March 24-30, 2024: Issue 619


2024 Pittwater to Coffs Harbour Yacht Race

A picture tells a thousand words - post start. Photo: Andrea Francolini.

Pittwater to Coffs: Line honours to XS Moment – Jupiter wins overall

Monday March 25, 2024

Fortune favoured the sticklers in the 2024 Pittwater to Coffs Harbour Yacht Race; just three entries hung on in the light to non-existent breezes, Ray Hudson’s XS Moment taking line honours just after midnight last night, while the two-handed crew of Ian Smith and Billy Sykes on Jupiter crossed the line second to claim overall honours.

Jupiter arrives to a beautiful sunrise in Coffs Harbour - pic courtesy RPAYC

The final boat to finish the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club’s 38th running of the race, Transcendence Rudy Project, was sailed two-handed by the father/son combination of Martin and John Cross. They finished nearly an hour after Jupiter in 2d 18h 7m 22s . All three crews are to be lauded for the courage of their convictions in finishing the protracted race while all others gave it away, mainly due to work commitments this morning.

XS Moment, an XP44 design, finished the race to Coffs Harbour at 00.36.38 hours this morning in the time of 2 days 11 hours 36 minutes 38 seconds. For her crew’s efforts, XS Moment’s crew were rewarded with third overall and a Division 1 win. 

We were actually near the top of leaderboard when the retirements started, so we decided to give it a bit more time and thought, ‘Stuff, we’ll hang in,” Ray Hudson said this morning.

It was looking pretty awful at Seal Rocks where most retired from, but the skipper (Hudson) was silly enough to make the decision to keep racing and the crew were happy to hang in. It made it worthwhile to stay in,” Hudson said. 

“I have a new saying,” XS Moment’s owner/skipper said: ‘If you’re silly enough to race you should be wise enough to finish.”

Hudson and crew were happy they held their resolve because, “A 9 knot sou’ wester came in about three hours after Pretty Woman retired and we made the best of it. 

“It was just under 60 hours of racing (just short of the longest Pittwater Coffs when in 1982, line honours winner, Short Circuit, took 62h, 33m, 57s to complete the course), but it felt longer than the four Sydney Hobarts I’ve done. Our perseverance paid off.” 

Ian Smith’s two-handed entry, Jupiter, co-skippered by Billy Sykes, finished at 06.36.15am this morning, completing the course in  2d 17h 36m 15s to win the race overall and win Division 2. They swept all before them except for ORC overall.

Smith shared: “We were here to race. We had no intention of pulling out. I think for most others (retirees) it was work as the conditions looked like a shutdown all the way.”

Jupiter’s owner described the conditions: “Light, but good in patches, we got 12 knots and a bit stronger from the west coming into Coffs. None of it was predicted. It ended up being an enjoyable race, notwithstanding the wind holes. We kept pushing on and making up 5 percent here and 10 percent there. It all adds up eventually. 

“We’re very happy with our win. The race was worthwhile. We were going to be there for however long it took. Billy is an elite sailor and in double-handers you really have to an all-rounder with you. 

“We had a mistake-free race. The secret is transitioning into the next phase of the race. We had a pre-race strategy and we executed it. We played a strategic game, not one major thing, lots of 5 percenters,” Smith said.

“We are appreciative of both the Royal Prince Alfred and Coffs Harbour Yacht Clubs  for putting the race on. It takes a lot of volunteers to make it happen and it can’t be done without them. 

“XS Moment did a great job hanging in,” Smith ended. 

Photo: XS Moment (11744) in good shape after the start. Photo; Andrea Francolini.

From Transcendence Rudy Project, it was a good second place overall. Her owner, Martin Cross said, “What a race. It’s a race that will be remembered. Looks like we’ve won ORC.” They did – and in doing so, also won ORC Division 2. 

“It’s really funny, because for most, Seal Rocks was the nadir. It was actually beautiful, glassed out, ships standing still. It looked like a painting. That was the moment we decided to stay with it. 

“It took us around six hours to get around Seal Rocks. You’d get a bit of breeze, get momentum and then it would die again. If you forgot you were racing, it was beautiful, with the sunset, sea life and still water.”

However, Cross was not happy with the wind gods: “They were terrible to us most the time. We were up and down like snakes and ladders. If it was not for the un forecast bits of wind at the end, we’d still be out there. 

“I play great tribute to my co-skipper and son John. He showed great tenacity and effort in us keeping on going. It’s a great father and son memory and one of the best offshore races we’ve done because it was so smooth.”

All three finishers said they would do the race again.

Despite a low count on finishers, Coffs Harbour Yacht Club graciously put out the welcome mat to competitors and officials. 

For full results and all information please go to: 

To see the routes, retirements and finishers, check the tracker: 

Di Pearson

Four yachts in race for Pittwater to Coffs honours

Sunday March 24, 2024

In extraordinary circumstances, just four boats are left racing for line and overall honours in the 2024 Pittwater to Coffs Harbour Yacht Race this morning, extreme conditions of up to  only 5 knots and mostly no wind, have forced the retirement of most the fleet, including David Griffith’s Whisper, which had led the race until retiring late yesterday afternoon.

