Eighteen yachts are preparing for the 80 nautical mile Roland Smith Ocean Race in Western Australia. Part of the Ocean Racing WA Blue Water Championship, the Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club event will take the fleet from Fremantle to Mandurah and return. The race will start in the waters off Port Beach at 0930 on Saturday morning.
Yesterday at RFBYC there was a commemorative event for the first ever yacht race held at the Club in November 1897. Black Betty, an Optimised Bottin GP 42, was out racing on the river when drama struck the team. An incident caused the crew to quickly unload the boat and nurse her back to the dock. This morning the crew have conducted thorough checks and given her the all clear to race tomorrow.
Close racing is expected throughout the fleet and there are several favourites for line honours. In Division One BlackBetty, is back out to race offshore this season after being absent in 2016-2017and she’s had some modifications. Through the winter months, owner Gary McNally had a new bow sprit installed and the crew engaged in an extensive refit of the boat and sail wardrobe.
Black Bettywill have good competition from Alan Stein’s GP 42, Dirty Deeds and Mark Nagle’s FB 35 Weapon of Choice and Anthony Kirke’s Farr 40 Enterprise. These four will be able to put the pressure on the bigger yachts for line honours, Craig Carter’s Carkeek 47 Indian and Garth Currans 57ft Inglis, Walk on the Wildside.
Indian is fresh from a win overall and line honours in the recent Fremantle to Geraldton Ocean Classic. The 221 nautical mile Cat 2 race was their qualifying race for the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. Following the Roland Smith Ocean Race this weekend the team of Indian have a busy schedule to send the yacht by road across to Sydney. Her next event will be the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia Bird, Island Race on 2 December followed by the great race on Boxing Day. Owner Craig Carter hopes to have Indian back in time for the remainder of the WA Blue Water Championship.
There is sure to be an interesting race between the 40ft racing cruisers as rivals Argo (Chris Higham’s Archambault), Joss (Ian Clyne’s J 122) and reigning blue water champion Giddy Up (Robert and James Halvorsen, Farr 395) battle it out again.
While there are always teams who are in it for the win it is good to know there are many who just like being out racing. Paul and Ceris Arns are owners of Obsession, a MAT 1245. At the race briefing the couple were pleased pre-race winners by claiming the early bird entry draw but commented that they don’t need to take their racing too seriously, their team enjoys the process of the blue water events and being out offshore with other participants.
Also at the briefing, Karina Tarbath from the Bureau of Meteorology reported both good and bad weather news for competitors.
Very light and variable winds are forecast for late Saturday morning although ideal warm and sunny conditions are perfect for a typical sea breeze. Yachts are expected to enjoy fresh southerly winds by 1pm which should build to around 21 knots for the afternoon.
Current routing shows the faster boats finishing in 10 hours. The race record of 8 hours and 32 minutes is held by Peter Hickson’s TP 52 M3 from the 2015 race and this could be safe for another year. On the return run, with a southerly still behind them navigators will need to decide how far offshore to sail. An increase in wind is expected further out to sea but boats will be sailing in to a stronger current.
For the smaller boats who are expected to finish through the night. Their tactics could bring them closer inshore as the wind swings to the east and there is a possibility of an increase in strength. The smallest boat in the race will be Tim Harrison and Andrew Renwick on Vision, a Spacesailor 27. They are contesting the Double Handed Division and will come up against seasoned racers Alison Stock and Brad Skeggs on their Northshore 38, Selkie and the Jomac 30, Dart Vader, Wayne Pitcher and Richard Spence.