April 2 - 15  2023: Issue 578


Pittwater To Coffs Yacht Race 2023

Mistral was declared overall winner of the race. Photo:- Bow Caddy Media 

Two-Handed Mistral Wins Pittwater To Coffs Harbour Yacht Race

Sunday April 2, 2023

Rupert Henry’s Mistral, co-skippered by Greg O’Shea, has been announced winner of the 2023 Pittwater to Coffs Harbour Yacht Race from another double-handed crew, Jules Hall and Jan ‘Clogs’ Scholten on Disko Trooper Contender Sailcloth.

The two boats from the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia repeated their feat of top two overall in last year’s Cabbage Tree Island Race and each led the Pittwater to Coffs race at various points. In fact the 226 nautical mile coastal classic nearly ended in a double-handed shoo-in, but Craig Douglas and his fully crewed Popeye broke the stranglehold to claim third overall. 

Henry said of the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club’s challenging light weather race, “It was a good double-handed fleet and weatherwise it suited the smaller boats (his is a Lombard 34). It was a good fleet all around. We were lucky the bigger faster boats didn’t get too far away from us.

“We watched the other double-handers closely. We also picked fully crewed boats to keep up with, like Popeye, XS Moment (Ray Hudson) and Tempo (Michael Smith) – she sailed well,” Henry said of the Kernan 44.

“We didn’t have a lot of rest, but we had fun. All in all it was a soft race that suited the slippery designs like the J99 (Disko Trooper) that was constantly snapping at our heals.”

Henry continued, We’d get a break, then park up. The wind went around the clock twice during the race – unusual for a shorter race. So there were a few sail changes and lots of spinnaker packing.”

Around Port Macquarie the bigger boats got away from Mistral and Disko Trooper, but the pair reeled them in.

Disko Trooper Contender Sailcloth had a great race with Mistral. Photo: Bow Caddy Media 

“There’s a lot of good sailors here,” Henry mused. “They take this race quite seriously. Calendar wise, it’s a good one for finding good crew. Lot of heavies in the bar, so you know it’s high standard of racing,” said the yachtsman who had not done the race previously.

With long time co-skipper, O’Shea, Henry also won the IRC Two-Handed division of the 2022 Rolex Sydney Hobart. With his former yacht, Chinese Whisper, the two clean-swept the 2018 Melbourne Osaka double-handed yacht race, taking line and overall wins in all categories and smashing the race record. They are a hard act to beat.

In a real family affair, Henry’s father, David Henry ,also contested the race two-handed with his modified Sydney 36 Cruiser Racer, Philosopher and finished 15th overall.

“While we were bobbing around still racing, my son (Otto), was doing the delivery back to Sydney on Andoo Comanche,” he said of the three generations of sailors in his family.

Disko-Trooper Contender Sailcloth gave Mistral a good run for their money and also topped the ORC leaderboard from other two-handers, Chris O’Neill/Ian Smith’s Blue Planet (which won PHS overall) and Rum Rebellion (Shane Connolly/Tony Sutton).

Hall commented, “It was a fabulous race, a thinking race. We were keeping a close eye on Mistral and they obviously sailed a fantastic race. Our start was good, but around Cape Three Points we were in a lull. Mistral got a jump on us at Newcastle as they were better placed when land breeze kicked in.”

The 2021 Sydney Hobart Two-handed winner acknowledged the hardest part of the race was from Smoky Cape to the finish.

“Then the sou'easter came in as forecast and we took off,” Hall said. “We were doing 7 knots and Mistral 3 knots and we thought ‘this is it’, but then it reversed. It was pouring with rain. We couldn’t see a thing. The sou'easter came back but was too late for us!

He agreed balancing current and wind was hard and that keeping a close eye on that and the water temperature was imperative. “You couldn’t make a single mistake. Little mistakes made a big difference on that course.

“We had a great boat-on-boat race with She’s The Culprit (owned by the Culprit Syndicate from Newcastle). We’d be in front of them, then they’d get in front of us. It was good fun.”

Popeye beat double-handed Rum Rebellion to third place by just eight minutes. A thrilled Craig Douglas said his Beneteau First 47.7 “is probably the heaviest boat in the fleet. She’s old with furniture, microwaves, the lot on board, but I worked out how to make her go. 

“We had the boat prepared, the right sails and the right people. The greatest thing that made a difference was tactics. We kept the boat going in light air and that’s what got us to stay with the lead boats in the first three or four hours.”

Popeye sailed the least miles of the fleet (227nms as witnessed by the tracker). “And we were aware of doing that,” Douglass said. We didn’t rhumbline it, but we calculated tide and current to sailing as few miles as possible.

“Having Julie Hodder navigating and Shane Guanaria on tactics worked well. We genuinely worked hard,” the Middle Harbour Yacht Club yachtsman said.

