Craig Douglas and his crew onboard Popeye were “pretty chuffed” after delivering a stella performance in the Noakes Sydney Gold Coast Race, which commenced Saturday 29 July, achieving 1st place in IRC Division 2 and 2nd place overall in IRC.
The calculated risks and decisions Douglas and his Tactician, Peter Winter and Navigator, Julie Hodder made around routing, navigation and tactics for this race paid off and are reflected in the results.
“Prior to the race, Peter Winter, Julie Hodder and I deliberated about staying in close to land verses going offshore with predicted heavier breeze.
In past I have been told by many yachtsman to stay close to the shore. I even remember one account of being told to fill my pocket with stones, and every now and then throw one west, if you heard it land on the rocks then you are close enough!”, Douglas stated.
After considering their options, Douglas and his crew bravely chose an offshore strategy, which presented heavier wind but with strong adverse current. “We decided to go out and to sail offshore to hunt for the heavier breeze. We left Sydney heads and headed out, trying to cross the current and end up on the other side of it. We ventured some 40-50 miles out to sea, and even though we sailed a longer course it paid off”, recounted Douglas. At one stage of the race, Popeye had gained so much via their offshore route, they had managed to build a lead of several hours over the rest of the fleet.
The offshore tactics were not without challenge with Douglas recalling, “But then on day 3, our strategy looked like it was a disaster, we got caught up in a complete shutdown, lots of current and no breeze for many hours which sent us 5 miles backwards! It was heartbreaking.
We headed back to the coast, determined to cross the current at the narrowest point just south of Byron. The wind filled in and when we looked again, the whole fleet were hugging the coast in very light airs and we had a significant lead over them”.
Popeye held on to their lead, finishing 1st place in IRC Division 2 and 2nd place overall in IRC.
Douglas concluded, “Finally, after owning Popeye (Beneteau First 47.7) for some 8 years now, I have the boat competing at a very high level. With an IRC divisional win in this year’s Sydney Coffs race, and a further division win in the Gold Coast race, I think we are really doing well. I am lucky to have a very competent crew, a well prepared and up to date boat, and brilliant support from Shane Guanaria at Doyle Sails”.