The four ‘stayers’ are led on the water by Ray Hudson’s XP44, XS Moment, while the others are two-handed entries: the J/99, Jupiter (Ian Smith and Billy Sykes), the Beneteau Figaro 3,  Intiy (Andrea Davey and Marc Depret) and Transcendence Rudy Project, a Jeanneau Sun Fast 33 (Martin and John Cross).  All are from Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club, organiser of the annual 226 nautical mile race, barring Jupiter, which hails from Manly Yacht Club.

While XS Moment leads the line honours chase, at 9.40am she was making progress, but still 68 nautical miles short of the finish line and is currently second overall. At this stage, she is not likely to finish until tomorrow (Monday) evening.

Jupiter is second on line and leads the race overall, but with a distance of 81 nautical miles to reach the finish. Intiy is close behind, while the father and son on Transcendence Rudy Project still have 94 miles to go.

On retiring, David Griffith said from Whisper, “We have pulled the pin and headed to Newcastle. It’s very disappointing. We feel terrible about pulling out, but the time going on is getting ridiculous as people have to go to work.

“There’s not a breath of wind,” Griffith ended.

And with the greatest reluctance, long time RPAYC member, Richard Hudson retired Pretty Woman early last evening. 

Hudson said, “We have retired. It’s the first time in around 150 Cat 1 and Cat 2 races. To retire like this is very disappointing. We had a bit of a south-easter but it’s fading and the forecast doesn’t look good. . with nothing ahead.” You could feel his pain.

Pretty Woman - a reluctant retiree late yesterday. Photo: Andrea Francolini 

Coffs Harbour entry, Fez, Pierre Gal’s Stealth 12 catamaran, was among the latest retirements: “All OK on board. Continuing to Coffs,” Gal reported.

Meanwhile, quite a few entries, including three from Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club and Craig Douglas’ Popeye from MHYC/RPAYC, retired off Seal Rocks and headed to Newcastle where the crew were taking advantage of a hot meal and drinks at that Club. 

Douglas, trying to make the best of a tough situation, claimed: “We’ve won line honours in the Pittwater-Seal Rocks-Newcastle race.”

The 38th running of the coastal classic will not be forgotten in a hurry.

Meanwhile, four boats continue their slow journey to Coffs Harbour, not wanting to let the weather gods get the better of them. 

Coffs Harbour Yacht Club always puts on a warm welcome and volunteers from the Club are looking hopefully forward to greeting any finishers.

For further updates and all information please go to: 

Follow the remaining yachts on the race tracker at: 

by Di Pearson

Whisper leads slow Pittwater to Coffs race 

Saturday March 23, 2024

David Griffith’s Whisper is today leading a drawn-out 2024 Pittwater to Coffs Harbour Yacht Race, using the current to slip away from the rest on the 226 nautical mile course, as conditions refuse to play ball.

However, it was my no means the slowest race on record. That honour goes to Short Circuit, the 1982 the line honours victor, which took 62h, 33m, 57s to complete the course. 

At 11.00am Saturday, 22 hours into the race, the majority of the fleet was parked up close to the coast at Seal Rocks on the NSW coast. The light air faded to almost nothing on the course with parking lots aplenty – nobody missed out. 

Whisper, a JV62, was the line honours favourite going into the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club’s 226 nautical mile race. She had broken free of the pack and was gliding along at an average of 5.5 knots with an ETA in Coffs Harbour of 5am Sunday.

Wind instruments on Whisper late this morning - pic courtesy Whisper

Behind Whisper by 28 nautical miles, Tempo, Michael Smith’s Kernan 44, was leader of the pack at Seal Rocks.

A short time later, Craig Douglas retired Popeye from the race, citing time constraints. Travelling at just 1 knot behind Seal Rocks and most of those on board having work commitments, Douglas had no other option. A shame, as Popeye, a Beneteau First 47.7, placed third overall last year. 

Paul O’Rourke’s Mako was next to go from this tactically challenging race, choosing to head home to Newcastle, as they were close by. Ascalon (Ian Quarrie) and Minerva (Edward Cox) followed suit. A short time later, Cooloola (Alan Hill) and Antipodes (Geoff Hill) called time too.

Before midday, Griffith reported from the race: “It’s been so slow, but always with a 0.7 to 1 knot of current pushing us north. Now we’ve hit the adverse current – 1.2 knots south! We have a Code Zero up and we’ve just put up an A1,” he said describing their light weather sail.

“We’ve had lots of park-ups and it was tough getting through the first five miles,” Griffith ended.

At 2pm, Whisper had 91 miles to make the finish. Behind her, Tempo was still leading the bulk, but still had 126 miles to sail to the Coffs Harbour finish line.

For further updates and all information please go to: 

Follow the yachts on the race tracker at: 

by Di Pearson

Slow start Pittwater to Coffs as skipper recalls honeymoon race! 

Friday March 22, 2024

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. 

Paul Beath and Theresa Michell before the start. Photo: Andrea Francolini

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.“

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.”

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.

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. 

For further updates and all information please go to: 

Follow the yachts on the race tracker at: 

by Di Pearson