Sixty five serious-thinking ocean racing skippers have entered the critical seven day count down to the start of the 60th Queensland Cruising Yacht Club Brisbane to Gladstone Blue water classic.
Their pre-race preparations are quite different to Good Friday morning 59 years ago when seven intrepid skippers and their equally enthusiastic crews set sail from Woody Point on a race of discovery in their comparatively heavy weight timber yachts.
Those trailblazing inaugural race crews protected from the weather with Sou-Wester type oil skins survived on boiled eggs and cooking apples as they plotted their course sharing below deck space with a crate of homing pigeons which were released to carry progressive position reports ashore.
That first race became a physically tough encounter before the George PICKER's Hoana set the line honours benchmark in place when the gaff rigged sloop completed the course in 47 hours, 8 minutes and 25 seconds while the John BOURNE skippered Sea Prince became the inaugural winner of The Courier-Mail Cup when she beat Doug DROUYN's Sea Tang by 7 minutes and 31 seconds on corrected handicap.
As expected the advent of modern technology with satellite Tracer Trac systems modern galleys LED lighting and electronic chart plotters have replaced Sextants, the reliable kerosene single burner stove, hurricane lamps, dividing rules and Admiralty charts.
The only thing that remains unchanged is the challenge on endurance, tactical strategy and combined crew skill to master the demanding 308 nautical mile coastal passage race course.
Naturally this year's fleet which includes the highly successful Golden Oldies the 1964 race winner Pagan and the 42 year old veterans Wistari and Saltash II has attracted Australia's ocean racing elite including the Nations fastest maxi-chasers Matt ALLEN's Ichi Ban and the Peter HARBURG owned and David BIGGAR skippered Spirit Of Queensland.
These two ocean racing sprint machines which are capable of targeting the 20 hour, 24 minute and 50 second race record will dominate the race for the Gladstone Pacific Nickel line honours trophy ahead of the Sydney sloops Quantum Racing (Ray ROBERTS) and Wot Yot (Graeme WOOD) while Saltash II, Wistari, Pagan, Corum, Oceanburo, Quantum Racing and Wedgetail share the honours as the top chances to become the 60th Anniversary winner of The Courier Mail Cup.
Brisbane to Gladstone Yacht Race - www.brisbanetogladstone.com.au