Latitude 28 by Ian Grant

Australian Marine Enterprises Joe Akacich and  Graham ‘Scooter’ Eaton.Old Salts steer Jess on her way

Tenacious Sunshine Coast teenager Jessica Watson claimed a deserved place in the history of solo Globe sailing when she triumphantly steered her weather battered yacht Ella’s Pink Lady to end her epic voyage.
She naturally became the focal point of a hero’s welcome with many of her well wishers standing in disbelief on how a petite young girl found the courage and determination to achieve her goal and become the youngest person to sail alone and unassisted around the world.
This remarkable teenager deserves all the applause and recognition for having defied the advice from many experts that she was too young too small and too inexperienced to sail a relatively slow yacht around the globe alone.
A wave of negativity naturally gained momentum when Ella’s Pink Lady was extensively damaged in a collision with a ship during the first night on the delivery voyage to Sydney.
There were some obvious sea safety issues that had to be addressed when Jessica berthed Ella’s Pink Lady at the Gold Coast City Marina.
Her little yacht was in a sad state with the top half of the $38,000 dollar mast hanging precariously over the side, while damage to the life rails and hull effectively jeopardised her globe sailing challenge before it started.
However, she could not have berthed at a better place with the damage assessed by a group of friendly and experienced deep sea  sailors including specialist boat restorers Joe Akacich and Graham ‘Scooter’ Eaton from Australian Marine Enterprises.
“We could see her disappointment and were not prepared to sit back and deny a young Australian adventurer from having a go,” Joe Akacich said.
“It became a case of placing a smile back on the young kid’s face which meant we faced a huge workload in a tight time frame. Sure it became a labour of love but we had to have her back on the water before the hurricane season derailed her schedule.
“It was a mammoth task working around the clock for two weeks making sure that Ella’s Pink Lady had the required sea worthiness to allow Jessica to realise her ambition but it was all worthwhile.”
“We instinctively understood what was needed to ‘beef up’ the little boat to the handle nature’s torment and were happy to see Jessica turn her dream into a rewarding real life experience,” Graham Eaton said.
As her voyage revealed Jessica is no ordinary teenager showing remarkable courage and maturity to safely sail past the notoriously rough and cold landmark of Cape Horn while being physically and mentally tormented by numerous severe weather warnings and wild knockdowns along the way.

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Tasar Test

The New South Wales Tasar dinghy sailing combination of Rob and Nicole Douglass will make a strong claim to win the Australian championship Gold Medal in this month’s 2010 championship off Airlie Beach.
They have proved to be the in-form crew winning the National Titles in Perth, on Lake Macquarie and in Darwin which supports their claim to be the crew to watch when the battle lines for the 2010 championship are drawn on the Whitsunday Sailing Club course on Pioneer Bay.
Racing in an unfamiliar environment does not present a problem to the Douglass crew who seem to have the mental and physical ability to produce the required results when the tactical pressure is applied.
They have a unique understanding and apart from winning a silver medal in Adelaide have the class experience and results to again dominate at the top level.
But first the Douglass racing team, while finding the tropical winter sailing environment in the Whitsunday Islands warm and pleasant, will need to develop a good understanding of the local conditions which can become tricky and unstable if there is any westerly slant in the prevailing breeze.
There is a chance that the impressive fleet representing the best Tasar class sailing crews form all Australian States and the Northern Territory will have to face racing in a ‘mixed bag’ of breeze, which could favour veteran South Australian skipper Craig McPhee who had the edge in boat speed to win the 2007/8 series over the Douglass’s in Adelaide.
Both Rob Douglass and Craig McPhee have shared the championship trophy since 2004 when Craig McPhee combined with Kevin Kellow to clinch a popular win off Mission Beach.
This result proved the champion South Australian skipper had a good feel for sailing fast in a tropical climate, which could again provide him with a winning boat speed advantage over the World and Australian championship winning Douglass’s.
But there is no doubt that Craig McPhee who is a very tough opponent to beat will adopt a conservative approach to keep his dinghy Roll Your Own on the required pace. How he will fare will depend on refining his sailing skills in combination with crew mate Phillippa Arevalo who replaces the experienced dual National champion Gil Berry.
Crew understanding will be a major factor and there will be no favours on offer when the high standard fleet line up to contest the Invitation race on Sunday 4 July.
The result of this race while being important in terms of showing who is on the pace is strictly a ‘feeler’ in sorting out the championship contenders when the title officially begins with the first of five races on Monday 5 July.
However, based on their extensive Tasar class racing experience and previous championship results Rob and Nicole Douglass in Coolit and the crafty veteran Craig McPhee in Roll Your Own appear as the most likely to feature when the final race is decided on Saturday 10 July.

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Record Chase

Save Our Seas Ocean Racing skipper Ian Thomson has continued to log a fast average speed in his attempt to smash the solo circumnavigation of Australia record.
The Whitsunday Sailing Club member skippering the impressively fast Hugh Welbourne designed 12m yacht has stuck to his promise of taking the 68 day 8 hour 30 minute record set by David Beard 20 years ago into a new time zone.
During his first 12 days Thompson set a cracking pace with the water ballasted yacht logging an hourly average speed of 8.98 knots on her anti-clockwise voyage.
He completed a third of the approximate 6,542 nautical mile challenge when he entered the long haul down the remote and often inhospitable waters off the West Australian coastline.
Apart from being bodily tossed onto the cockpit floor during an involuntary gybe, Thomson reported all was well onboard when SOS Ocean Racing sailed into a sloppy and confused Indian Ocean west off Broome.
However, the comfort of sailing in a relatively pleasant tropical autumn climate  continued to change as SOS Ocean Racing tracked a course into the cold latitudes of the Indian Ocean to weather North West Cape (Exmouth Gulf) and then onto West Cape Howe and the stormy waters of The Great Australian Bight.
Meanwhile the solo sailor, who has committed the physically tough record challenge to raise awareness about the damage plastic bags are doing to the oceans of the world, continues to enjoy a fast sail towards entering a unique record in his personal logbook.
But first he will face a supreme test of endurance and seamanship as he navigates a course towards the cold and inhospitable waters which are continuously tortured almost daily by bone chilling winds born in The Great Southern Ocean.
Ian Thomson is well aware of the challenge that remains ahead but the cold latitudes are known to be even more volatile during the colder months and this is expected to test his sail reefing skill on the leg from West Cape Howe to the South East Cape of Tasmania.
His present speed average suggests this west to east sail across The Great Australian Bight will be fast, limiting the time he will spend ‘rugged up’ in the storm weather clothing.
Thomson remained in a buoyant mood after completing the first third of his voyage with a daily average of 215.75 nautical miles which is 75 nautical miles faster than his conservative prediction to complete the circumnavigation in 50 days.
Based on this average and barring any unforeseen damage to sails, hull and rigging, Thomson could sail back across the circumnavigation finish line off Airlie Beach, and after a well deserved rest he will prepare SOS Ocean Racing to contest the IRC class championship in the 2010 Meridien Marinas Race Week.