Champion husband and wife ocean racing sailors Matt and Lisa ALLEN have tactically strengthened their helming team for an all out assault to win the 56 Down Town Duty Free Brisbane to Gladstone yacht race with Ichi Ban over the Easter weekend.
The Sydney sloop with the Japanese name meaning Number One has been the star performer on the ocean racing circuit winning the Sailing South Race Week in Hobart, followed by the Skandia Race Week in Geelong and the Australian IRC class championship off Pittwater (NSW).
Their trophy cabinet also includes a prestigious Rolex trophy won with an outstanding class result in the 2003 Sydney to Hobart race.
However they will manage to find room to display the 56 year old Courier-Mail Cup which is presented to the crew who complete Queensland's premier Blue Water classic raced over a physically demanding 308 nautical miles with the fastest corrected handicap time.
Ichi Ban is certainly one of the favorites under normal circumstances however skipper Matt Allen and sailing master Roger HICKMAN have bolstered the helming team by including highly experienced sailors David KELLETT and Steve ELLIS of Sydney and Brisbane's World title winning dinghy sailor Adrian Finglas.
David KELLETT, a former Sydney-Hobart race winner and ISAF Vice-president would like to add a Brisbane to Gladstone race win to his impressive personal career.
He and master Farr 40 One Design helmsman Steve ELLIS will team up with Matt ALLEN to make sure Ichi Ban logs the necessary fast miles to out sail her handicap rating to finish ahead of an impressive group of smaller challengers including the Sydney sloop Game Set (Tony KIRBY), Brisbane's Corum (Bill WILD), the Lake Macquarie Mumm 30 Tow Truck (Anthony PATERSON) and four times race winner Wistari skippered by Ross and Scott PATRICK of Gladstone.
All of these crews represent a wealth of ocean racing experience and this will be tested to the upper limit in a weather system which promises to be spiced with squally winds placing a huge demand on the 'on watch' helm person to steer a broach free course in rougher than normal seas.