Gold Coast Australia heads for home portGold Coast Australia heads for home port

Southport Yacht Club’s magnificent marina became a welcome Port o’ Call last month for the Clipper Global Race fleet of ten identical yachts competing for honours in the world’s longest yacht race.
Heading the fleet was overall leader Gold Coast Australia skilfully helmed by 31-year-old Tasmanian aquatic adventurer Richard Hewson when they started the sixth leg of the 40,000 nautical mile challenge from New Zealand to Southport on December 4th.
Predictably this absorbing challenge has already tested the sailing skills of all crews as they have encountered a number of fearful challenges since the start in England in mid-August.
However, Richard Hewson, who has future plans of completing a solo voyage around the World, has helmed the robust masthead cutter racing under the Gold Coast Australia ‘battle flag’ to an impressive list of line honours winning all legs of the race including the stormy challenge of racing across The Great Australian Bight from Geraldton (West Australia) to Tauranga (New Zealand) in November.
This open ocean passage tested the fresh wind seamanship onboard all of the ten yachts with many of the crew rating their experience with the windy torment from the Roaring Forties as the toughest so far.
But many challenges lay ahead including facing the storm tormented Tasman Sea which has a history of commanding respect from the most experienced seafarer.
Naturally the crew of Gold Coast Australia will be focused on retaining their perfect score lead to be the first yacht to dock in the calm and peaceful waters at the Southport Yacht Club Marina.
They stand as the favourite, however, her experienced sailing master Hewson has developed a respect for the Australian coastal weather which has a reputation for turning a relatively calm ocean swell into a test of survival.
“The crew felt the fury of The Great Southern Ocean and handled the experience of being repeatedly drenched by big waves and cold wind,” Hewson said.
This 6th leg of the classic Global yacht race promises to provide the fleet with another searching test of seamanship and tactical navigation as they race north across the Tasman Sea into a warmer Queensland climate.
Depending largely on the prevailing weather the race leader is expected to make an uneventful Tasman Sea crossing before making the welcome landfall sighting of Point Danger followed by a sail along the Gold Coast beaches to the Southport Yacht Club. CEO Neale Hollier and Commodore Rob Mundle have planned a huge welcome for the Gold Coast stop over.

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Palk remains on track

Noosaville’s Ryan Palk has spent little time enjoying the comfort of family life at his Noosa Waters home during the past year as he pursues his Olympic dream.
He has basically lived out of his ‘sail bag’ competing in major Olympic class regattas in Europe and England with the Australian team.
However, as all sailors in the Olympic Laser class understand, there is no quick fix to the top of the International rankings presently dominated by multiple World champion New South Wales skipper Tom Slingsby.
Tom Slingsby is a super fit aquatic athlete and a master tactician and remains as the first choice skipper to represent Australia at 2012 Olympic regatta in England.
As expected Tom Slingsby has continued to mature with his career targeted towards racing in the Gold Medal round in England while his Australian team mates Ashley Brunning, Tom Burton and Ryan Palk remain in the chase as future Olympians.
All four talented one-design dinghy racing skippers again reflected Australia’s dominance at major International regattas with Tom Slingsby predicably claiming the ISAF World Cup Gold Medal in Melbourne during November.
Slingsby won five of the ten races and was placed in the top three in every race to win the series by a commanding 19 points over England’s Nick Thompson while Ashley Brunning won the Bronze Medal.
Tom Burton fifth and Ryan Palk eighth completed a convincing result for the Australian Team which attracted a 63 boat fleet representing 25 nations.
The Australian Olympic Laser squad coached by Sydney 2000 Bronze medallist Michael Blackburn has remained in full training for the Perth World Cup regatta.
There will be little time for Ryan Palk to enjoy time relaxing with friends and family before he is due back on the race course to contest the 2011-12 Australian championship on Brisbane’s Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron courses from December 27th to January 4th.
More importantly the super fit 23-year-old will have the chance to train with some familiar friends including Noosaville’s Klade Hauschildt and Maroochydore Sailing Club’s brother and sister Mitchell and Madison Kennedy.
Klade Hauschildt is particularly interested in testing his personal endurance and boat speed against Ryan Palk when the two friendly rivals tension the sails for the National championship points on Waterloo Bay.
They are great mates having spent endless hours in training together, however, while that respect remains the racing involves a more personal perspective.
Both have won Australian intermediate rig championships on Waterloo Bay, however, the slightly older Ryan Palk could be forced to protect his sailing space when the two long term training mates press their individual challenge for National Olympic Laser class medal honours later this year.

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Optimistic Optimist Skippers

Brendan Hoffman and Cedar White will take on an important sailing challenge when they represent the Whitsunday Sailing Club in the 2012 Australian Optimist Dinghy championship on Brisbane’s Waterloo Bay in January.
The two enthusiastic young skippers are among the 73 early entries including sailors from Australian, New Zealand and Hong Kong clubs.
They will face a supreme challenge of their individual sailing skill. However, even to race at the National level will prove to be a valuable experience for the Brendan Hoffman helmed G-Wizz and Cedar White in Junior Wings.
Racing in the championship represents the first major step for the junior Whitsunday Sailing Club skippers who are about to realise a huge difference between the racing in a small club fleet on Pioneer Bay to the challenge of protecting their sailing space when the sails are tensioned for the National championship points in an unfamiliar environment.
They will not be alone, however, with a high number of equally young and inexperienced sailors also testing their skills at the National regatta level for the first time.
Klaus Lorenz, their resident club coach who achieved Queensland’s best ever Australian championship result of third overall earlier this year, has encouraged the Whitsunday Sailing Club team including his younger sister Eva to think smart, and furthermore to enjoy the opportunity to gain the valuable experience of racing at the National level.
The experience of racing in big fleets is a valuable asset and irrespective of their results both Brendan Hoffman and Cedar White will emerge with the skills to protect the opportunity to sail in clear wind and water.
It took several major regattas for Klaus Lorenz to master this important Optimist class racing advantage which promises to prove invaluable when he and his teenage crew-mate Ollie Annear compete in their first Australian 420 Open and Youth championship on Deception Bay from the December 27th to January 2nd.
They have temporarily placed their school studies on hold with lengthy mid-week training sessions on Pioneer Bay in a bold bid to make sure they are physically and mentally prepared to contest a place in the front of the pack with Australia’s best 420 dinghy crews.
Both of the relatively self-taught teenage sailors who have refined the important boat handling skills in a varied range of wind and sea conditions on Pioneer Bay have the proven potential to make their presence count with an impressive maiden championship result.