Audi Sydney Gold Coast Race - a giant parking lot

Living Doll - Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race 2011
Audi Sydney Gold Coast 2011 - with very little breeze to propel them towards the finish line, the bulk of the fleet racing in the annual Southport race have had their worst nightmares realised, as they ‘sit’ dead in the water at South Solitary Island, nine nautical miles north of Coffs Harbour, in a ‘parking lot’, waiting for a decent breeze to fill sails again and allow the crews to head for Southport finish line.

The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s (CYCA) 384 nautical mile race is testing the patience of most, and as predicted yesterday, slow and steady will win the race overall. Stephen Ainsworth’s CYCA entry Loki, the defending IRC winner, has escaped the worst of it, and is likely to be the third boat over the line at around 2.00pm.

Ainsworth’s Reichel Pugh 63 is leading Michael Hiatt's Farr 55 Living Doll and the 98ft supermaxi Lahana (Peter Millard/John Honan) on line honours by around 17 and 19 nautical miles respectively and is currently fighting it out with Living Doll for the overall handicap win at this stage of the race. Behind them is Brindabella, still the record holder, with a race record set in 1999.

Will Oxley, the navigator on Living Doll is hoping they can finish in time to claim the overall trophy. Shortly after 8.30am this morning, Oxley said: 'Crew doing a great job of keeping the boat moving in the changing conditions. The next six hours look to be key in the final result.

'We are in the end of the dying land breeze out of the west-sou-west and expect to finish in an east-nor-east, so there is plenty of wind rotation to happen and some very light air.

'At this stage, it looks like a close battle with Loki for us. Bob Oatley's Wild Oats XI has finished, so we know we need to finish by just after 11pm to beat her. Hopefully we can be in by 1800 hours, but it looks like a long day ahead.'

Aboard Rob Reynolds’ Exile, Julie Hodder and crew are holding onto their humour as they try to keep the DK46 moving. Shortly after 9.00am, Hodder said: 'A bit of a mixed bag last night. The wind came around and we were able to use our new secret weapon - the Code 0 and that made us very fast - faster than most boats.

'Our tactic was to stay wide at Smoky Cape, which was a good move, as when we got closer, we could see all the boats stopped. Victoire, UBS Wild Thing, Wot Eva - there was a big bunch – so the call was to stay wide.

'We were about 2½ miles off Smoky Cape, but still got caught in a no-wind area, with the wind moving south, so that forced us (against our better judgement) to come up. There was no wind further out, so no good gybing and going south-east.

'The call was made, ‘Everyone UP’. We put our biggest spinnaker up and amazingly kept it full most of the time to sneak past about eight boats. An hour and half later we were back into good breeze, but found that Victoire, UBS Wild Thing and Wot Eva had got the break just before us, so they took off and put on a couple of miles on us in no time.

Aboard the smallest yacht, the Archambault 31 Aroona, navigator Brett Filby reported at 10.40am, while suppressing a smile : 'It’s been a very nice night at sea for us, with enough wind. It allowed us to hold onto the bigger boats around us. However, it’s just got a little depressing and we are all thinking of alternative sports...'

The Tow Truck boys from Newcastle aboard Aroona are respectably ahead of many 36-38 footers, Aroona might not be a Farr 30 but they are plainly having lots of fun.

And from David Pescud’s TP52, Wot Eva, at 11.52am: 'Slow..... Just going through the Solitary Islands. It’s been light and variable, but settling down now, so picking up speed to Southport. Some whales seen and YuuZoo, on the delivery to Singapore, just passed us under motor.'

There was one happy owner, but perhaps that is because he is not aboard his Beneteau 45, Balance. ‘Money Man’, Paul Clitheroe, sent a text from higher places this morning: 'I’m on Mt Kilimanjaro following the race, when I can get reception. Looks like my replacement Bruce Hollis is doing OK.

Ironically, while Balance is in light breeze, up here in crater camp at 18,600 feet, it’s minus 10 degrees and the wind is so strong our toilet tent just got blown off the mountain – last seen heading for Nigeria! Hope the fleet gets a bit of the breeze like I have here.'

Clitheroe added a PS: 'No matter how well Hollis does, I’m kicking him off the helm as skipper at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week.'