by Ian Grant
The relatively small 42 year old Brisbane sloop Saltash 11 has secured a stranglehold on the title as the undisputed Brisbane to Gladstone Yacht Race champion.
Saltash II crew - 2007 Brisbane to Gladstone race
Her remarkable history in winning eight races on corrected handicap is unlikely to be ever challenged and stands alone as the most successful performance ever recorded in a major Australian Blue Water Classic.
Surprisingly her original design conceived by Englishman Jack Holt for racing in day sailing regattas was never meant to become an ocean racer simply because it was considered too small and had no comfort below deck for the crew to rest and hide from the elements.
However that changed when the innovative Bill and Ian Wright wished to fulfil a career ambition to follow their grandfather Norman Wright Snr their father Ron and Uncle Norman Wright Jnr into the colourful history of Queensland’s iconic yacht race.
The third generation Brisbane boat builders bought a second hand Jack Holt Yachting World Diamond class sloop which was skilfully modified to suit ocean racing safety standards and entered the 1985 Easter classic on a personal mission to continue with the family tradition dating back to the first race in 1949.
Gladstone Race history was firmly entrenched in the Wright family boat yard they had built the mighty Norseman which contested the first race in 1949 followed by outstanding performances to win The Courier-Mail Cup in 1951,1952,1954,1955 and 1956.
Fifty years later the Wright family have continued to dominate since 1999 the modified Saltash II skilfully sailed by principal helmsman Ian Wright brother Bill, navigator Peter Cavill and a collection of good mates including Tony Reik, John Gower and Trent Rowell added another five victories to their three previous Gladstone Race wins in 1986, 1992 and 1993.
Saltash II has wave rode the white crested Coral Sea ground swell with unmatched handicap rated boat speed winning seven of her eight races over the past 16 years.
Her crew have been challenged but have shown they are no ordinary ocean racing combination by piloting the multi-chine Saltash II to her history making scorecard under all forms of handicap ratings from IOR, IMS, Channel and IRC.
This form alone is feared by the best Australian ocean racing crews who claim the 42 year old yacht to be a freak.
The fear remains with several rival skippers including Sydney-Hobart champion Roger Hickman remarking he would like to buy Saltash II and have a bon-fire.
However no offers have reached the contract stage and the baby sloop will continue to be the most famous Diamond of them all.
Naturally her crew will be hoping for another spinnaker sailing forecast to continue with their domination over the past 10 years winning in 1999, 2001,2003, 2005, and 2007
Unfortunately the popular Sydney-Hobart race winning skipper Bob Steel who steered Quest to her impressive win in the 50th race has not entered this year but the fleet is stacked with exceptional talent and includes the 2002 and 2004 Courier Mail Cup winner Grundig/AAPT entered this year under the Spirit of Queensland Battle Flag and the Michael Balkin skippered Mooloolaba sloop Corum who showed her class to beat a high standard fleet in 2006.
As expected Saltash II remains as the pre-race favourite but her five member crew can expect to face another supreme test of personal endurance in what promises to be a demanding race highlighted with spectacular racing when the fleet sails away from the start line off Shorncliffe to weather the Garnet Rock Beacon before heading out of Moreton Bay on the historical 308 n/ml voyage to Gladstone.