8:03 AM Mon 28 May 2012 GMT
Yacht owners who live south of the Tropic of Capricorn have their sights set on the Notice of Race for the Airlie Beach Race Week regatta in the warm winter playground of the Whitsunday Islands.
'TP52 Cougar II - Airlie Beach Race Week 2012'
Peter Campbell &copy
Airlie Beach Race Week hosted by the Whitsunday Sailing Club remains as a popular drawcard for the crews who are planning an escape route from the chill factor associated with the winter gales that blow from The Great Southern Ocean.
The first high profile entry to contest the Grand Prix IRC division at Race Week 2012 has been officially lodged by Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania skipper Anthony Lyall the new owner skipper of the 2008 Audi Hamilton Island Race Week champion Cougar ll.
As expected while Cougar ll is the first entry from the Island State there has been a higher than normal interest from Victoria, New South Wales and West Australia with owners already firming accommodation arrangements for their crews, family and supporters.
This presents early confirmation that the 2012 Tropical Shirt regatta which is already known as friendliest on the Australian offshore sailing circuit will again live up to its reputation of providing exciting racing in the winter sun from August 10-16.
The entry of Cougar ll is an important step for owner skipper Anthony Lyall to gain the important tactical experience to be race prepared to fly his battle flag in the 2012 Rolex Sydney Hobart race in late December.
Meanwhile the performance of Cougar ll, the first fully optimised Trans-Pac 52 to test her boat speed at Airlie Beach Race Week, is expected to dominate the Grand Prix class line honours while the lower handicapped Mooloolaba Yacht Club sloop Brilliant Pearl (Gary McCarthy) should again show the required handicap rated speed to protect her 2011 Silver Medal in what promises to be an important tactical test for the Tasmanian team on Cougar ll.
Local Pioneer Bay sailors are also warming to the challenge with the experienced Kevin Fogarty steering Twister to an impressive win in last week's twilight sprint race.
Twister a relatively new Beneteau First 40.7 produced unmatched all angle sailing speed to protect her .883 handicap rating to secure a comfortable 1 minute 18 second win over the club championship leader Craig Piccinelli in Wobbly Boot while Nick Smail's Huahine claimed third another 30 seconds astern.
Both Twister and Wobbly Boot have been nominated to contest the Performance Handicap division at Airlie Beach Race Week and will need to reproduce their consistent sailing speed to match the competitively strong challenge from the New South Wales team including the John Bacon skippered Dark Star and Matt Allen's high performance Farr 40 Ichi Ban when the battle lines are drawn on Pioneer Bay in August.
Airlie Beach Race Week website
by Ian Grant