Photography by Andrea Francolini
31 July 2022
The 61 yachts in the Noakes Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race fleet may have endured a slow start on Sydney Harbour, but it was certainly a picturesque one.
The winter sun shone brightly over the Harbour as competitors tussled with the light breeze.
The Noakes Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race is the opening race of the 2022/23 Audi Centre Sydney Blue Water Pointscore, which features six races, culminating in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.
The race returns on Saturday 30 July 2022 for the first time in three years, following consecutive cancellations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 384 nautical mile course takes the fleet from the start line in Sydney Harbour to the finish off Main Beach in Queensland.
The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia is the Race Organiser and Southport Yacht Club is the Race Finishing Partner, while Noakes Group is the Race Sponsor.
In the 2019 race, Barry Cuneo’s TP52 Envy Scooters won the Peter Rysdyk Memorial Trophy, awarded to the overall winner on IRC handicap.
The Oatley Family’s Reichel/Pugh 66, Wild Oats X (skippered by Mark Richards) won Line Honours.
The 2022 fleet includes 61 yachts, notably featuring three 100-foot maxis and 11 two-handed crews.
This will be the first of the CYCA’s major races in which two-handed crews can challenge for Overall and Line Honours. NB: Avalanche and Shearwater are entered in PHS only.
According to weather forecasts, the bigger boats will contend with wind from the east-south-east up to 15 knots, while upwind sailing will add a new challenge on Sunday.
Monday should see up to 15 knots from the north along the Coffs coast, with lighter winds again approaching the finish off Main Beach.
Much lighter and variable winds on Tuesday, possibly from the south, will make it a tricky finish for the bulk of the fleet, with the smaller boats preparing for up to five days at sea.
Tom Barker, navigator on Gordon Ketelbey’s TP52 Zen, expects a close tussle between the 11 52-footers in the fleet.
“We actually perform really well upwind,” Barker said. “It’s an interesting forecast, it’s going to be challenging.
“Probably a bit lighter than we all expected based on some of the earlier forecasts, but it’s somewhat typical of this race – a little bit of upwind, a bit of westerly off the shore, choosing when to go in or go out.
“With a bit of reaching, upwind and some light downwind on Saturday afternoon, it’s going to be really tight on the water.
“We need to focus on the TP52 group, but we can’t lose sight of the bigger boats ahead of us. They could easily get a jump if the breeze shuts down and similarly with the smaller boats behind us, there are some really well sailed boats behind us that I think this forecast could suit.”
Seasoned ocean racer Wendy Tuck, who raced two-handed alongside Campbell Geeves on Speedwell in the 2021 Rolex Sydney Hobart, is the navigator on UBS Wild Thing.
She admits it’s “not a good forecast” for Adam Lavis’ Inglis/Dovell 50.
“The really light breeze at the start will hurt us,” Tuck said. “An upwind race is not the best point of sail for us, so it’s a shame the race didn’t start today (Friday).
“However, all the crew are just looking forward to the race and getting to Southport after a few years’ absence.”
Carlos Aydos will race two-handed on his S&S 34, Crux, with co-skipper Tomas Kliman.
Crux was one of the standouts in the 2021 Rolex Sydney Hobart, finishing second across all handicaps in the Two-Handed Division.
But Aydos expects a tricky trip north: “Crux proved to be very competitive upwind, but the light breeze forecasted is definitely not good news for her!”