Southern hemisphere's longest shorthanded race

Melbourne-Osaka doublehander gets underway on Sunday

Friday March 14th 2003, Author: James Boyd, Location: Australasia
The first leg of the Melbourne-Osaka Race kicks off tomorrow. Now officially known as the 2003 Tasaki Osaka Cup, this four yearly event is the southern hemisphere's foremost long distance sailing event - two handed and 5,500 miles long.

Tomorrow's leg will depart from Melbourne's Sandringham Yacht Club and head for Blairgowrie Yacht Club. Port Phillip Bay will come to life with a spectacular Race Down the Bay celebration. Historical vessels and a flotilla of yachts will follow the competing yachts to Blairgowrie.

The following day - Sunday - will see the race start properly with the gun going at 11am local time.

The event has attracted 22 competitors, the majority from Australia and New Zealand, but also from Japan, France and Denmark.

The past week has seen competitors heading out into Bass Strait for overnight or one-day quick qualifying runs to gain the required miles to start the race, and rushing to complete last minute changes to their boats.

Philip Coombs, Vice Commodore of the Sandringham Yacht Club and skipper of the C Class racer No Fearr, has found the week to be enjoyable and exciting, but certainly hectic, citing the magic ‘to do’ list as an ever growing problem.

"It seems like you complete four items from your list, and magically another five will be added. My list is now longer than it was a week ago!" Philip said.

"The safety checks have been very stringent for everybody, and you know how much yachties love paperwork! But I think nearly everybody is getting their boats together now," he added.

When asked about how the costs were going with all the expense of safety material and the like, Philip reiterated what most of the competitors have been saying, that the competitors are in it for the race, and definitely not for financial gain.

"The budget for most competitors was blown long ago. It is now a matter of just starting the race so the fire hose of money can be turned off!" Philip said. "But I can say on behalf of all of us that all we now want is to go sailing! Two more sleeps!"

Tony Warren, skipper of Beyond Outrageous, agrees. “Definitely, the hardest part of the race is getting to the start line. Just simple things like making the safety standard have been quite difficult,” Tony said.

Tony, a veteran of two Osakas, is hoping to make every post a winner on his third attempt to win the world’s longest longitudinal yacht race. Tony had to pull out in 1995 after sustaining serious damage off Papua New Guinea and finished third in his division in 1999.

In 2003, Tony has teamed up with sailmaker Anthony Elliot. Anthony and Tony have done a lot of work on Beyond Outrageous, and are hoping to finish the race in 30 days.

But in the end, all competitors are in it for the love of the sport, according to Philip Coombs. "Once we start, the only challenge will be getting to Osaka. Winning will be the result good preparation, skill level and just a bit of luck. If all goes well, we’ll all finish and a place will be just a bonus on top of a life changing experience for all of us," he said.

With the Tasaki Osaka Cup just two days away, Ivan and Sibylle Macfadyen are feeling confident that their yacht Funnel Web will live up to expectation.

The MacFadyens will operate on a two hours on and two hours off roster for the 30-odd days it takes to complete the race, with some extra preparations necessary as well, according to Sibylle. "I’m bringing more than 100 CDs, but I’ll still probably be sick of all of them by the time we get to Osaka. I guess it’s almost a two-and-a-quarter person race, as we do have an auto-pilot," she added.

The couple were very happy with their safety inspection, with only one or two things to complete, they are probably one of the most well-prepared crews in the fleet. Their yacht has just been launched, and with it’s sleek lines and bright yellow ‘spider’ design, looks menacing enough to win the race.

Sibylle thinks the spider design is a little bit intimidatory, and is hoping to race aggressively in the 16-metre yacht, which was designed by Robert Hick. “It’s a great boat, very fast. Robert designed only boat to finish the infamous 1998 Sydney to Hobart, Midnight Rambler. So we’re happy with our safety during the race,” Sibylle said.
Ivan and Sibylle haven’t decided which route they will take to Osaka, and will wait to see what the weather offers before deciding.

“You never know what the weather is going to do, especially between Melbourne and Coffs Harbour. But we have just prepared for the worst,” Sibylle said.

“I just can’t wait to get out there. We have taken the boat out for several reasonably long runs and it has been fabulous. Last week, about 30 miles out of Port Phillip bay, there was no wind to speak of, and Funnel Web was skipping along at 11 knots!” she added.

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