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J/99 silvers in 75th Brisbane to Gladstone Yacht Race

by J/Boats 1 May 23:49 BST
J/99 silvers in 75th Brisbane to Gladstone Yacht Race © Queensland Cruising Yacht Club

The 75th Brisbane to Gladstone Yacht Race (B2G), organized by Queensland Cruising Yacht Club, recently took place over the Easter Holiday weekend in Queensland, Australia.

The B2G is considered by the yachting fraternity to be one of Australia's flagship offshore yacht races- a 308.0nm whopper of a challenge along the shoreline. The Race is an officially recognized icon of Queensland and the highest profile Easter Weekend sporting event, setting sail from Moreton Bay on Good Friday annually. From the start, yachts proceed via a mark off Redcliffe Point to the North West Channel up to Caloundra and through to Gladstone, a distance of approximately 308 nautical miles.

For Tony Craner, owner of the J/99 BALANCING ACT, this was his first B2G as skipper, having sailed the race many times before as crew. BALANCING ACT had performed well in the qualifying race, the 90.0nm "Surf to City Race" in January with an IRC Div 2 win and 5th overall in IRC.

The 308.0nm B2G is normally a downhill race with often strong SE breezes. This year was different with strong northerlies predicted for the first 24 hrs and variable winds thereafter.

Tony commented, "The start is on Good Friday, the wind was light and we were a little buried. After the first mark was one of only two occasions this race we had a kite up. Once exiting Moreton Bay, the wind increased from the North, with a J4 and either a full main or a reef. The wind and stormy weather kept our crew of four busy, as we were often changing gears.

Well into the night, the storm fronts hit with wind, rain, and spectacular lighting. We initially kept to our strategy of tacking back into the coast, for sightly calmer seas and to stay out of the current. This paid dividends and we were up with many 40-footers. There were several retirements that night with one boat reporting a lightning strike. We were keeping pace with our friends on the J/111 BLACK DOG, so we were pleased. By morning, we were even happier, as we found out we were leading our division and overall on IRC.

Mid-day Saturday, we rounded "Indian Head" at the halfway mark. The winds now dropped and we went to the J2. A secret of the boat I previously sailed on was to cut close to the reef at Sandy Cape, the north part of Fraser Island. Given that opportunity, we did the same thing and sailed to a depth of just 3.5m!

On Saturday night was the run to Lady Elliot Island and the southern part of the Great Barrier Reef. We rounded the island at midnight, together with a pack of about ten boats nearby. During the rounding, the wind just died. All of us wallowed in the tide next to the island reef for two hours, and finally with the code zero up, we made some progress towards the mainland.

Early Sunday morning, we approached Bustard Head, only to become becalmed again for close to two hours. The boats behind still had some wind, so we knew our handicap time advantage had disappeared into thin air! Ourselves and the J/111 BLACK DOG headed to the shore to be first to pick up the new wind. Once moving again, the wind went to the north and took us the 10 miles to Gladstone Harbour entrance.

Finally, we got our kite up again for a short three miles. Then, back on the nose for the final 11 miles. On the run down the harbor, three larger boats took us due to waterline length, but we held others off by staying out of the tide.

As always in yachting, what might have been...

There were no disappointments for us! The J/99 and the crew performed well above expectations, particularly in the heavy sailing weather!

In the end, we got 6th place in IRC Division and 3rd place in ORC Division. Thankfully, picking up a few "pickle dishes" as rewards for our efforts!

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