Welcome to this week’s edition of Southern Cross Yachting Enews.

The Queensland sailing calendar, not unlike the Catholic Church calendar, is a series of big and small events spread (seemingly at random) throughout the year. But the Easter weekend is a biggy for both organisations! Yes the 65th Brisbane to Gladstone Yacht race has been run and won and in the spirit of Hunter S Thompson’s ‘gonzo journalism’ I bring you a report from inside the ‘great race’.  Race day dawned with one of the more confusing weather reports I have seen in my 25 starts in the race. Much debate was held about whether to stay inshore or to go offshore on the critical first night up the Sunshine Coast and Fraser Island. I personally was more concerned about whether it was going to rain or not. On board the Beneteau First 45 ‘Carbon Credits’ morale was high as the usual pre-race sledging and banter between boats unfolded. With only 25 starters and the long line this year, the start looked easy…….until all 25 yachts decided to start at the boat end. We were perfectly positioned with 30 seconds to go until darkness fell upon the boat as the hundred feet ‘Wild Thing’ reached in above us blocking out both the wind and the sun momentarily. Luckily our pain was short-lived and we were soon back in the breeze and were the windward boat in the fleet. A long day ensured as the light and fickle north-easter toyed with us and we all looked longingly to the south east for the expected change. As we approached the Spitfire Channel we were in good shape but a bad gybe (it was like the 3 Stooges had taken up sailing!) cost us a spinnaker wrap and about 6 places in the fleet. As we cleared the Fairway Buoy just after sunset we settled into a long night of catch up sailing. We decided to go offshore to look for breeze and got ourselves under a few good clouds that kept the foredeck crew busy with about 12 sail changes during the night. Dawn broke like a split bag of mud, grey and overcast with a light but steady southeaster and rain.

But the news on the dawn sked. was all good. We had passed all the bad guys overnight and were leading Div. 2 on the water and were lying third overall! The news was somewhat offset by finding out that the toilet was broken. Both good reasons to sail as fast as we could to the finish line!

The fleet had split into 2 with the 6 big boats jumping ahead and a tight group around us including the Farr 30 ‘Immigrant’ who we would be spending the rest of the weekend seemingly tied too. The light southeaster stayed in, sometimes patchy but with the odd cloud to keep things interesting. Our two bowmen had aged about 30 years overnight as one does with about 2 hours of sleep, in 15 minute parcels. We drag raced ‘Immigrant’ all day and as we passed Lady Elliott Island at sunset we still had them astern. Knowing that we had no hope of beating them on handicap we set ourselves the mission of beating them over the line and as we sailed across the paddock they threw gybe after gybe at us and we covered each move. In the last hour they slipped past us and we entered Gladstone Harbour about 10 boat lengths behind them as the first hint of dawn showed to the east. It was on!

With the first lick of the flooding tide we sailed side by side up the harbour, the lead changing between us about 6 times. We weathered Boyne Point Wharf about 3 boat lengths ahead and with 3 miles to the finish we were feeling confident. Then Mr Murphy came to visit us. The breeze was fading and heading us and it was kites down and jibs up as we both tried to keep moving in the tiny zephyrs. We were both becalmed mid channel when we looked ahead to see a 300 hundred foot ship heading up harbour and quite keen to use the patch of Gladstone Harbour that we were currently occupying. Now totally becalmed about 200 yards from the line we could see a new line of wind coming and it was anyone’s guess whether the ship or the wind would get there first. Happily it was the breeze line, but sadly it got to ‘Immigrant’ first and they crossed the line 13 seconds ahead of us.

A great effort by the ‘Immigrant’ team on a yacht that was 15 feet shorter than us, but minus 2 toilets and about 7 tons displacement. We tied up in Auckland Creek exhausted yet happy but we had a long wait for the little boats to finish to find out whether we were on the podium or not. As it turned out the breeze faded for the back of the fleet and we finished up 7th overall and 3rd in our Division.

All agreed that despite being a slow one it was an extremely challenging and enjoyable race. Congratulations to the Boys on ‘Wedgetail’ for their second win over all and to our nemesis ‘Immigrant’ who took third on IRC. And as always a huge thanks to Herb and his team from QCYC and PCSC for another brilliantly organised event.

Presentation was marred by the sad news that Ian ‘Stripey’ Grant had passed away on Good Friday, just hours after the start. Stripey was the doyen of yachting journalists in Queensland and had been covering the race for the past 53 years. Stripey’s colourful journalistic style was unique and the race will never be the same without him. Fair winds and following seas Stripey, you did more to promote the sport of sailing in this state than anyone.

And thanks to Southern Cross Yachting you too can have the opportunity to (in Stripeys words)’Surf the trade wind fuelled seas over the tacitly demanding course as once again we head out to joust with blue water’ in Qld’s other offshore event – the Brisbane to Keppel Tropical yacht race. As always Southern Cross Yachting- Oceans will be contesting the race and we still have a few places left. Third three years ago, second last year so if the pattern continues this is your chance to be part of history!

The race starts on Friday 2 August 2013 and the race package includes a weekend race training (27 & 28 July) before the race.

We have only a few spots left so get on the email now to secure your spot.

That’s all for this edition, until next time sail safe!

Cheers Mike Job

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