Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club Commodore Russell Murphy at the launch of the 30th Pittwater to Coffs yacht race.
Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club Commodore Russell Murphy at the launch of the 30th Pittwater to Coffs yacht race. Bruce Thomas

Yacht club gets makeover

VISITORS to Coffs Harbour Yacht Club during the New Year racing season will discover many improvements and innovations around the precinct.

Commodore Darren Digney said his small band of volunteers had undertaken to renovate the building and surroundings in time for the Pittwater to Coffs Harbour Yacht Race and the offshore Festival of Sail and all would be in place when the boats arrived.

“It’s amazing what can be done with a small budget when you put your mind to it,” he said.

“The clubhouse has been redecorated and the last of the outside landscaping is just about there.

“Something new this year is the corporate area under the big tent with large television screens, where the yachties can come in and watch the races they’ve just been competing in.

“It’s been a long time coming to get us to this level but I think visitors are really going to enjoy what we have lined up for them.”

Entertainment has been expanded while the series is under way. Along with the in-house performances, a one-off show starring David Helfgott has been scheduled, with proceeds going to support men’s mental health charities.

Sand-modelling competitions will be conducted during the day, with movies on the beach when the sun goes down.

Visiting Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club Commodore Russell Murphy said the race series would never have reached its 30th staging without volunteer support.

“Over that time a lot has changed but those labouring in the background have always been our foundation,” he said.

Before the start in Sydney, the club will assign a host to each boat to assist its preparation for the trip north.

At the receiving end, an army of volunteers will also be on hand at Coffs Harbour Marina to greet the yachts as they cross the finish line. It is a tradition that has been going on since the start of the race in 1981.

As the skippers tie up they will be handed the obligatory case of beer – always a welcome sight for a thirsty and tired crew.

The introduction of a two-handed category has enticed six entries, with five of those from Queensland yacht clubs.

“They are the mad blokes, but in a nice kind of way,” Commodore Murphy laughed.

“Their boats may be little but they are still powerful machines.

“It’s great to see they’ve embraced the race but I know how hard it is on a big boat and you have to have something special in your make-up to approach it with just that crew of two.

“Going to Hobart is simpler as you get out of Sydney Harbour, fill the sail and hang on for the ride.

“But when you turn left instead and head for Coffs, it’s totally different.

“It becomes a tactical race, where skill is everything. That’s probably the reason why, as we approach 30 years, it hasn’t lost its gloss and continues to get stronger.”



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