Pick a lane

Tactics and local knowledge will be paramount in this weekend’s Noakes Sydney to Gold Coast race.

Photography by CYCA / Andrea Francolini

26 July 2019


A forecast of predominantly light winds for Australian yachting’s winter bluewater hit-out from New South Wales to Queensland will mean precious little sleep for navigators in the 76 strong fleet.

At last night’s official race briefing Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Gabrielle Woodhouse told crews they can expect WSW winds around 10 knots for the start, then mostly south to south-west 10 to 15 knots gradually turning east to south-east around 10 knots later on Sunday and during Monday. The models aren’t yet lining up for Tuesday and Wednesday.

For navigators that means finding as much wind as possible while staying out of the current on the 384 nautical mile journey north.

The first section of the race from Sydney to Seal Rocks will be crucial, with any advantage gained before the ‘weather gate’ of Point Stephens potentially compounded around the corner and further along the mid-north Coast.



The Mako syndicate from the Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club reckon they can rattle the cages of a few more fancied rivals on the run up the coast in waters they know well.

“All of our guys have sailed a lot between Newcastle and Pittwater and north to Port Stephens,” says syndicate spokesman Paul O’Rourke.

“We hope to make good gains between Newcastle and Seal Rocks,” he reveals.

Mako, formally Questionable Logic, is a Sydney 40 built for the 1999 Admirals cup and was part of the winning Dutch Team. After various lives, the boat ended-up on a mooring on Lake Macquarie, north of Sydney; definitely not in what might be described as ‘peak racing condition’.

Paul and his nine co-owners, “a democratic rabble”, bought the proven offshore competitor last year and invested in sails, new instruments and safety gear.

They will be employing insider Novocastrian knowledge garned around their home port, especially across the often unpredictable Stockton Bight, some of which Paul divulged to Sails.

“There are two big factors,” he explains. “One is how the wind funnels down the Hunter Valley, if it funnels. Two, it’s probably where you get the biggest variation in the current, it can move in and out a lot.  Once you get further north the current is pretty stable.”

Nominally in charge of the six members of the democratic rabble aboard Mako for the trip, Adrian Kiely is filling the dual roles of skipper and navigator. The only non-owner onboard is the bowman; “he’ll be doing everything,” Paul advises.

Unfortunately, the forecast isn’t in the Newcastle connection’s favour. Mako does its best work “upwind 12 to 18 knots,” he confesses.

“We can go past a lot of bigger boats. We have the old runners onboard and we crank the living daylights out of them.”

No doubt keeping a close eye on Mako on the yacht tracker will be Wild Oats X navigator Adrienne Cahalan.

The first lady of the plotter (she will appreciate that), predicts an ETA of 1 day 19hrs for the Oatley family’s RP66, one of the line-honours favourites that will be crewed by the core of Wild Oats XI’s crew including skipper Mark “Ricko” Richards.

“It’s a really tricky forecast with the wind looking so light and a lot of current out there,” Cahalan said, adding “it will be nice to have a race that uses lots of different skills”.

The crew on Chinese Whisper will be hopeful of a good showing, and may contend for line honours, despite the team having limited time to prepare. Lake Macquarie sailor Tom Braidwood will serve as crew boss and watch captain for the race, after time away from offshore racing.

“It’s my first race on back on Chinese Whisper. I have done a few Hobarts and Gold Coast races on it under the previous owner. Since then I have been looking to do more ocean races. Michael Coxon is the sailing master on board, and we have done mountains of sailing together, so I decide to jump back on board.

It’s a competitive boat, and the weather conditions are looking good for us. It will be a big boat race, because the breeze looks like it is fading out behind. If you can stay on the weather system going north, the rich get richer in this race.”

Two of the race’s original 78 entrants – Ariel and Local Hero – have withdrawn leaving 76 boats to contest the opening race of the CYCA’s Audi Centre Sydney Blue Water Pointscore Series which also features the 75th anniversary Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.

The race start will be live streamed from 1230hrs AEST on the Noakes Sydney Gold Coast Facebook page and the official race website.


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