Mackay navigator Bob THOMAS, who safely plotted the course for AFR Midnight Rambler to sail through the violent Bass Strait storm to win in 1998, will test his proven tactical talent against 2003 Hobart Race champion First National Real Estate skippered by Michael SPIES. Both crews have previously raced over the tricky 308 n/ml course without success.
However AFR Midnight Rambler and First National Real Estate are among the early favourites in a fleet which has attracted a very competitive standard representing clubs from Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.
Gladstone sloop Wistari, winner of four races in 1971, 1976, 1977 and 1982, will be the oldest yacht in the fleet. She will be hoping to celebrate her 40th year of ocean racing by recording another strong performance with Scott PATRICK at the helm.
Wistari with her owner-builder the late Noel PATRICK as skipper, won all her races in moderate to fresh south east spinnaker sailing winds and her new young crew is hoping for these conditions to prevail over the Easter weekend.
A strong wind forecast will also suit the small Lake Macquarie sloop Tow Truck skippered by Anthony PATERSON. PATERSON is aiming for victory in the Mumm 30 class match race against the Gladstone husband and wife sailing team of Jeff and Janet PAUL in Immigrant.
Both crews have entered the 469n/ml Sydney-Mooloolaba Race starting 16 March and will be race tuned for the clash which will decide Australia's fastest 30 ft (9.43m) ocean racing sloop after 777 nm of physically tough offshore sailing.