Four prominent Victorian yachtsmen are this morning making a late dash by chartered light aircraft to Mooloolaba to compete in the opening race of the ACE Etchells World Championship, due to start at 12 noon.
They came ashore at Ballina early today after skipper Grant WHARINGTON made the decision to pull out of the Sydney Gold Coast ocean race with his super maxi Skandia in order to compete in the World Championship.
With Wharington are his crew for his Etchells, Satu II, Graeme TAYLOR and Barney WALKER, and Ian JOHNSTON, the skipper of Bananas in Pyjamas, who were among the 10-man crew of Skandia.
Skandia, a 98-footer had been leading the ocean race but at 3am Wharington advised the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia that he was retiring and was heading to Ballina on the New South Wales North Coast. A powerboat picked up the four yachtsman and rushed to the local airport.
Wharington already has the fast tender for Skandia at Mooloolaba to tow the Etchells two nautical miles out to race course, but Johnston must also be here by 11am for a compulsory crew weigh-in before the start.
Only one race is scheduled today for the 85 boat fleet, with a freshening northerly wind blowing off Mooloolaba that is forecast to increase from 15-20 knots to 25-30 knots late this afternoon.
Yesterday, the America's Cup legend, Dennis CONNER, sailed his boat, Menace, to victory in the invitation race, while the John Bertrand, the Australian who beat him to win the Cup 21 years ago, placed 15.