1995 Sydney to Mooloolaba Race
By Paul Nudd from the 1995 August Multinews
As a result of some lobbying from the RMYC Multihull Division and an enlightened and progressive attitude from the Middle Harbour Yacht Club, both MHYC major ocean races now include a Multihull Division. The historic first occurrence was the 1994 Sydney to Southport Summer Classic. The new tradition continued with the Telecom Business Directories Sydney - Mooloolaba Race on April 7th.
XL2 was the first entry in - on the day the entry form was released. We held strong hopes for a fleet of more than 1. Greg Bean with Advance Case (ex Shotover II) expressed early interest but found the work needed on the boat was more than could be managed in time. Gavin Lesueur with Windswept had hoped to be in Sydney, but remained "land-locked" until Easter. Lyn Robbins and Rod Richards brought Australia's Child south from Townsville to Brisbane, but could not be convinced to go the extra miles to Sydney. Wayne Turner with the newly launched A Room With A View single-handed from Cairns to Port Moresby, back to Cairns and then south to Brisbane, but he could not ask his crew to put in the extra time and distance for the Sydney - Mooloolaba. Despite the efforts of Mike Peberdy and myself, we could not generate enough interest among the Sydney or Brisbane/Gold Coast multihull sailors to gain even 1 more competitor.
The monohull divisions had no such problems, generating a fleet of 60 boats, including Brindabella (75') and Whitbread Round World winner Tasmania (ex New Zealand Endeavour, 84') ranging down to the new IMS 30 footers. So we expected to have some good racing regardless of the conditions. The crew, consisting of Bob Hutchings, Brendan Strahan, Mike Peberdy, Zac Denney and Paul Nudd, gathered at MHYC on Saturday morning and took XL2 to Chinamans Beach for a quick scrub. Excitement was building with the wind and by 1 hour before start time the south westerly had exceeded 25 knots.
The start was off Watsons Bay in Sydney Harbour, scheduled for 1300hrs. The strong south westerly meant it was to be a downwind start and not wanting to tangle with any of the monohulls we opted for an extremely conservative start. We were probably 50 metres from the line when the gun was fired and had an excellent view of the mayhem that ensued. Some set spinnakers, some waited, and some rounded up, laid down-and exhibited their keels. XL2 started with full main and No.3 headsail, holding the spinnaker in reserve for when the traffic cleared. Cleared it did not! We soon found ourselves mid fleet amidst monohulls marginally in control. Running dead downwind with working sails is about as slow as "XL2" can go so we soon ran out of patience and set the kite, then waited for a break to shy up and get out. Eventually a gap opened up and we were away, heading for North Head at 16 knots! A quick gybe took us across the bow of 11 97 11 and out through The Heads to the open sea. Another gybe and we were heading for Mooloolaba with only 5 boats-ahead and 55 behind.
With plenty of sea room and c~ear ~ir we were now running in the high teens and twenties. First to succumb was Innkeeper (65' ), Bob knows some of the crew and so waved as we passed. Next was Bobsled (65' ), heading out to sea, but soon south of us. Condor (80') was not enjoying the conditions, right on the rhumb line but a little over pressed and going fairly slowly for an 80 footer. We flew past in hot pursuit of Tasmania and Brindabella. Tasmania was carrying two mainsails but only 1 spinnaker and appeared to be struggling while Brindabella looked great, bolt upright, completely in control and forging ahead of the bigger ketch. Passing Tasmania was quite a thrill, less than an hour from the start and only 1 ahead of us. By now the wind was over 30 knots and the gusts were taking us well below the rhumb line as we ran down the leader, but we decided to hang on to the kite for a little longer. Brindabella was sailing the rhumb line, kite up and doing high teens as we closed in, looking to cross about 20 metres behind her transom. Someone on board must have noticed us because they sheeted in the spinnaker a little and luffed up about five degrees. This was like a turbo cutting in as the water behind Brindabella turned white and she leaped to a record speed of 28 knots. Having put us in our place, Brindabella returned to the rhumb line course and more sedate speeds around 20 knots.
