SPORT - 13-YEAR-OLD BIRD ISLAND RACE RECORD IN JEOPARDY
A 27-strong fleet will continue their preparations for this year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race in this weekend’s 85nm Bird Island Race, and with strong winds predicated over the weekend, the 13-year-old race record
The Bird Island Race is the second race in the Crusing Yacht Club of Australia’s (CYCA) prestigious seven-race Blue Water Pointscore series that commenced with the Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race in July and finishes with the Audi Sydney Offshore Newcastle Yacht Race in March next year. The race starts this evening at 7pm.
Three Blue Water Pointscore ocean races will be sailed between now and the start of the Rolex Sydney Hobart, with many owners using these races as an opportunity to test out their crew and to ensure the yachts are tuned to perfection for the demands of the bluewater classic.
Ed Psaltis and Bob Thomas’ modified Farr 40 AFR Midnight Rambler,the current leaders of the CYCA Blue Water Pointscore are ready to tackle the Bird Island Race. A complete overhaul of the boat in 2009 paid dividends with a long sought after victory in the Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race, the only East Coast ocean race title to have eluded the duo over their 19-year sailing career.
The friendly rivalry between the crews of AFR Midnight Rambler and Anthony Paterson’s Ker 11.3 Tow Truck will be played out on the racetrack with jugs of rum the prize for whoever finishes first.
Michael Hiatt’s Farr 55 Living Doll has made a huge commitment to offshore yacht racing by competing in the CYCA’s Blue Water Pointscore Series. Suffering mast damage in Port Phillip Bay on the delivery sail to Sydney prior to the start of Rolex Sydney Hobart 2008, Hiatt’s new boat was off to a shaky start. His luck changed in January when he won on IRC at Skandia Geelong Week, which was followed by Meridian Marinas Airlie Beach in August and finally the IRC Grand Prix Division One at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week.
“Ocean races are an area where we need to focus and the Blue Water Pointscore Series gives us an opportunity to focus on better handling ability offshore and to try to get more out of the boat,” said Hiatt.
“We are also using this as a chance to practice our sail selection and to get crew levels right before the Rolex Sydney Hobart. It’s also a great opportunity to have a little bit of fun and get to know the Sydney crowd a little better,” he said.
Stephen Ainsworth’s RP63 Loki is a yacht to watch after taking line honours and the overall win in the Audi Sydney Offshore Newcastle Race in March this year and was second across the line in the Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race in July. Ainsworth put his fellow competitors on notice when accepting the trophy for his Newcastle race win, noting his intentions to try to win every East Coast offshore race this year.
Based on the current weather forecast of 15 to 20-knot northnor’easters for the start this evening, Cameron Miles, Loki ’s sailing master, predicts that she will finish very early Saturday morning, and possibly claim a new race record. To do this, Loki will need to finish by 02:42:14.The current race record of 7 hours, 42 mins, 15 secs, was set in 1996 by George Snow’s Brindabella.
Among the fleet heading north to Bird Island, near Lake Macquarie on the NSW Central Coast, are other Rolex Sydney Hobart entrants including Syd Fischer’s TP52 Ragamuffin, Bob Steel’s TP52 Quest, Kym Butler’s Northshore 37 One for the Road and last year’s Tasman Pointscore series winner Greg Zyner’s Radford 12 Copernicus. Peter Millard and John Honan’s 98ft maxi Lahana has also entered the race to get vital offshore miles for the crew and boat in the lead-up to Rolex Sydney Hobart.
Entrants in the Bird Island Race compete for two of the CYCA’s most prestigious trophies, the 53rd Janzoon Trophy (IRC)
and the 34th George Barton Trophy (PHS). It starts from Point Piper at 7pm with a forecast of good sailing winds off the coast.
Photos: The RP63 Loki; AFR Midnight Rambler. (Photos by Andrea Francolini).