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52-footers battle for overall honours as Black Jack leads Andoo Comanche in Line Honours tussle

52-footers battle for overall honours as Black Jack leads Andoo Comanche in Line Honours tussle
SAILING - 2022 Noakes Sydney to Gold Coast 30/07/2022 photo Andrea Francolini GWEILO ©Andrea Francolini

52-footers battle for overall honours as Black Jack leads Andoo Comanche in Line Honours tussle

The 52-foot yachts have emerged as the frontrunners for overall honours on the first morning at sea in the 2022 Noakes Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race.

The fleet of 61 boats endured a frustrating start to the 384 nautical mile race on Sydney Harbour at 1pm yesterday (Saturday 30 July).

A tame 2-3kt sou’easter meant some of the boats at the back of the fleet took three hours to get out of Sydney Heads and begin the journey north.

Peter Harburg’s Reichel/Pugh 100, Black Jack (skippered by Mark Bradford), led Hamilton Island Wild Oats (Mark Richards) out of the Heads, with Moneypenny (Sean Langman) and Andoo Comanche (John Winning Jr) in pursuit.

But the Oatley Family’s Reichel/Pugh 100 slipped off the pace around Newcastle and was passed by Andoo Comanche just south of Nelson Bay.

Black Jack, Line Honours winner in the 2021 Rolex Sydney Hobart, remains the one to catch with around 190nm to go until the finish off Main Beach. Andoo Comanche is roughly 3nm further back and gathering momentum.

The battle for the Peter Rysdyk Memorial Trophy, awarded to the overall winner on IRC, is shaping up as an enthralling contest between some of the ten 52-footers in the fleet.

Matt Donald and Chris Townsend’s Gweilo (skippered by Peter Merrington), led the way at 0900hrs, with Quest (Craig Neil), Zen (Gordon Ketelbey), Ichi Ban (Matt Allen, skippered by Gordon Maguire), Patrice (Tony Kirby), Smuggler (Seb Bohm), Celestial (Sam Haynes, skippered by Jack Macartney) and KOA (Peter Wrigley and Andrew Kearnan, skippered by Chris Way and Paul Williams) all in close proximity on the standings.

There isn’t much to separate those boats on the water and we could be in for some exciting finishes.

Mark Spring is enjoying a solid start to life on his new TP52, Highly Sprung.

She currently sits around 7nm behind Gweilo and navigator Patrick St John says the crew are determined to remain in touch with their closest rivals.

"We are enjoying our race on the new boat," St John said.

"We are still working out how to set it up and we’re doing our best to hang on to the leading TP52s.

"It was a cold night, but we kept moving throughout the night in NW winds."

Black Jack and Moneypenny (owned and skippered by Sean Langman, Managing Director of Race Sponsor Noakes Group) are also in the mix, as is Bruce Taylor’s Caprice 40 Chutzpah (Skippered by his son, Andrew Taylor).

David Griffith’s JV62 Whisper, is pleased with the progress made overnight.

Whisper is fifth on the water, around 7nm behind Moneypenny, and should be in contention for overall honours.

"It was a slow and cool night, however, the wind stayed with us after big swings in direction and strength up to Norah Head," Griffith said.

"We settled into a steady 8-12 knots close hauled, pretty well allowing us to sail close to a direct line along the coast."

Jules Hall’s J/99 Disko Trooper_Contender Sailcloth is again well-placed among the 10 remaining two-handed boats.

Jules and co-skipper Jan Scholten led Two-Handed IRC early on Sunday morning, but others including Rum Rebellion (Shane Connelly/Tony Sutton), Transcendence Crento (Martin Cross/John Cross), Crux (Carlos Aydos/Tomas Kliman), and Rumchaser (Andrew Butler/Ansii Paatero) have made up ground.

Avalanche (James Murchison/James Francis) and KD4 (Joe de Kock/Richard Hooper) are the lead two-handers on the water, with around 290nm to go.

The first retirement of the race came on Sunday morning as Shearwater, Guido Belgiorno-Nettis’ Frers 57, was forced to pull out due to issues with the boat’s VHF and AIS.

Guido was racing two-handed alongside Chris Cook. Shearwater has pulled into Port Stephens.

On board Craig Douglas’ Beneteau First 47.7 Popeye, navigator Julie Hodder provided an update on a very chilly morning.

"It is on the nose most of the way and very cold!" Hodder said.

"I thought we did well going out of the Heads. Then up the coast to Pittwater, we kept taking to shore as that wind was going to move more left.

"It paid off and we got in front of a few boats."

Some of the early contenders for ORCi honours include Hamilton Island Wild Oats, Moneypenny, White Bay 6 Azzurro, Black Jack and Quest. Meanwhile, Mondo, Mako, Reve, Norton White Corum and Ciao Bella occupy the top five spots in the PHS standings.

Follow the race via the live tracker and standings pages on the official race website.