Roger HICKMAN, a veteran of 28 Sydney to Hobarts and one-time Ocean Racing Sailor of the Year has sailed in the fledgling event since it was inaugurated by the Mackay Yacht Club in 2003. Both times he was sailing master on Matt ALLEN's Ichi Ban, a Farr 52 that was second over the line in both races.
This year, he has entered his own boat, a Farr 43 temporarily called Wild Rose for the race. The boat is actually the widely known Wild Oats, formerly owned by Bob OATLEY, founder of Rosemount Wines. As OATLEY is currently racing a Reichel Pugh 66 also called Wild Oats, HICKMAN has changed the name while the boats are competing in the same or adjacent races.
Shaun JAMES, who entered his Volvo 60 Seriously Ten last year, is also back for a second time. 'We had to do it,' he said. 'We loved it so much last year, although this year we are hoping for a little more pressure (wind). We saw it on the last day last year and the sailing was terrific.'
The Channel Ten executive was relatively new to the one-time Djuice, his 64 foot Volvo Around the World racer last year, but this year, with more experience on this boat, he is aiming for a line honours win. Up for grabs and a new record is the benchmark time of just over 42 hours set by inaugural line honours winner Nicorette in 2003.
One of the two newcomers is Greg NEWTON in the four-year-old Antipodes - City Pacific a Beneteau 47.7 sponsored by a Gold Coast company City Pacific Limited.
The boat is a unique design for a Beneteau 47.7 with a shoal draft winged keel, which is ideal for Queensland's shallow waters. Antipodes carries high performance Tasker sails, with Greg and his son Sam owning the East Coast franchisee for the sails made famous by the 1956 Silver medallist Rolly TASKER.
'I'd heard great things about the Southport to Mackay Blue Water Yacht Race,' said Greg NEWTON. 'It is a long down hill race with the breeze traditionally coming from the south. If the weather stays from the south we should have an exciting spinnaker run through the islands, and up the coast to Mackay,' he said.
'We are also very pleased to have a Gold Coast sponsor. This race will develop in time to be one of Australia's great races and in the long run, will benefit Gold Coast businesses overall, as more yachtsmen visit the area,' he said.
Also in the newcomer category is the first Victorian entry from Melbourne property developer Mark BURTON in a Jeanneau Sunfast 36 called Redline. Speaking from his boat in Bass Strait on his way to Sydney, BURTON said, 'I'm told there is plenty of whales throughout the race. We have already been entertained overnight by about 30 dolphins and their babies. This more than made up for the 30+ knot bullets we have been receiving from a strong west southwester. I am definitely looking forward to the warmer weather up north.'
The Southport to Mackay Blue Water Yacht Race is one leg in the first major campaign for BURTON who has owned his boat for just over a year.
The Mackay Yacht Club is giving a AUS$100.00 to the skipper who submits the first fully-completed entry. This includes crew qualifications, and up to date safety documentation.
The 530 nautical mile Southport to Mackay Blue Water Yacht Race began in 2003 with just four boats starting. Last year, the figure doubled with eight entries and seven starters. Numbers are expected to more than double this year for the fledgling event.
Entries close on July 22, 2005. All entries are to be submitted to the CYCA.