SPORT – 2011 Around Australia Ocean Race

SPORT - 2011 Around Australia Ocean Race

Invitations for yachts to make a slot reservation for the 7500nm 2011 Around Australia Ocean Race were opened in late June 2009 and the interest from racing fleets has proven very strong, organisers said. 

The Around Australia Ocean Race incorporates nine principal start/finish ports around Australian coastline from which local and overseas yacht owners may elect as their start/finish port.

These are: WA - Fremantle, Albany; SA - Adelaide; Vic - Melbourne; NSW - Sydney; Qld - Brisbane, Airlie Beach, Townsville; and, NT - Darwin.

Stopover ports incorporated into the event include Broome (with Geraldton and Esperance as emergency pit-stop ports) Southport, and Keppel Bay. Hobart is also a pit-stop port for the Division 0 leg around Tasmania.

Yachts from Fremantle start first in late June 2011 and race to Albany. From Albany the race continues to Adelaide. As participants in the Race reach each principal start/finish port they are joined by participants starting from that port.
The fleet gathers as it rounds Australia and is complete when the Race event fleet leaves Darwin in early September 2011 for the run along the northwest coast of Australia to Broome and onto Fremantle and the Fremantle Race Week regatta.

Once the fleet arrives in Fremantle in late September, the Fremantle boats will have completed their circumnavigation and will have established the benchmark for overall divisions' handicap times and line honours times for the race around Australia.

As the remainder of the fleet leave Fremantle and race port-to-port, yachts reaching their home port will complete their circumnavigation and record their times. The overall winner may not be known until the last boats to join the race fleet – which may be Townsville or Darwin – have arrived at their home port in November 2011.

The driving force behind the 2011 Around Australia Ocean Race and Rally is Bob “Freight Train” Williams, whose ocean-racing experience includes skippering his yacht and completing the ill-fated 1979 Fastnet Race (which resulted in 15 fatalities due to storms), and the Parmelia Race from Plymouth, UK, to Fremantle.

Williams, the owner/operator of the Perth Wildcats basketball team, has contested every major racecourse on the WA racing calendar including Esperance to Fremantle and Fremantle to Cocos Island races for which his yacht Freight Train holds the elapsed time record. Freight Train was a regular competitor on the east coast in the 1980s taking out the 1985 Burns Philip South Pacific Maxi Championship and going on take Division A honours in the 1985 Sydney Hobart.

Matt Allen, commodore of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, the organising Club for the Rolex Sydney Hobart race and owner of Ichi Ban, the modified Volvo 70 which raced in the last Volvo Round the World Race, said: “This event ticks all the boxes. Sure yachts will have different weather systems, the early starters from Western Australia versus the Sydney starters, but you know in the Sydney to Hobart race, people are sailing in different weather systems depending if they are in the front of the fleet or the back and the time they arrive in the Derwent, it just makes it all the more challenging. I want to be in the 2011 fleet.”

Ray Roberts, Evolution Racing, one of the leading yacht campaigners in the Asia Pacific, said: “A superb concept. I've sailed all around Asia and the Australian East Coast, but to sail around all of Australia has always been a dream. One of the things I've always wanted to do in my life.

“We will have lots of sailors wanting to put their hand up to do legs of this race. I will be on the 2011 start-line in Sydney and I believe sailors from around the world will be joining us,” he said.

Williams said: “We are now taking slot reservations for the 2011 Around Australia Ocean Race and Rally with 44 registrations for the Race and 44 reservations for the Rally received in the first 40 days of the life of the events and more flowing in around the clock now.

'It's very gratifying to see such interest in the event. It's plain that the event has such national and international appeal with event slot reservations coming in from England, the USA, and New Zealand already.

“There are not many race or rally venues as attractive… For many, sailing around Australia is up there with sailing around Cape Horn, only a bit easier and warmer.

“Having a plaque saying that you participated in 2011 Around Australia Race and Rally mounted in your boat or elsewhere will be a nice thing to have,” said Williams.

Ocean Events have posted a provisional Notice of Race on the event website with an Event Slot Reservation Form ready to be completed.

Further, the 2011 Race event is for monohull and multihull yachts (Category 1). The event format is designed to allow yachts from all around Australia, and overseas, to compete.

The IRC handicap winner will not be known until the shortest elapsed circumnavigation times are decided and there will be a similar multihull handicap awarded.

Williams added: “We are working in collaboration with yacht clubs around Australia including the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, Royal Yacht Club of Victoria, Cruising Yacht Club of South Australia, Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron, Southport Yacht Club, Fremantle Sailing Club, Darwin Sailing Club, Broome Sailing Club, Ocean Racing Club of Victoria, and are in discussion with other strategic clubs around the Australian coastline.”

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Photos: Matt Allen's Ichi Ban is set for the 2011 Around Australia Ocean Race
(photo: courtesy of Rolex/Daniel Forster); Bob “Freight Train” Williams.