With 50 days to go until the 2022 Noakes Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race, we caught up with the 50th entrant, Shearwater.
Guido Belgiorno-Nettis has entered his champagne gold Frers 57, which he will race two-handed alongside Chris Cook.
German Mani Frers Jr was commissioned by Guido to design Shearwater, which launched in 2018 after being built by McConaghy Boats Australia.
The all-carbon 57-foot yacht was created for cruising, with an elegant cockpit and deck, and spacious, comfortable cabin.
After all, that was Shearwater’s original purpose.
But she is now the definition of a racer-cruiser. After the Noakes Sydney Gold Coast, Guido will be joined by wife, Michelle, switching back to cruise mode for a scenic sail through the Whitsundays, before competing in Hamilton Island Race Week.
Four years on from Shearwater's launch, would Guido have anticipated he would be racing her, especially two-handed?
"I would have said "no, you’re kidding. Good idea, but I'm not going to do that'," he said.
"But the bug hit me. I started thinking about how I could get the boat to the places I wanted to get it to for cruising.
"I didn't build it to race. It is a performance boat, so we will enjoy the trip to Gold Coast. It’s got a nice motion to it and as long as we don't have a gale, we should have a nice trip north."
While races like the Noakes Sydney Gold Coast and PONANT Sydney Noumea Yacht Race facilitate Guido's cruising ambitions, there has been plenty of work done to get Shearwater ready for Category 1 racing.
"I started doing it enthusiastically, and then realised how big a job it was!" he said.
"I've been going through all sorts of preparations to make sure the boat is safe.
"I designed and launched the boat as a cruiser, then I decided to enter the boat in Cat 1 races. It’s a high bar to jump for a cruising boat. But it's equipped with everything you need to sail it on your own.
"I'm very familiar with the boat and it's got some wonderful systems on board that make it very pleasant to sail, and safely as well."
Guido and Chris met at the 2009 Farr 40 World Championship and have had a close relationship on and off the water since then, enjoying plenty of success together.
Chris crewed on Guido’s boat Transfusion when she won the 2011 Rolex Farr 40 World Championship and also in Guido’s victorious campaign for the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron in the 2019 Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup.
"Chris is calm. He's a good thinker, he's skilled and he has enough experience in both life and sailing to be cautious, but also adventurous," Guido said.
"They're similar to the qualities I have. We're very compatible – intellectually and in our interests in conversation."
Shearwater will compete in the PHS handicap category for the Noakes Sydney Gold Coast.
She is described as a "reaching, running boat", which will thrive downwind. But whatever the conditions for the 384 nautical mile race, Guido and Chris will take a conservative approach in their first major race together.
"I don't want to push it to the point where we become unstuck," Guido said. "We’ll be sailing the boat at 85% of its maximum. We're not going to 100%.
"If the forecast shows a massive change coming, we'll do it early, get it done and go slowly for half an hour or an hour.
"But that's better than getting caught up in a massive blow and trying to reef things down. We don't want to go that way.
"We don't have the ambition or crew to be trying to win for those purposes. Our purpose is to get up to the Gold Coast, enjoy the trip and make sure we don't spill the tea or coffee on our way!"
They may not get much sleep during the race, but with comfortable sleeping quarters, and toasties and home-made gnocchi on the menu, the journey to Gold Coast looks set to be one to savour for Guido and Chris in their first major two-handed race as co-skippers.