Tonight’s 50th Pipe Opener Series race down the River Derwent and D’Entrecasteaux Channel has attracted the biggest fleet in years, with 35 yachts due to set sail from off Castray Esplanade at 7.00pm.
The 32 nautical mile race to Garden Island near the mouth of the Huon River is a lead-up to the coveted Huon Acquaculture Cock of the Huon race off historic Shipwrights Point on Saturday afternoon and a return race from Port Huon on Sunday.
North to north-westerly winds of 10-15 knots are forecast for tonight which should give the fleet a fast run/reach down the Derwent and the Channel on what appears to be a cloudless night.
The Ronald Young & Co Builders Pipe Opener Series is the traditional pre-season regatta for southern Tasmanian yachting and is a joint effort between the Derwent Sailing Squadron and the Huon Yacht Club.
Officially, the yachting season starts with the colourful Opening Day sail past on Saturday, 6 October, with the first Combined Clubs summer pennant race the following Saturday, 13 October.
Attracting the big fleet is the 50th anniversary of the Pipe Opener Series and also because tonight’s race has been included for the first time in the Combined Clubs Offshore Trophy series of four races.
Three of these overnight races will be held before the Christmas ocean races to Hobart from Sydney, Melbourne and Launceston, with Combined Club racing this summer using the international IRC rating as the major handicapping system.
Heading the fleet tonight is Mike Pritchard’s Cookson 50 Oskana which, along with David Alpin’s Mbd36 Whistler, are contesting the Melbourne to Hobart West Coaster race in late December.
Also in the Pipe Opener fleet is Black Sheep, a Beneteau 45 which Matthew Pilkington will skipper in the 74th Sydney Hobart.
Other prominent yachts include Shaun Tiedemann’s Sydney 36cr Philosopher and Brett McKay’s Radford 35L Rad which, along with Whistler, are expected to contest the Australian Yachting IRC championships on Melbourne’s Port Phillip next January.
Several boats expected contest this year’s Launceston to Hobart race will also be lining up for the challenging race down the Channel night.
They include last year’s L2H overall winner Mako, Phil Soley’s Farr designed 9.1m sloop built of Tasmanian timbers 41 years ago.
Two other past L2H winners in the fleet are Paul Einoder’s Beneteau 34 Off-Piste, and joint winners Wings Three, Peter Haros’s Northshore 38, and Emotional Rescue, Michael Hutchinson’s Hobie 33, a past Cock of the Huon winner.
The opening race of the Pipe Opener has drawn entries from the three major Hobart yacht clubs, Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania, Derwent Sailing Squadron and Bellerive Yacht Club, as well as from Kettering Yacht Club and Huon Yacht Club.
Entries from the regional clubs include Brent McKay’s Radford 35L Rad together with Crusader, Scott Sharp’s Melges 32, the Elliott 780 sports boat Another (Michael Bartlett) and David O’Neill’s Kaufman-designed Redback.
Words: Peter Campbell
Photos: Peter Watson, Peter Campbell
21 September 2018