Pittwater to Coffs

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A Fleet of 100 is expected for the 30th Anniversary Pittwater to Coffs Race in january 2011.

The Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club will celebrate the 30th Anniversary Pittwater to Coffs Harbour Race in early January 2011, with a large fleet expected.

The race began with humble beginnings back in 1981, with just 14 boats. Keith Le Compte’s Kaufman 37 ‘White Pointer’ won in a time of 47 hours 31 minutes. “We had a desire to go north, rather than south. I remember there was a big welcoming party when we crossed the finish line at Coffs. The locals were right behind it – it was great! We received a big bunch of bananas and a case of beer,” said Le Compte.

Fast forward 10 years and a record 108 boats competed for the 10th anniversary, as yachties found the ‘warm water’ option of this event hard to resist. The winning boat was Southern Cross Advertising, in a time of 44 hours 21 minutes. Roll on another decade to 2001, and it was ‘Xena’ taking line honours, in 34 hours 40 minutes among 104 boats who celebrated the 20th anniversary.

RPAYC Commodore Russell Murphy says, “The RPAYC hopes all competitors and newcomers get a taste of some challenging and spectacular east coast racing to help celebrate the 30th anniversary of this warm water classic. We’re pleased with the hard work the Coffs Harbour Yacht Club are putting into the event, and we know it will be a great event for everybody.”

The Cat 2 Pittwater to Coffs Harbour race is 226 nm and depending on conditions, takes around 40 hours for the bulk of the fleet to arrive. The record is held by Bob Oatley’s ‘Wild Oats IX’ set in 2003, in a time of 18 hours 29 minutes 14 seconds.

Following the ocean race, there are a number of races in Coffs over consecutive days to make up the five race series, providing the opportunity for competitors and their families to join in the party and enjoy a holiday.

With Coffs Harbour an easy 6 hours’ drive from Sydney, RPAYC Marketing & Publicity Manager Damian Devine said, “It’s a family event, so a huge social calendar is planned to accommodate the families on race days. The Festival of Sail runs parallel to the event, with movies on the beach, fireworks and sand modelling competitions.”

On top of the racing there will plenty of onshore activity for families, including day coach trips to Dorrigo National Park, the northern hinterland and to Bellingen to see the sights.

The first entry received was ‘Pretty Woman’, a Farr 45 racing under the RPAYC burgee. Owned by the syndicate of Commodore Murphy, Richard Hudson and Michael Lockley, this will be her 8th Coffs race, with her best finish to date a 2nd over the line and on handicap in 2009.

Skipper Hudson is one of the veterans of the race and in 2011 will be celebrating his 25th race to Coffs. With his record showing two 1sts, four 2nds and four 3rds on handicap, Hudson said, “I have been in many offshore races, and Coffs is one of my favourites. What I enjoy about the race is the opportunity to sail with good mates and also to give younger RPAYC members the chance to go in an ocean race. We always have a number of our youth development graduates on board, who may be doing their first ocean race to Coffs.”

Hudson is also chair of the Coffs Organising Committee. He is encouraged by the planning and the interest shown to date. “There’s been plenty of work behind the scenes in preparation for the 30th race at both ends. We’ve had a lot of interest from past competitors and newcomers who want to be part of this anniversary,” said Hudson.

For the first time, a shorthanded Division will be part of the race, so that those who prefer to sail two or three up can do so.

Ian Thomson’s Welbourn 12m ‘SOS Ocean Racing’ was the first entry into the Division. Earlier this year, he smashed the record for his solo circumnavigation of Australia.

Thomson commented, “I had plans to enter my boat anyway in the 30th Coffs race and planned to bring a full crew for the race; however, sailing with just one good mate will make for a great race. I think the event is awesome and a great alternative to turning right out the heads and heading south to colder weather. Any race that heads back to warmer climates is always a good race and with the Coffs to Paradise straight after, it is ideal for us Queenslanders.”

Thomson will be out to raise awareness of the damage plastic bags and plastics do to our environment – a concern he is committed to. “It would be wonderful if the whole fleet went plastic bag free for the event; after all, this is our playground we are talking about. We must protect it so it is there for future generations,“ he added.

Plenty of regulars will be among the competition, including the current IRC race handicap winner Bruce Staples, who will be back for the 30th race in his new Farr 40 ‘Witchcraft’ after winning the 2010 race in ‘Dark & Stormy Witch’, a Murray 37 custom and 2010 PHS series winner Robert Alder’s J35 ‘Jayhawk’, also entered.

Alder’s J35, one of the smallest in the fleet, is excited about the 30th anniversary race, given it will be his 10th race to Coffs and he has a PHS series title to defend. “Wouldn’t miss it for the world,” offered Alder. “This race is ideal for the J35. The distance of this race provides the crew with two days of sailing, with one and a half to two nights at sea, which is just right for us. The race itself is an extremely tactical race, bringing you right in close to the coast, land and sea breezes to pick and currents to contend with, so there are many decisions to be made along the way.”

Alder enjoys the Coffs race and commented, “Well, as they say, it’s the warm water alternative going to a great destination, where you can enjoy with family and friends and a couple of days of excellent racing off Coffs Harbour. You also get to enjoy New Year’s Eve in Sydney with family to watch the fireworks on Pittwater or the Harbour and follow that up with the race. It’s just a great way to start the New Year.”

It’s also expected that Bob Oatley’s 100 ft ‘Wild Oats XI’ skippered by Mark Richards will make the return trip from Hobart, as they did last year, provided no damage is done. She took line honours in the race last year and at the time, Richards vowed he would be back to celebrate the 30th anniversary.

In fact, the Wild Oats franchise collectively have taken out five of the past eight Coffs races line honours in three different boats and also hold the current race record of 18 hours 29 minutes 14 seconds set in the 2003 race with ‘Wild Oats IX’.

Another first is that satellite GPS trackers will be installed on each boat and will follow the fleet with boat’s positions updated on the event website every 15 minutes. This will assist media, competitors, spectators and families onshore following the race.

All the action during the race can be followed on the event website at

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