Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race led by small boat

AROONA - Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race 2011
At midnight last night, the 100 footers, Wild Oats XI and Investec Loyal were going at it hammer and tongs in the 2011 Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race and this morning, very little has changed, only 'The Oats' has doubled the lead on her adversary to just over six nautical miles this morning at 7.00am and the smallest boat in the fleet, Aroona, is the overall leader.

Tracking 12nm north-east of Tacking Point at Port Macquarie this morning in the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s 384 nautical mile race, Oatley’s five-time Hobart line honours winner, which was keeping Anthony Bell’s Investec Loyal at bay, is in no position to overcome the race record of 27 hours 35min 03sec set by Brindabella 12 years ago.

'We had a beautiful night’s sail,' Mark Richards said from Wild Oats XI this morning. 'There’s been lots more breeze than we expected; we’re reaching at around 10 knots at the moment,' he said at 8.10am as they were sailing off Smokey Cape. 'Loyal is only around six miles behind us – they’re doing a really great job.'

With thunderstorms predicted for today, Richards said 'we are going to keep our wits about us and just keep moving.'

Brindabella, the conventionally ballasted 80ft yacht now owned by Jim Cooney, was trucking along nicely, in fifth place online this morning. Brad Kellett reported from on board: 'The breeze is easing off in the Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race this morning!'

Of the competition, Kellett said: 'We can see Loki (Stephen Ainsworth’s Audi IRC champion Reichel/Pugh 63) about a mile out to sea and a mile in front of us. We’ve also got Living Doll (Victorian Michael Hiatt’s Farr 55) in our sights. It’s nice to be in the same area as greats like Gordon Maguire (helm on Loki) and Will Oxley (navigator on Living Doll).'

Brindabella was sailing off Taree and Kellett was about to get into some serious sewing, as they had done some damage to their Code Zero overnight. 'We’ll be needing it shortly,' said Kellett, who added 'we’re sailing pretty much on the rhumbline and we’re sticking to our game plan, which is to stay ahead of our PHS competition.'

However, the real race for overall honours is, as predicted, taking place among the smaller boats in the fleet. Legendary small boat sailor, Anthony Paterson, has sailed Aroona, into the lead this morning, the Archambault 31 was 12nm east of Port Stephens this morning.

Asked how things were going this morning, Aroona’s highly experienced navigator Brett Filby told the CYCA’s sailing manager, Justine Kirkjian, 'It’s magic – I’m going to get into this sport!'

Brett told Sail-World, that overnight it seemed the boats that did best were inside the rhumbline, as was Aroona, sailing through many of their larger rivals, At dawn Aroona was sailing with many of the 36-38 footers.

On corrected time, Aroona is more than an hour ahead of Darryl Hodgkinson’s Victoire, a Beneteau 45 from the CYCA, with Colin Kimmorley’s Queensland entry, Argus, an Adams 12, in third overall from Wild Oats XI and Peter Sorensen’s Sydney 36 CR The Philosophers Club – all the yachts the experts expected to be at the front.

Solo round the world sailor Jessica Watson would be pleased with the efforts aboard Chris Lewin’s Sydney 38, Another Challenge. The current leaders of the Sydney 38 Division, Watson and co are five hours clear of their nearest rivals, J Steel Yeah Baby (Marc and Louis Ryckmans).

Down in 28th overall, Exile’s navigator, Julie Hodder, who is also the Middle Harbour Yacht Club commodore, explained why Rob Reynolds’ DK46 was not further up the standings. 'We went offshore looking for the easterly breeze yesterday, but it didn’t come! When we came back into the coast, everyone was together again. Those inshore made big gains on those who went out.

'Victoire and few others were there, we found them parked last night and sailed through them. Then we parked and they sailed through us!' Asked if anyone aboard had questioned her tactics, Hodder replied, 'the crew said ‘oh well, you lose some….’ And then we just got on with dinner – we had a nice chilli con carne – and now we’re about to tuck into bacon and egg rolls.'

At 8.52am Hodder reported from their position off Sugarloaf, where the bulk of the fleet is sailing mainly on the rhumbline: 'We are now in an 11 knot westerly (not forecasted) and we are speeding up the coast. We think Victoire has gone out to sea, so we’re hoping we’ve done the right thing.

At midnight last night, the leaders were travelling at 8-9nm in 10 knots of north easterly. Leo Rodriguez’ Volvo 60 Merit had the furthest east and was 40nm east of Port Stephens, while Victoire was the overall leader of IRC and the bulk of the fleet was east of Port Stephens averaging boat speed of between 5 and 10 knots. Amazing how quickly things can change in a 12 hour period.

The Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race is the third event of the Audi IRC Australian Championship, so the chase is well and truly on and when the race comes to an end, most will be heading to the final event, Audi Hamilton Island Race Week where the Championship will be won or lost.

Audi Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race website