George and Tim’s recap – 71st Edition of the Brisbane to Gladstone Yacht Race

71st Brisbane to Gladstone, 2019


Over the Easter long weekend Tim and myself were fortunate enough to join a Queensland Crew for the 71st Edition of the Brisbane to Gladstone Yacht Race. Having never done the race before it’s hard to know what to expect.  Although racing may sometimes feel repetitive, especially offshore, every race has it moments that are remembered for years to come.

Having reached out to RQYS in early 2019, James, Sally and crew were keen for us to join Javelin, a J122, for the race north. After plenty of emails, phone calls and video chats I arrived in Queensland.  Tim did not, courtesy of a particular Australian Airline. With a hastily rearranged flight and eight hours in Melbourne airport, we were both at Royal Queensland and having a quick tour of the boat along with the usual safety brief.

After a short sleep and early morning we were off. With the forecast and navigator suggesting three hundred miles of reaching and running, the asymmetric was hoisted and we were away.   It’s so often the case that the start is the most tense part of the race and this was no different with forty boats on the line, ranging from thirty feet up to the Super Maxi, Black Jack at one hundred.  A run to start this adventure into the ocean, and with no doubt it was going to be exciting.

Javeline Crew – 71st Brisbane to Gladstone 2019

An hour into the race and disaster struck, although fortunately not for us.  Ichi Ban,  previous race favourite, was spotted motoring in the wrong direction with a stump for a mast (when going offshore use the offshore rig, if any of you have the luxury of choice). After six hours of flying kites we were out of Morton Bay and out on the ocean. Time passed and so did Tim’s dinner (it happens to the best of us).  As usual it was dark at 1830 and the night racing was on.  40 knot squalls and zero visibility through the evening, we flew north under the Code 0. The Asymmetric was down and zero half way up when disaster struck. I’d caught my PFD on something and, boom, I was a big yellow blob on the bow. Turns out, when inflated they are not designed with movement in mind.

With an uncomfortable sea state and powerful gusts, we broached in the early hours of the morning. I was thrown from bed, Tim, who was on deck, was knee deep in water with waves crashing over the bow.  The usual heroics were performed to recover the situation. Following the rolling night we rounded Sandy Cape, passing Lady Elliot Island and into the Paddock for the run home. With the A4 hoisted, winds gusting to 25 knots, we surfed down waves, once hitting 19.2 knots, hunting down yachts through the 8 hour run into Gladstone.

The run into the finish was made difficult under the darkest of nights and with the movement of big ships up the busy channel to contend with. We managed to pass the narrow stretch with a few difficult gybes and began searching for the finish, not easily done in a commercial port with the thousands of lights beaming from the shore. With 3 miles to the finish, we fended off the larger yachts we had chased down across the paddock for an exhausted 2200 finish time. Ten minutes later the complimentary case of beer was hoisted on deck; we had made it.

After finishing a few rums and some weak Queensland Beer (No Tim, it is not real beer….) it was time for bed. With a short sleep in and a lazy day of rehydrating, watching the remaining yachts finish, we eagerly awaited the presentations in the evening. A 5th on IRC Div 1, was our best individual result, but we took second place of the highly contested Federation Cup with our team mates on Kerumba and Black Jack.

We would like to thank Alicia for putting us in touch with Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron and James, Sally and the Javelin crew for having us on board! It was an awesome experience with memories to share for a long time to come. The Brisbane to Gladstone is a great way to spend your Easter.  Tim and I could not recommend it highly enough, especially for those eager to try something new, and in warmer water.

George and Tim