Dale Mitchell’s Rex, which took the multihull record and line honours yesterday, was also declared overall winner under the Offshore Multihull Rating Rule (OMR). Drew Carruthers’ self-designed and built Rushour, placed second and Darren Drew’s Wind Cheetah third.

The 37th Pittwater to Coffs Harbour Yacht Race started at 1pm on Friday and concludes with the prize giving at 2pm at Coffs Harbour Yacht Club today.

Popeye broke the double-handed stranglehold on the race. Photo: Bow Caddy Media 

Video, including pre-race interviews from Bow Caddy Media at: youtu.be/YumkOOEIWjQ

Full results: app.sailsys.com.au/club/13/results/series/1907/races/14434?handicap=33

All information, including entries, on the official website: www.pittwatertocoffs.com.au

by Di Pearson

Rex Sets New Record In Pittwater To Coffs Harbour Yacht Race

Saturday April 1, 2023

Dale Mitchell and his crew on Rex, the ORMA 60 multihull from Queensland, early this morning broke the multihull record in the 2023 Pittwater to Coffs Harbour Yacht Race - by 5 seconds – it seemed to suit the occasion – April Fools’ Day!

It suits the occasion because the pre-race weather forecast spelt disaster as far as records were concerned. However, Mitchell and his crew worked hard and took all available opportunities in the Royal Prince Alfred’s 226 nautical mile race.

“We weren’t even game to tell the Club, because we weren’t sure if we were right or not,” Mitchell said after finishing the race at 6.08am in the time of 17 hours 3 minutes. Rex beat the 2014 record set by another ORMA 60, Team Australia (Sean Langman), of 17hrs 3mins 5secs.

“Obviously it was meant to be light winds, but we got out of the start fairly quickly,” the Airlie Beach sailor said. “We worked towards the coast and did nicely, then hooked into a south-easterly quite well.

“Last night we saw we were slightly ahead of record and kept working hard. When we came into Seal Rocks we were greeted by the expected shutdown. I thought we’d be there for hours, but it was only half an hour, then we hooked into 12-14 knot westerly all the way to Smoky Cape,” he said.

Mitchell said the breeze became quite fickle from that point and they experienced agonising moments of thinking they would, then wouldn’t, break the record, before 12 knots came to save them.

“Then it decreased, came back a bit and oh my god, we broke the record! We were all laughing about it because we were quite amazed,” Mitchell said.

“We had a couple of hours this morning when we were sitting on early 20s (knots), we had a nice south-easterly swell, which the boat responded to. It helped us get to Coffs Harbour quickly.”

The well-known Whitsunday Sailing Club sailor said Rex looked after them: “Nothing major broke. We’re all keen for a sleep now. None of us got much during the race.

“It’s pretty awesome breaking the record. We turn up trying to set records. To have a week of preparation and to look at the forecast thinking we had no chance. When I think of the guys putting in the work they did during the race…,” he said of the nine regulars on board.

Mitchell said the race did have its funny moments. “Off Port Macquarie, a couple of jet skis towing  a sailboarder came out alongside us for half an hour or so. Turned out they were friends of Brett Van Munster’s (a crew member),” Mitchell said.

Rex and the crew are sailing to Brisbane to undertake routine maintenance ahead of Easter’s Brisbane to Gladstone Yacht Race, where they will try for another record.

Andoo Comanche (John Winning Jr), the super maxi skippered in this race by Iain Murray, finished the race at 8.46.40am, in 19hrs 46mins 40secs. The Rolex Sydney Hobart record holder finished outside the record of 17hrs 10 minutes 31 seconds record set by Peter Harburg’s Black Jack last year.

Iain Murray skippered the boat in John Winning Jr’s absence. “The first three hours of the race were slow and frustrating and they pretty much cost us a chance at the record. After that, it was slow but enjoyable sailing - full moon, clear skies, crisp night,” Murray said as the 100 footer headed back to Sydney.

Andoo Comanche missed the record.Photo: Bow Caddy Media 

In a further nod to April Fools’ Day, Mistral (Rupert Henry/Greg O’Shea) and Disko Trooper Contender Sailcloth (Jules Hall/Jan ‘Clogs’ Scholten), both two-handed crews, are at the top of the overall standings to win the race.

Meanwhile, Popeye (Craig Douglas), along with regular friendly rivals, LCE Old School Racing (Mark Griffith) and Pretty Woman (Richard Hudson), are scrambling to attack the pair’s lead, with another two-handed crew, Shane Connelly/Tony Sutton (Rum Rebellion) between them. There is still over 100 nautical miles to go, though.

The 37th Pittwater to Coffs Harbour Yacht Race started off Barrenjoey Headland at 1pm on Friday.

