100 days to go: Race record on the line as the offshore focus turns to Noumea

At 1,064nm the PONANT Sydney Noumea Yacht Race will be the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s longest offshore race of 2018, and with a race record reaching back to 1991, a target for some of the world’s fastest keelboats.

Following a sojourn of over 20 years, the race to the capital of New Caledonia returns with the co-operation of the Cercle Nautique Caledonien and starts on Saturday, 2 June 2018 from Sydney Harbour. After racing from the heads this Category 1 challenge will take the fleet across the stunning Tasman and Coral Seas to Noumea where a winner will be crowned for the fastest elapsed and corrected times.

It took George Snow’s Brindabella 5 days 20hours four mins to complete the trip 27 years ago but the sharks are circling, including the biggest of them all.

Fresh from taking the line honours win in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race 2017 and becoming an Australian resident, the 100ft supermaxi Comanche would be expected to smash what is a conventionally ballasted record and set a new fastest open time.

Owner Jim Cooney has plans to keep the boat busy racing in the CYCA’s biggest races and Noumea is a potential for the agenda, “We’re definitely looking at it, I’m definitely interested. We’ve put it in the calendar but whether we actually get to the starting line depends on a few things.”

“We are considering some modifications to the boat and also availability of crew and adequate training times. There are some caveats there but we are interested. It would be a fun race and a great race for Comanche to be involved in.”

It will be a similar mindset for Rupert Henry and his Judel-Vrolijk 62, Chinese Whisper, which has entered the race but the boat’s appearance at the start will be dependent on a couple of factors.

Sure to be racing off on 2 June will be the reigning Rolex Sydney Hobart overall winner Matt Allen and Ichi Ban. Whether the competing Ichi Ban is the Tattersall winner remains to be seen however.

“We haven’t worked out which boat we will take to Noumea, the crew and I probably have slightly different views on which one but we’re looking at it,” said Allen. If it does end up being the RSHYR winning Ichi Ban, Ichi Ban would be one of the three potential TP52’s along with Peter Wrigley and Andy Kearnan’s, KOA, and Michael Martin’s, Frantic.

Matt Allen currently represents one of three Past Commodore’s of the CYCA who have entered along with John Cameron (More Witchcraft), Howard Piggott (Flying Cloud), while the current board will be strongly represented by Tony Kirby and Noel Cornish. Topping the Blue Water Pointscore Series for 2017, Kirby’s Patrice has been in exceptional form and will be a force to be reckoned with, as will Cornish’s St Jude which led the same series for a substantial period before finishing a very respectable third.

The smaller boats of the fleet will be well supported by the ever-impressive Komatsu Azzurro. Shane Kearns’ S&S 34, is aiming high: “Obviously, I think I’m going to win as usual! It will be one of the biggest races we’ve ever done, which presents logistical problems with fuel and water. I’m working on seven days to get there."

"It’s a really good fleet and with the feeder races going, we’ll make a bit of a holiday of it then compete in the Groupama Race around New Caledonia. Then of course we have to get back to defend our Sydney Gold Coast title.”

It is a wide open field with the added interest of a cruising division for diversity to the challenge.