Excitement builds as thrill of iconic yacht race nears
STARING out into the harbour, Marina Hobbs imagines her yacht No Problem passing the finish line.
Sitting with No Problem crew member Tony Constance at the Gladstone Yacht Club, the pair can't hide their excitement for the upcoming QantasLink Brisbane to Gladstone Yacht Race.
"For us, racing home is special," Tony said.
Since the first event in 1949, the Brisbane to Gladstone Yacht Race has become one of the most prominent yacht races in Queensland.
This year marks the 65th anniversary of the iconic voyage, with the 2013 race on March 29 at 11am.
The premier offshore racing experience is the scene of two races that are run simultaneously - the monohull and multihull yacht races.
Marina said the race attracted premium yachts.
"It is second in Australia to the Sydney to Hobart. Even though the fleet is quite small this year, it's the blue water classic race."
The Gladstone yacht, No Problem, is a multihull schionning waterline, 11.6m in length.
Racing in its third year, the grand catamaran will participate in the multihull race.
From initial take-off, the yachts proceed to sail via a buoy off Redcliffe Point to the North West Channel, up to Caloundra and through to the Gladstone finish line.
Participating in his second Brisbane to Gladstone race, Tony said he had been involved with sailing since his first race at the tender age of eight, at the Noosa Yacht Marine Club.
"I will be working on the foredeck," he said. "I'll be making sure the sails at the front of the boat are running properly."
A true sailor in his own right, Tony said it was extraordinary for the event to be celebrating 65 years in action.
"The whole experience of sailing is something you can't beat. I think the best feeling is when you have known when you have completed the race and done your best.
"For us, racing home is special."
After hours sailing the seas, Marina explained it was often the final race from Gatcombe to the finish line that really counted, especially for local boaties.
"In some years we've been neck and neck all the way and it's been a tacking duel up the harbour between Port Curtis Sailing Club boats," she said.
The Gladstone harbour is full of sandbanks and mudflats, which can also prove challenging for visiting sailors.
"They are often trying to latch on to a local boat heading home and follow our lead, which sometimes doesn't actually do them much good," she laughed.
Marina said this year, for the first time in about five years, the presentation would be held at the sailing club.
But that's not the only highlight for the region.
"The other big thing it's been famous for is the after-party," Marina explained.
"The after-party for this race is as big, if not more well known, than the Sydney to Hobart yacht race."
On the other hand, the race could also be challenging and dangerous.
Tony said one of the common dangers was seasickness, but the biggest concern was the wind.
"With wind you get waves no matter what, so once you start getting the winds up around 30 knots, that's when stuff starts to become scary."
Marina adds, "It's like you're actually surfing, so you really have to steer well. It's not like just getting your book and sunnies and heading out on the water."
They are often trying to latch on to a local boat heading home and follow our lead, which sometimes doesn't actually do them much good
Back in 1972, Cyclone Emily caused havoc, with winds up to 96 knots.
Thankfully there were no casualties, but only five of the 25 race starters actually finished that year.
The crews are expected to give to the best of their ability, especially considering the limitations placed on some.
"On our boat we only take six," Marina explained, "so everyone has to be contributing the whole way."
Though during the journey, memorable moments are created.
"The multihull race is a little more relaxed," Marina said. "It's not quite as robust as the monohull race in that there are trophies for the best cooked meal."
The dinner is somewhat a rare treat for most - Marina said many crew members lived off Red Bull and Mars.
"It is about the fun," Tony said.
This year four Gladstone yachts will compete.
"There are three monohulls," Marina said. "Immigrant, Piranha and Wistari. Immigrant is a fast downhill boat."
The competition will be fierce but there are highlights along the way.
Tony said you saw a bit of wildlife while racing and the dolphins often rode the surf from the yachts.
When asked what he was most looking forward to in this year's race, Tony said, "The excitement and adrenalin rush of the start.
"Getting the boat going as good as we possibly can and working well as a team.
"Fingers crossed - it's all going to depend on the weather. I'm really hoping for a nice 20-25 knot easterly."
Tony said that sort of weather made the ride enjoyable.
"Boats actually get a funny hum when they get up to a certain speed."
As the yachts finish their final preparations, Gladstone residents will be cheering on their local competitors.
As Tony put it, "You can't beat the feeling of finishing."