Slow start Pittwater to Coffs as skipper recalls honeymoon race!

It was an extremely slow start to the Pittwater to Coffs Harbour Yacht Race at 1pm, with the fleet still bobbing around the Barrenjoey Headland start line at Pittwater as spectators left the course and Mako’s skipper, Paul O’Rourke, recalled his last Coffs Race: “It was 1991 and it was my honeymoon!”
“It’s true. I took my bride, Kay, and my best man along, so it’s been a long time between races. We raced on Crocodile. It was a big fat cruiser and we won PHS, because it was a rough, windy race.
“To be, fair, we did some cruising on Pittwater beforehand and Kay had done some deliveries with me,” O’Rourke said, laughing.
So 33 years later, O’Rourke has returned to the scene of the crime to try his luck once again in Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club’s (RPAYC) 226 nautical mile race. Like the rest, he is dealing with the light conditions as best as he and Mako’s crew can.

Mako well positioned mid-line - Andrea Francolini, RPAYC media

CEO of Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club, O’Rourke and crew on their Sydney 40, are competing alongside two other entries from his club: Paul Beath’s two-handed J/99, Verite (co-skippered by Theresa Michell) and She’s the Culprit, a modified Inglis/Jones 39 owned by the Culprit Syndicate.

“I’m happy we have three boats from Newcastle doing the race. She’s the Culprit is our long-standing nemesis. They were parked up next to us at the Alfred’s (RPAYC), so there’s been plenty of banter going on,” the Newcastle yachtsman said.

His thoughts on the race ahead were mirrored by fellow competitors: “It’s going to be light and out of the east, so it’ll be a challenge for most. It will suit the lighter weight boats (like the J designs). We expect a bit of a light upwinder for the first 12 hours, so pretty challenging.“

A picture tells a thousand words - post start - Andrea Francolini, RPAYC media

Mako’s crew hope to be home and hosed at Coffs Harbour by Sunday morning, but the weather will dictate finish times. They are looking forward to seeing Coffs Harbour Yacht Club’s volunteers, who greet the fleet each year and to a cold drink or two.
Michael Blaxell owns the smallest boat in the fleet. Highway Patrol is a 30 foot Dubois 30: “We’re thinking it will take us a while to get to Coffs because of the light weather, but at least it’s warm,” he said. “We’ve packed lots of extra water and food with the theory we won’t get there till Sunday, or later…
“Our little boat likes light breeze, but I think there will be a bit of reaching along the way. We don’t carry a Code Zero, so we’re hoping the bigger boats and the reaching boats don’t get away from us.
“I’m looking forward to the race, though. We’ve done it twice before and finished fifth last year.”

A big kite without enough air to fill it - Andrea Francolini, RPAYC media

Simon Cruickshank owns Joust,  a J/111, one of the lighter boats in the fleet. He said, “We’re super excited because of the light winds. We should sail reasonably well. That is the plan,”
Should the race remain predominantly light, J designs such as Verite, Joust, Blue Planet, Jupiter and Rumchaser, along with Highway Patrol are likely to shine. And indeed, Highway Patrol was looking good a couple of hours into the race.

Khaleesi crew focussed - Andrea Francolini, RPAYC media

David Griffith’s JV62, Whisper, is fancied to take line honours, although if predicted reaching conditions arrive in time, she could be threatened by Geoff Hill’s Santa Cruz 72, Antipodes.
The Pittwater to Coffs Harbour Yacht Race is made up of monohulls, including eight two-handed crews and a multihull.

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Di Pearson/RPAYC media