Veteran skippers gather for race

BEFORE the fleet set sail in the 30th Pittwater to Coffs Harbour Yacht Race yesterday, a group of veteran skippers took the time to gather for a photo opportunity.

Of the 50 boats that faced the starter at the point between Lion Island and Barenjoey Headland, at least 20 were in the hands of captains who have completed the voyage more than 20 times.

Coffs Harbour Yacht Club Commodore Garry Innes said getting them all together to record the moment for posterity was an opportunity too good to miss.

“These guys are the real sailors, the really dedicated ones who have made this the race it is today,” he said.

Many of those assembled feature in the book that's been prepared to commemorate the three decades of ocean racing from Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club to the northern port.

The book – Racing to Coffs: Memoirs Of A Coffs Race Addict – has been co-authored by Angus Gordon, credited by most as the man who came up with the idea of a warm-water passage race up the coast as an alternate to the Sydney to Hobart, and long-time race publicist Damian Devine.

Richard Hudson, a 25-year race veteran and skipper and co-owner of Pretty Woman, is one of many participants keen to help write the 31st chapter of history.

“We are looking to an exciting and hopefully fast race,” he said at the briefing.

“The boat and crew are in good shape and we're ready to go.

“Fortunately we have the experience and knowledge of Angus Gordon on board to help navigate.

“In fact, after I read his book I called him up and said ‘you've just got to come with us' and he agreed.”

While researching for the book a few out-of-school tales surfaced that expose otherwise forgotten exploits.

Among the tales revealed is the surprise of one crew as they involuntarily surfed across the Edith Breaker bombora, the beaching of a couple of yachts that tracked too close to the surf zone off Newcastle Bight and the cutting off of the mast of one yacht under Swansea Bridge, just so they could get a drink at the Lake Macquarie Yacht Club after pulling out of the race after a challenging first afternoon.

The book is a treasure trove of information that is variously factual, anecdotal, tactical or technical.

Keith Le Compte, winner of the inaugural race back in 1981 with White Pointer, watched yesterday's start with a couple of his original crew.

“In my time it was all about the current and back then all we had were thermometers,” he said.

“Now it's internet and maps.

“The current can be the trickiest thing so I say to the competitors, beware of the currents, appreciate the scenery and enjoy the reception at the other end where there's always a great atmosphere and camaraderie.”

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