by Ian Grant
The impressive Rod Jones owned and skippered Welbourne 50 Audi Centre Sunshine Coast-Alegria V promises to attract a wave of support from members of the Maroochy River Sailing club over the Easter weekend.
Alegria IV owner and skipper, Rod Jones
Both skipper Rod Jones and his dual Audi Australian championship winning crew have expressed their loyalty to create history for the popular Sunshine Coast dinghy club as their first official entry in the 64th Qantas-Link Brisbane to Gladstone yacht race.
Their previous ocean race results suggest the Alegria V crew are formidable challengers with the recently remodelled former Brisbane to Gladstone line honours winner and Hamilton Island Race Week champion Heaven Can Wait.
But this annual 308 nautical mile blue water classic hosted by the Queensland Cruising Yacht Club and starting from Brisbane’s Bramble Bay on Good Friday April 6th officially sets the bench-mark for the talented crew of Sunshine Coast sailors who will begin an intense program of ocean racing including flying the prestigious Maroochy Sailing Club burgee in the Rolex Sydney Hobart.
The crew including skipper Rod Jones, navigator James Walker, Greg McAllansmith. Kia Timm and Noosa River Blazer 23 champion Chris Annear will tackle a challenging learning curve on the deck of Oxygen racing team’s flagship Alegria V.
However while they have already proved their talent as the only crew to have won two Audi Australian ocean racing championships in the trophy this new challenge on a tried and tested larger and older ocean racing sloop represents a supreme test of their off shore sailing experience.
Rod Jones has completed the first stage of modifications and is happy with the result from the evaluation trials.
A result which will be put to the test when the new-look Heaven Can Wait tests the power of her new sails to eclipse her 2005 line honours winning time of 39 hours 14 minutes 13 seconds.
As expected skipper Rod Jones and Greg McAllansmith who crewed with World champion Hamilton Island skipper Glenn Bourke to win the SB3 Dart sports boat Australian championship on the River Derwent in late February remain mentally and physically prepared for what promises to become an absorbing match race for the honour of winning the 64 year old The Courier Mail Cup.
But how this result will relate to the required boat speed performance of the Sunshine Coast crew remains to be proven against a high performance fleet over the Easter weekend.
Unfortunately Marcus Blackmore and his Hooligan crew winners in 2011 will not be defending their title however the return of eight times race winner Saltash ll which will be helmed by Sandy Cavill and the entry of Robert Hanna’s speed sailing Royal Geelong Yacht Club sloop Shogun V promise to set a high standard of racing over what is regarded among Australia’s more demanding coastal passage races.
Shogun V a sister class to the 2011 champion Hooligan has the pedigree and performance to be listed as the pre-race favourite with Audi Centre Sunshine Coast Alegria V and Saltash ll also favoured.