This Classic Australian race, which evolved throughout the 1970’s, starts on Saturday from North of Sydney to the World Heritage listed Lord Howe Island across the Tasman sea.
This 408 mile offshore race acts as a perfect training race for the forthcoming Rolex Sydney Hobart race which kicks off on Boxing Day.
The fastest time in the Gosford-Lord Howe Island yacht race was set back in 1988 by Helsal II skippered by Dr Tony Fisher. Back then the famous Adams 62 flyer covered the 408nm course in just 40 hrs 23 min 31 sec. That time has never been bettered.
Until now. Ian Treleaven's powerful Volvo 60 Merit (formerly Line 7) is poised to snatch the record given favourable weather conditions when the 29th running of the race begins off Lion Island on Saturday 26 October. "It's a very slippery boat, and well sailed,"
says Race Director Alan Fenwick. "They won line honours last year and if we get a stiff south-westerly breeze, which isn't that uncommon, then I'd expect Merit to average around 12 or 13 knots. They could smash Helsal's record by up to six hours."
Eureka, a Sydney 60 campaigned by Bob Robertson will be hoping to push Merit all the way and might also finish within the old record time.
On handicap the clear favourite is Sting, the Farr 49 raced by Terry Mullens that's been virtually unbeatable on IMS for the past year. Mullens will be hoping to add the Lord Howe trophy to his honours in the Sydney-Hobart and Sydney-Southport races.
At the other end of the fleet the smallest entry is Alex Whitworth's 34-foot sloop Berrimilla, racing under the Royal Australian Navy Sailing Association burgee. Whitworth won the PHS division in 1999.
Nostalgic interest will centre on the return to top-flight competition of the legendary IOR Admiral's Cup yacht Police Car. Owned and skippered by Sir James Hardy during its glory days 20 years ago, the aluminium Dubois 42 has recently been restored by a group of Central Coast sailing enthusiasts. The yacht's straight-line speed could surprise many.
There will be nostalgia of a different kind for John Quinn and his Polaris of Belmont crew. "Quinny" is well-known in the yachting community for having survived an incredible five hours in the water after being washed overboard during the 1993 Sydney-Hobart. He has now announced that this year's Gosford-Lord Howe will be the last time he skippers his Cole 43 in a Category One event.
But Race Director Alan Fenwick is confident he can twist John's arm. "Next year will be the 30th running of the race. I'm sure we can convince Quinny to go one last time."