the Gold Coast Race,"
he said. "But we should be there by Monday morning at the latest...if we are that late, it will be a helicopter flight from the Gold Coast to the Sunshine Coast".
With two 98-footers vying for a new race record and Wharington's deadline in mind, race organisers have for the first time decided to fly north to the finish at Southport just hours after the fleet leave Sydney Harbour rather than the following morning.
Other line honours contenders include George SNOW'S Jutson 79 Brindabella, the race record holder since 1999 with a time of 27 hours, 35 minutes and 03 seconds, Sean LANGMAN'S dark horse AAPT, a two-time line honours winner in this race, and the Volvo 60 Seriously TEN (Woodruff/James/Robinson).
The CYCA is particularly encouraged by the number of first time entrants in this race including two of the 14 Sydney 38s that have entered, Victorian entry Alex, sailed by Jock MACADIE and his 20 year-old son Hamish and Dumb and Dumber (Mick HINCHEY/Denis HUME) from Lake Macquarie.
The three-week-old Reichel Pugh 46 XLR8, a handicap favourite and another Victorian entry with a strong family focus with three generations of the Troon family sailing together, is also a first time entrant while at the other end of the technology scale is Bruce DOVER'S restored timber Warwick 44 EZ Street, which has spent the last couple of years cruising up and down the Australian east coast.
Strong winter south westerlies can make for a very cold but fast race as the fleet heads north for this 384 nautical mile season opener, many of them continuing on to warmer waters to compete in the series of Queensland regattas that follow this feeder race.
As well as signaling the start of the CYCA's eight-race Bluewater Pointscore Series, the Ingles Sydney Gold Coast Race also marks the first race of the Club's move to IRC as the handicap from which this year's Overall Winner of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race and 2004-2005 Bluewater Champion will be determined.