Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race - Living Doll in the lead

Wild Oats XI has her bow out in front this afternoon - Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race 2011
Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race, organised by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, started from Sydney Harbour on Saturday 30 July.

Brindabella’s 1999 Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race record is safe for another year; race leader, Wild Oats XI, is well behind the time of 27 hours 35min 03 sec, the super maxi was just south of Coffs Harbour and 148 nautical miles from the Southport finish line at 4.45pm, so Mark Richards and his crew will see the record slip out of their grasp at 4.35.03pm this afternoon.

Aboard Wild Oats XI just this afternoon. Courtesy Wild Oats XI - Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race 2011
Wild Oats

Although breezes in the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s 384 nautical mile race have not been as light as originally predicted by the Bureau of Meteorology’s (BOM) Michael Logan, conditions have not been conducive for a record run either. Wild Oats XI and Investec Loyal (Anthony Bell), which is just five miles astern of the frontrunner, are currently expected to finish early tomorrow afternoon.

Peter Millard and John Honan’s 98ft Lahana is third on line, around 20 nautical miles behind the leaders, her crew electing to sail a little way out to sea, unlike the bulk of the fleet, which is mostly rock hopping its way to Southport.

Leading the race on corrected time is Michael Hiatt’s Victorian yacht Living Doll. The Farr 55 is leading Loki and Brindabella on the water, and has Will Oxley using his skills to get the boat into pole position.

All too aware of the BOM’s warning of light and transitioning breeze to a land breeze this evening, Oxley, a navigator of repute, said this afternoon, 'We’re working hard to try to get the sea breeze timing right with closing on the coast, and then thinking about how best to deal with tonight.

'Looks like a few parking lots ahead and behind. Trying hard to avoid this fate, but we’ll have to go through this all again tomorrow morning/afternoon,' he said, adding: 'We’re still in close company with Brindabella; they’re sailing well.'

Jim Cooney and his crew on the 18 year-old Brindabella are doing an excellent job keeping up with their newer superiors, Loki and Living Doll, as evidenced in comments from the latter’s navigator.

Living Doll is tussling for the lead with Victoire - Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race 2011

Darryl Hodgkinson’s Beneteau 45 Victoire from the CYCA, is still in the picture, in second place overall, but it so close with Living Doll, the two have been swapping the lead this afternoon. Fellow CYCA member, Tony Kirby (Patrice Six), has moved into third overall. The three are sailing fairly close to the coast in company with the bulk of the fleet off Tacking Point, just south of Port Macquarie.

This morning’s leader and smallest boat in the fleet, Aroona, has dropped to 29th overall. Skipper Anthony ‘Pato’ Paterson and crew obviously fell into a hole, or maybe it was the prolonged birthday celebration of navigator Brett Filby…

Filby at 4.45pm: 'Well, we’re having the time of our lives cruising along the shore just in close to Cape Hawk - just sensational – t-shirts and shorts. Captain Pato is just down preparing dinner, the usual three-course meal, starting with a very retro prawn cocktail. It’s my birthday again today, so tonight it’s going to be the usual sing along to all our old favourites, and no bedtime, so we may well go to very late....'

Rob Reynolds’ Exile, in 20th place, is still having an up-and-down time too, according to navigator and Middle Harbour Yacht Club Commodore Julie Hodder: 'We’re in a full north at the moment, up to 15 knots and we’re travelling at around 7.3 knots just off Diamond Head.

'The weather model says to expect a westerly tonight, and I feel confident it will happen, so I’m going down for a sleep now, cos I’ll be up all night,' she said, cautioning: 'It’s still a long way to go yet, so anything can happen.'

Despite a rock-star crew that includes Kiwi imports Stu Bannatyne and Ed Smythe, along with Aussies Colin Beashel and Richie Allanson, Marcus Blackmore’s highly touted TP52 Hooligan is suffering at the hands of the weather as much as anyone else on the course. Currently 13th overall, she is 10 places ahead of her nemesis, Loki, the Reichel/Pugh 63 of Stephen Ainsworth.

Geoff Bonus (Calibre) and Stewart Lewis (Ocean Affinity) retired from the race early this afternoon, both relaying to the Radio Relay Vessel, JBW, that crew members had work commitments, leaving the fleet at 67 yachts.

Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race website