Sunshine Coast’s David Turton has been handed the pivotal job on the biggest boat in the fleet competing in this weekend’s 384 mile 30th Land Rover Sydney to Gold Coast Race.
He has been appointed navigator on Anthony Bell’s 100-foot Perpetual Loyal.
Racing on a yacht of this size isn’t new for Turton who has previously been navigator on Grant Wharington’s 100-foot Wild Thing. However, being given such an important job on a boat with a high international profile is an important step up for a sailor who ultimately seeks to practice his trade in the overseas racing scene.
“The boat has a history of having some of the very best navigators in the world such as Stan Honey and Tom Addis, so I am pretty humbled to be sitting in the chair,” Turton said.
Turton was chosen for the role through the recommendation of crew boss Wade Morgan. “He tipped me in. He was the crew boss on Alive up until the last year’s Hobart race.” Turton’s regular position is navigator on the 66-foot Alive.
He didn’t get to jump on Perpetual Loyal until yesterday when the 24-man team went out for the first of two training days. Avoiding the distraction of being on a high-profile boat that, while as long as Wild Thing, is about six ton heavier and about twice the width, Turton turned his attention immediately to tackling the technology on the maxi yacht.
“Having never sailed on Perpetual Loyal, I don’t know any of the tricks to racing her, what her sweet spots are. So my role is different to when I am on Alive as I will probably be more the provider of information from a climate and meteorology and current perspective whereas on Alive it is very hands-on knowing the performance qualities of that boat.”
Turton will luckily have alongside him a team of familiar faces with Cameron Miles, Michael Coxon, David Blanchfield, Sven Runow, Ben Morrison-Jack and others making up the impressive crew list.
First up for Turton has been to switch all the boat equipment and make sure it is working. The boat hasn’t been raced since the last Rolex Sydney Hobart Race when she retired after hitting an unidentified object and then the hull delaminating. In recent months the boat has been on the hardstand for repairs, measurement and a tidy up of its striking black hull.
“I have been familiarising myself with the operations of all the electronics and how all the communication systems work, and the data that is there about performance and sail charts. On the water I have checked that the instruments have been calibrated accurately. And then other simple things like making sure the compass is pointing in the right direction.”
This will be Turton’s sixth Sydney Gold Coast race. He expects Perpetual Loyal will take less than two days to complete the course. “Some of the routing I have run this week has certainly been around the day mark; nothing more than two days. Looking at the weather I think early in the race will be quite comfortable on record pace, but that is going to end quite quickly.
“The start looks quite a good, solid westerly. Certainly the front going through only goes up to Seal Rocks or around that vicinity and then it is all trying to make up its mind what it wants to do from there on. It could be quite a mixed bag from there going north.”
There is some daylight in the entry list to the next big boats, Jim Cooney’s 80-foot Brindabella and Peter Harburg’s Volvo 70 Black Jack. Where Perpetual Loyal is able to stay out of trouble they should romp in on line honours, but will struggle to hold off on handicap some of the smaller, lighter, but very fast contenders.
The 66-boat Land Rover Sydney Gold Coast Race fleet will be started from Sydney Harbour at 1pm.
Once over the finish line at Southport, Turton will go straight back to the Sunshine Coast in time for the first week of university where he is studying a Science degree. He then heads back out on the water to navigate the 66-foot Alive in the Club Marine Brisbane Keppel Race which starts next Thursday.