Bruny Island Yacht Race - The Fork in the Road sets cracking pace

The Fork in the Road powering to the lead in the Bruny Island Race as Auch and The Protagonist settle for poled-out headsails in the 25-30 knot wind. - Bruny Island Yacht Race 2013
Peter Campbell
Bruny Island Yacht Race, organised by the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania, got underway today. Line honours favourite The Fork in the Road has set a cracking pace, rounding the southern tip of the island and heading back to Hobart in less than six hours.

Starting the 89 nautical mile inshore/offshore circumnavigation of the historic island south of Hobart at 9.30am in a smokey north-westerly winds gusting to 33 knots and a strong outgoing tide, Gary Smith’s New Zealand-designed, Tasmanian-built 45-footer has totally outpaced the opposition.

Hitting 14 knots boat speed, The Fork in Road sailed between the Friars, a group of rugged rocky islets, and Tasman Head, the southmost tip of Bruny Island, at 3.10pm after star

She then had 41 nautical miles to sail to the finish back at Hobart’s Castray Esplanade, with an ETA of 8.19pm.

If she maintains this speed, her elapsed time will be one of the fastest in recent years but still well outside the record of eight hours two minutes and 59 seconds set by New Zealand maxi yacht Konica Minolta in 2005.

Visibility in the Channel and in the Derwent is very poor this afternoon as smoke from bushfires in the Derwent and Huon Valleys shrouding Mount Wellington and much of the city and suburbs. By late afternoon, it was impossible to see across the river from Sandy Bay to Bellerive.

As she sailed past Tasman Head, The Fork in the Road was 11 nautical miles ahead of her nearest rivals, with Whistler, skippered by David Rees, leading a group of six yachts sailing a south-easterly course past the Labilliardiere Peninsula towards Cape Bruny.

Division one leaders X&Y and War Games heading down to the leeward mark - Derwent Sailing Squadron’s Winter Series 2014
Peter Campbell

Close astern of Whistler came Pisces (David Taylor), which recovered well from a spectacular broach off the John Garrow Light as she sailed down the Derwent, then racing boat for boat with Intrigue (Don Calvert) and Auch (Richard Scarr).

Next in this group heading for Cape Bruny was Ramrod (Royce Salter) along with Masquerade (Tony Harman), The Protagonist (Stuart Denny) and Intrigue. Less than a mile astern were Auch and Helsal V (Robert Smith) with another mile to the smallest boat in the race, Stewart Geeves’ Young 88, Footloose.

Well astern of the main fleet came 42 South (Mark Ballard) still sailing within the confines of the D’Entrecastreaux Channel.

The 87th Bruny Island Race started off the Royal Hobart Regatta Grounds at 9.30am with the north-westerly wind gusting to 37 knots just before the start and a constant 20-25 knots as the 12 boat fleet headed down the Derwent.

Intrigue, Auch and Pisces racing down the Derwent after the start - Bruny Island Yacht Race 2013
Peter Campbell

Intrigue, last year’s overall winner, was the first to hoist a spinnaker, while several yachts elected to pole-out their jibs until clear of the gusty pressure as the wind funnelled down under the Tasman Bridge.

The Fork in the Road hoisted a massive white asymmetric spinnaker and quickly powered to the lead on a long starboard gybe into Sandy Bay.

Skipper Smith then called for a gybe, steering the 45-footer on another long but this time, port gybe, across to the western shore of the Derwent gaining more stable breeze and flatter water.

By the time the fleet cleared the river and headed into the closer northern reached of the Channel, The Fork in the Road had raced to a big lead. As she rounded South Bruny she was average 8.5 knots.

Late this afternoon the wind south of Hobart had backed to the west and eased to 10-15 knots, but the fleet should have an easy reach up the ocean side of Bruny Island and back into the Derwent this evening.