The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia have heeded the severe weather warning in postponing the start of the Gold Coast Race from Sydney, New South Wales to Southport, Queensland for the third time
As huge seas and gale to stormforce winds continued to batter the coast of New South Wales over the weekend, the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia late this morning postponed for third time the start of its 369 nautical mile coastal passage race from Sydney to Southport on the Queensland Gold Coast.
Seas rising to 10 metres and more and south-westerly winds consistently at 50 to 60 knots have already sunk a motor cruiser and have dismasted and overturned a 14 metre cruising yacht off the coast between Sydney and Newcastle, 80 miles to the north.
The major sea ports of Sydney, Botany Bay and Newcastle have been closed to shipping entering or leaving, leaving several ships including a cruiser liner hove to 25 miles offshore.
A 70 boat fleet had been scheduled to start in the 16th annual Sydney-Gold Coast Race at 1300 hours Saturday, but the CYCA Race Committee decided conditions offshore were too dangerous offshore.
They originally postponed the start until 1000 hours today (Sunday), but announced early today that they would postpone to 1300 hours.
At 12 noon, the Race Committee advised that a further postponement had been made, with the race starting at 1000 hours tomorrow (Monday) if sea conditions ease sufficiently overnight, as forecast.
"We were recently advised by the Sydney Water Police vessel Nemesis, responsible for executing this morning's rescue of three crewmen from a stricken vessel in the Port Stephens area (north of Newcastle) that conditions were still of concern to authorities," Race Committee chairman Bob Brenac said.
"They reported wave heights of 10 metres and 50/60 knot winds from the south-west; they also advised that the overturned hull could be somewhere on the racetrack," Brenac added.
This information, coupled with the Bureau of Meteorology's 10.30am update of a continued storm warning for waters north of Broken Bay (just north of Sydney) and the slower than expected movement of the low pressure system offshore, has meant the start has been postponed for a third time.
Also of concern to race organisers is the state and likely start of the entrances to coastal ports on the NSW North Coast if yachts needed to seek shelter.
Seven yachts have now officially retired from the 70 boat fleet because of time constraints on the crew, including the Farr 40 Corinthian Doors (Richard Perini) and the Sydney 38 Another Challenge (Lou Abrahams).
A further compulsory weather briefing will be held at the CYCA at 0700 hours, Monday.
Many of the fleet are using the Sydney-Gold Coast Race as a passage race north to various regattas in Queensland, at Southport, Airlie Beach and finally Hamilton Island Race Week which has attracted a record entry of more than 170 yachts, many from the southern States of Australia.
Courageous efforts by the Water Police, aided by helicopters, save four people from the motor launch which foundered off Botany Bay on Friday night while the Nemesis saved two of the crew of the overturned yacht after they had taken to their liferaft, the CareFlight helicopter plucking a third crew member from the huge seas.
The yacht, cruising from New Zealand, apparently was rolled by the huge seas, breaking her mast and at last report was drifting upside down.
Rescue helicopters also pulled several surfers from the sea off Sydney beaches yesterday.