Tomorrow will see the start of the fifty-fifth holding of the Brisbane to Gladstone Yacht Race, with competitors covering a distance of approximately 308 nautical miles in this hotly contested classic race organized by the Queensland Cruising Yacht Club.
The Brisbane to Gladstone Yacht Race is an Australian sporting icon and one of Australia's major sporting events over the Easter weekend. As Queensland's premier blue water classic, its significance was recognised when this race was selected as the feature aquatic sport event for the 'Centenary of Federation' celebrations in 2001.
The race offers a great blend of old and new. The course and steady trade wind breezes provide great racing for the latest high-tech mono-hull sleds and the super fast offshore catamarans, yet there is a unique history associated with this internationally famed classic.
From the Start on Bramble Bay in Moreton Bay, boats will proceed via the North West Channel to Caloundra then to Gladstone Harbour leaving Fraser Island, Breaksea Spit mark, and Lady Elliott Island to port, a distance of approximately 308 nautical miles.
Racing Categories are:
PHRF (Performance Handicap Rating Factor)
Veteran (Design date prior to 1982)
Cruising (A cruising yacht for the purpose of this race is defined as one for which the cube root of the displacement in kilograms divided by its overall length in meters is 1.8 or greater.)
As to who may take wins in the multihulls, with heavy wind forecast, the catamaran "Spellbound" looks favoured. Experienced Gladstone race multihull sailors Geoff Toomey and David Arber have the proven heavy wind ocean racing skills to skipper and navigate the catamaran Spellbound to a corrected handicap victory in the Brisbane to Gladstone race.
The two popular sailors who have experienced the winning feeling before with the smaller cat Gold Rush are impressed with the Easter strong wind warning forecast. They are noted for sailing on the safer line between distinction and disaster to achieve the result and this challenge will suit their offshore sailing skills.
Gold Rush won in similar conditions and the new Spellbound is no slouch when it comes to logging fast speed over long distances.
Spellbound registered a top result last year and her sail wardrobe has been upgraded to make her more competitive on the down wind sailing angles which suits Toomey's race strategy of electing to sail a longer distance if it means sailing over the sea bed at a compensating faster pace.
Both Toomey and Arber will sacrifice the chance of sleep if it means that Spellbound can log the required handicap rating speed to answer the expected challenge from the smaller trimaran Kiska skippered by Jim Fern.
Kiska is also a noted fresh wind performer having won the race before and presently racing impressively as her crew become more familiar with sailing a small trimaran in strong winds and rough seas.
Skipper Fern and crew have mastered sailing Kiska to her handicap rating and her clash with Spellbound is expected to decide which crew will enjoy the experience of winning the overall race trophy.
Flat Chat the super fast Tony Grainger designed catamaran crewed by four talented sailors Jamie Morris, Roger Overell, Shane Dickson and Michael Kelly is the defending line and corrected time champion.
Skipper Morris winner of more Multihull Gladstone Race line honours titles than an other skipper will be focused on fending off a challenge from the larger Victorian catamaran Raw Nerve (Martin Riley) when the two equally impressive catamarans duel in a 'dog fight' to decide this years line honours champion.
Raw Nerve has edged ahead as the favourite with the strong wind and rough sea forecast but skipper Riley and the Raw Nerve crew will know they are in a yacht race against the Flat Chat team who have practiced their sail changing and reefing skills needed to keep the lighter catamaran safely powered up in the fast lane sailing mode.
Meanwhile the "Grundig" crew are all geared up to win three in a row. Sydney skipper Sean Langman and his all conquering Grundig crew face a busy workload over the next four days to ensure the Brisbane-Gladstone yacht race record holder is race prepared to defend her 2002 COURIER-CUP win.
Grundig recognized for her exceptional speed in strong winds suffered some damage to hull fittings and sails during gale force winds off the New South Wales last Wednesday night when she led the Sydney to Mooloolaba race fleet above record pace.
The power sailing pocket-rocket had hit mind bending speeds above 30 knots and was 10 hours ahead of Brindabella's 1994 race record of 44 hours 1 minute 43 seconds when she surfed past Coffs Harbour.
Unfortunately the record chase ended when the 'wounded' Grundig sailed into unfavorable light winds shortly after dawn.
Several of the experienced Grundig crew including skipper Langman, his wife Cathy and Brad Kellett described the thrill a minute ride as a career best but it came at a cost with the ocean racing 'skiff' suffering damage to her drive shaft shroud beside shredding what was considered as a 'bullet proof' spinnaker.
They also had to lick their wounds after recovering from a wild wipe out broach which would have been spectacular for all who were not part of the team who had to hang on while making a quick plea to the lord of the sea.
However in spite of a few heart racing moments the pace setting crew still managed to defend her Mooloolaba race and set up a place to become the first yacht in history to win the line honours titles in the Sydney to Mooloolaba and Brisbane to Gladstone races in consecutive years.
Grundig's Brisbane-Gladstone Race crew were busy with the pre race preparations at Dockside Marina in Brisbane this morning and there is plenty of work to do. However Langman is confident the sloop will be ship shape for the race start off Sandgate at 11 am on Good Friday morning.
All of her crew have good reason to be confident of taking the prestigious honour ahead off Magnavox-Skreenkraft, Brisbane-Noumea race winner Eureka, the exciting new Sydney sloop Ichi Ban and the former Gladstone Race record holder Bobsled.
This confidence is supported from her excellent form card in winning line honours in the 2002 Sydney-Southport, 2002 and 2003 Sydney-Mooloolaba and the 2001and 2002 Brisbane-Gladstone to go with their brilliant second to Alfa Romeo in the 2002 Sydney Hobart Race.