Soon the gusts were getting a little too much for our spinnaker and we were being carried too far east so we reverted to our No.1 headsail. To maintain good high speeds we had to sail well above the rhumb line but this was not all bad as it brought us into flatter water and out of the full force of the southerly set. We seemed to be maintaining a position due west of Brindabella but were unable to get any lead north of her.
At 1540hrs we had our first radio sked, efficiently conducted by Penta Comstat as usual. XL2 was east of Norah Head, west of the rhumb line. Brindabella was 2 miles further north and 4 miles further east. Tasmania was 3 miles further south and 4 miles further east.
By sunset we were off Port Stephens with the wind beginning to moderate. Relative positions about the same. By midnight we had passed Laurieton but had no report from our "competition". Through the night the wind eased and veered, we lost sight of the light ahead and the light astern came into view. Approaching Cof fs Harbour as the sun rose we had around 10 knots of north westerly. Hard on the breeze on port tack and making only 8 knots as daylight revealed Tasmania dead astern, moving in and flying a cloud of kevlar sailcloth. The 0640 radio sked revealed Brindabella 10 miles ahead, Tasmania 1 mile astern, Bobsled 33 miles astern and Condor 35 miles astern. In the light conditions Tasmania ground us down and sailed past to indward with about a 1 knot speed advantage. Shortly after we passed South Solitary Island, as Tasmania disappeared into the distance, the wind faded completely.
Being out in the set we observed from the GPS that we were going south at about 2 knots. After about an hour (felt like all day) a light northerly arrived. By sailing on port tack we could point the boat at Mooloolaba but the GPS showed we were going east at half a knot - out into the stronger set. By sailing on starboard tack we could point the boat west and make south west at 3 knots. So it was back towards Coffs Harbour to get out of the set. Once we were close inshore port tack was a viable proposition and we were able to make some distance north again. By midday Tasmania was out of sight and we started worrying about Bobsled and Condor.
1540hrs, sked time again. XL2 20 miles south of Yamba, Brindabella 31 miles ahead, Tasmania 23 miles ahead, Condor 13 miles astern, Bobsled 18 miles astern. We knew they were gaining on us but by sunset there was no sign of a sail on the horizon. The north westerly stayed in through the night allowing us to keep moving though at below maxi-monohull speeds. At midnight we were passing Cape Byron, again no report from the "competition". Skilful navigation by Bob took us inside the islands and reefs around Point Danger in the dark but sunrise on Monday revealed Condor dead astern about 2 miles away. The 0640 sked showed XL2 off Southport, Brindabella 64 miles ahead, Tasmania 49 miles ahead, Condor 1 mile astern, Bobsled 20 miles astern. We were delighted to have taken 2 miles from Bobsled in the light conditions but still worried about Condor. Around 0730 the breeze freshened and XL2 broke through to double figures, peaking at around 15 knots and leading Condor by 5 miles at 0930. Alas it didn't continue. The wind resumed its light north westerly tendencies and at 1230 Condor was abeam, the huge brown masthead genoa looking magnificent and powerful in the light wind. By 1300 Condor was clear ahead and by 1340 as XL2 rounded Cape Moreton she was 2 miles ahead.
The trip across to Mooloolaba was dead to windward with no increase in wind. Condor now was going faster and pointing higher. At least there was still no sign of Bobsled astern. The 1540 sked revealed that Brindabella had finished at 0906, Tasmania at 1042, Condor 5 miles ahead and Bobsled 25 miles astern. Again we had put distance on Bobsled. Condor sailed on to finish at 1640. At 1740 XL2 was 1.8 miles from Point Cartwright, 3 miles from the finish, and the wind disappeared. For over an hour we drifted south at half a knot, then the breeze returned, very light at first then strengthening to around 8 knots, allowing XL2 to finish at 1921, 10 hours after Brindabella. Bobsled finished at 2354, 41/ 2 hours after XL2.
The first monohull of comparable size to XL2 was Emotional Hooligan, finishing at 0651 on Tuesday.