Follow the Pittwater to Coffs Harbour Yacht Race on the tracker at: https://yb.tl/pittwater2023

Video highlights from Bow Caddy Media at: https://youtu.be/AVY6xl6Lv1g

All information, including entries, on the official website: www.pittwatertocoffs.com.au

Report by Di Pearson

Dale Mitchell and his crew on Rex. Photo: Bow Caddy Media 
Greg O'Shea (in white) and Rupert Henry (Mistral) are giving the race a good shake Photo: Bow Caddy Media 

Light And Challenging Pittwater To Coffs Harbour Yacht Race 2023

Friday March 31, 2023

A lovely 8-10 knot westerly marked the start of the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club’s 37th Pittwater to Coffs Harbour Yacht Race, when it started off Barrenjoey Headland at 1pm today, the fleet cracking spinnakers at the start in glorious sunshine.

Unusually, 50 percent of the fleet started on port at the Committee Boat, while the other half started on port at the pin end of the line – an amazing sight.

Andoo Comanche (John Winning Jr), the largest boat in the fleet at 100 feet, started from the wrong side of the line on starboard, spun around and was off. There were a few wide-eyed crews on participating yachts as the 100 footer closed in on them.

There were a few more wide-eyes as the smallest boat in the race, Highway Patrol, Michael Blaxell’s Dubois 30, scored the best start, leading her contemporaries out past Maitland Reef. Blaxell’s crew enjoyed a moment of utter glory before being swallowed up by the mainstream fleet.

A fairly soft westerly around Cape Three Points, down to 6-7 knots, so kites were just hanging in there,. In these conditions the bulk of the fleet will hug the coast.

There will be no race records set this year, according to Dale Mitchell, skipper of the ORMA 60 multihull Rex: “Not possible by the look of it,” the Queensland sailor said.

“We’re expecting a shutdown early on and another one around the Seal Rocks area that will consume around six hours in total. That’s what will push it out for us,” he said in relation to a record in the 226 nautical mile race.

“The forecasts show a bit of everything. The light west will go round to the south and the east, with touches of north tonight, then sou’ west or west tonight into the morning. This should get us into Coffs around lunchtime Saturday.”

What it adds up to, is a tactical and tricky race: “There hasn’t been a lot of agreement between the various weather models, so it will take good race management for all on board to get it right and pick the conditions at any given time. It could change the outlook of the race for us,” he said in what is a good lesson for all.”

Remaining upbeat, Mitchell said, “It’ll be a couple of nice days on the water. It’s Friday and we’re not at work, we’re going sailing. There’s not a cloud in the sky and it’s a beautiful day. That’s how we’re looking at it.”

What it means is that Rex, her three multihull rivals, along with Andoo Comanche and the rest of the fleet had to take a good dose of patience and focus before the start and then knuckle down.

Celestial, winner of the 2022 Rolex Sydney Hobart is among the contenders to win. The TP52’s owner, Sam Haynes, had another commitment so was unable to race. He appointed crew staple, Jack Macartney, as skipper.

“The breeze is definitely all over the shop, particularly tonight, but looking more stable tomorrow. We’re sailing with 10 crew (they usually sail with 14-15) to lighten the boat up. We’ve got plenty of food on board, so we’ll be OK,” Macartney said.

Haynes added, “Most of the crew are regulars and we’ve been doing light air training, so we have some idea of polars on the boat. We have some newish sails, so hopefully they’ll do alright.“

Haynes has fond memories of the race. “It’s heading north. Why wouldn’t you do a race like this? I’m sorry I can’t be there. This race is where I started my offshore racing, where I caught the disease!”

RPAYC yachtsman, Richard Hudson sailed Pretty Woman to fourth overall last year. He is the messiah of the Pittwater to Coffs having contested 34 out of the 36 editions in all sorts of conditions.

“It’s an interesting one. It’ll probably have some localised effects – and the forecasts don’t have enough information to pick those up,” Hudson, owner of the modified Farr 45 said.

“When you get past Seal Rocks there’ll be quite a bit of current against us. A challenging race with a bit of luck involved. But if we win, it will naturally be skill and dedication,” he laughed.

Hudson has confidence in his team, nine having done the Sydney Hobart with him in December. “We have a good team. We’re going with 10 (the norm is 12) to cut weight down. We’ve raced together in all kinds of conditions. We’ll see how it unfolds…”

What may unfold is that one of the quality nine two-handed crews could win the race overall. As Martin Cross, who is sailing Transcendence Crento two-handed with son, John, hypothesized last week, “I won’t be surprised to see one of the double-handed  boats up there in the overall results if it’s a small boat race.”

If the predicted weather holds, Cross may well be right.

Follow the Pittwater to Coffs Harbour Yacht Race on the tracker at: https://yb.tl/pittwater2023

All information, including entries, on the official website: www.pittwatertocoffs.com.au 

by Di Pearson