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4 April 2007, 11:21 am
Strong Wind Forecast For Gladstone Classic
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Brisbane To Gladstone Race 2007
Gladstone, Australia

Matt ALLEN's (AUS) modified VO 70, the 21.6 m Ichi Ban is a strong favourite to win the 59th Brisbane to Gladstone Race line honours trophy. Her price noticeably shortened when the official race forecast was announced with southeast spinnaker sailing winds expected to gust above 20 knots on Moreton Bay and freshen to 30 knots on open coastal waters during Good Friday and Easter Saturday.
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This forecast will suit the speed sailing performance of Ichi Ban which is known as 'The Pocket Rocket' following her peak burst of 33 knots recorded during her line honours win in the Audi Sydney to Gold Coast race in late March.

However, while Ichi Ban has the proven speed potential, the present 20 hour, 26 minute and 50 second record set by Grant WHARINGTON's (AUS) Skandia when she completed the 2004 race with the remarkable 15.09 knot average, will be tough to roll.

Ichi Ban will need to weather the Caloundra Fairway Bouy before 14:30 and surf past Noosa Heads approximately 68 miles from the start by 15:30 to be on record challenging pace.

Star Crew

The power sailing sloop has a very experienced crew onboard with Townsville's Volvo Globe race navigator Will OXLEY (AUS) and former Rolex Sydney Hobart race record holder Michael SPIES (AUS), but she still faces the task of racing hard in building seas and freshening winds.

Generally these strong winds present some hidden dangers and are known to test the fabric strength of the spinnakers and the skills of the on watch helmsmen with the constant threat of facing a wild wipe out particularly on the notoriously rugged stretch of water between Fraser Island's Indian Head and the tip of Breaksea Spit.

Surviving this 40 nautical mile 'torture track' without and time consuming incidents will be priority for the Ichi Ban crew as they chase down the race clock.

The strong winds will also sort the players from the stayers in what is promising to be an exciting tactical battle for the minor line honours trophies and the more prestigious 59 year old COURIER-MAIL CUP.

ROBERTS Taking No Chances

Sydney skipper Ray ROBERTS (AUS), the overall winner from the Audi Sydney to Gold Coast race, has accepted to take a minor time factor penalty by making sure he has enough spinnakers in the sail locker on his champion sloop Quantum Racing. ROBERTS, who has won the race before on Millennium, has covered all bases by including an additional fresh wind spinnaker.

Sail 'blowouts' are fairly common and Quantum Racing will have to sail on the edge and risk terminating spinnakers by logging speeds above her handicap rating to ward off the challenges from the impressively fast Heaven Can Wait (Peter HOLLIS), Limit (Alan BRIERTY) and the smaller Brisbane sloop Wedgetail (Bill WILD).

All of these crews will become involved in a 'drag race' and their course times will need to be fast to stall the challenge from the lower handicapped Mooloolaba sloop Aligria (Rod JONES) and the proven race champions Saltash II (Ian WRIGHT) and Wistari (Ross PATRICK).

Saltash II and Wistari have won 11 races between them and the fresh spinnaker sailing forecast presents them with the ideal conditions to again upstage the more modern yachts.

Ian Grant (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Ichi Ban is pre-race favourite:© Daniel Forster/Rolex
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