Wild Oats X will be part of a revamped yacht race off Coffs Harbour.
Wild Oats X will be part of a revamped yacht race off Coffs Harbour. Trevor Veale

Classic race gets a revamp

THE city’s biggest maritime celebration is to undergo a makeover.

When the fleet leaves Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club on January 2, the 31st Pittwater to Coffs Harbour Yacht Race will become just one element of an expanded aquatic series boasting a new name and format.

Local club commodore Garry Innes said the event would be renamed the Coffs Harbour and Pittwater Regatta and Rally.

“The traditional passage race will remain the highlight, meaning the glamour maxi yachts like Wild Oats X and others will continue as a major drawcard whenever the owners and skippers choose to participate,” he said.

“Upon arrival, the Solitary Islands off-shore series will extend to four races and will be termed a ‘regatta’, which is a more precise description of what occurs.”

As far as the “rally” goes, it has nothing to do with cars, forests and dust.

“Probably the best way to describe our kind of rally is to think of boats cruising in company, rather than taking part in a race,” Innes said.

“Boats can enter specifically for this event and will start from Sydney as normal, before a one-night stopover in Port Stephens or Newcastle along the way.

“The following night would be another stop in Port Macquarie, prior to the final run to the finish line.

“Once they arrive in Coffs, many may choose to take part in the regatta, which should boost the numbers significantly.

“In past years, the bigger boats haven’t been able to get on to the water because of problems with manoeuvrability over the tight course.

“But this format has the potential to allow more boats and more crews to take part in more events without the pressure of competing only in the passage race ... and at the same time, doesn’t take a thing away from the tradition and stature of the main event.”

The changes have been made in response to financial and regulatory difficulties, which, behind the scenes, brought pressure to bear on the past few events.

Innes admitted that from about the time bad weather forced a last-minute course alteration in 2007-08, the event had been under threat to remain viable and relevant.

“Yes, it could have folded at one stage because of costs,” he said.

“The year before last was especially difficult, but we are confident these changes will breathe new life into the event and secure its future.”

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