Photography by Andrea Francolini / David Brogan
Comanche, Jim Cooney & Samantha Grant’s 100-foot super-maxi, could smash the record in Race 2 of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s Audi Centre Sydney Blue Water Pointscore (ACSBWPS) series, which starts tomorrow at 10am. The state-of-the-art super-maxi is expected to sail well in forecast favourable conditions, setting the stage for what could be the fastest Flinders Islet Race in history.
The ACSBWPS is the most prestigious series in the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s (CYCA’s) sailing calendar. The series of six races, opened by the Noakes Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race in July, and climaxing with the ‘Everest’ of ocean racing, the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race in December, is the pinnacle of the sport in this country.
The Flinders Islet Race will see the strong 25-yacht fleet rearing to embark on the 92-nautical-mile maritime drag race. After the start off Point Piper, the fleet will race to Sydney Heads, before heading south to the barren, rocky outcrop of Flinders Islet, 1.4 nautical miles off Wollongong, before returning to the finish in Sydney Harbour.
Bolstered by their Line Honours victory in the 2017 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, Comanche’s world-renowned ocean-racing navigator Stan Honey hopes the crew will again prove the boat’s capability.
“We’d love to have a go at the record come Saturday. But we’d also love to have a race with no light air!” jokes Honey, referencing the now-famous tussle between them and Wild Oats XI at the becalmed finish line of the 2017 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.
For multiple ACSBWPS race record holder, Matt Allen and his TP52 Ichi Ban crew, the Flinders Islet Race is another opportunity to test themselves against ocean racing’s finest.
“We’re hoping to claim the conventionally-ballasted race record, but we’ve got an amazingly competitive fleet of TP52s this year,” says Allen.
“It’s our first ocean racing hit-out since the Airlie Beach and Hamilton Island race weeks and we can’t wait to get out there. It looks like it will be a great race.”
Taking to the line with a point to prove this year is one of the ultra-competitive TP52s mentioned by Allen, current race record holder, Andy Kearnan & Peter Wrigley’s TP52 Koa. After smashing the race record last year, posting a mere 7 hours, 30 minutes and 19 seconds, co-owner and skipper Peter Wrigley is confident that, given the right conditions, they will repeat their stellar performance.
“We’d love to replicate last year’s result again, if it’s lighter conditions we’ve definitely got a chance against the big guys,” says a quietly confident Wrigley.
Fresh from winning the recently-revived PONANT Sydney Noumea, Seb Bohm, and his Rogers 46 Smuggler, has now refocussed on extending this success to the ACSBWPS. In his mid-30s, Bohm represents a new generation of ocean racing elite, and has harboured aspirations of winning the Audi Centre Sydney Blue Water Pointscore series since he first took to the water.
“We’re coming from a great place having won the PONANT Sydney Noumea earlier in the year. We learnt a lot about how to manage the crew, how to manage the boat, and she (Smuggler) is in excellent condition,” says Bohm.
“The Blue Water Pointscore is something I’ve wanted to win since I first learnt how to sail, and we’re throwing everything at it.”