What I Learnt During the Noakes Sydney to Gold Coast Yacht Race

by Benjamin Williams in Sydney to Gold Coast on July 31, 2018

So, I’d been planning on covering the start of the Sydney to Gold Coast from our yacht like we have done in previous years, but this year I thought I would do something different and meet the fleet on the Gold Coast for the finish.

This all seemed rather simple on the surface, so I booked my return flight based on last years arrival data. Well, that was my first mistake I didn’t even consider what the wind conditions were like last year and why the fleet arrived to the Gold Coast within two days. Having done the same passage the previous year on a delivery, I should have known this could easily take longer than two days, without the luxury of an engine keeping the boat speed above 7-knots.

So race day comes around, it’s a beautiful bright day in Sydney with light winds, we head out on Sea Monkey and wait by the cardinal marks west of Watsons Bay. We’ve found that this is a great place to linger while waiting for a fleet aimed towards the heads – it puts us in an optimal position to capture the majority of the fleet as most will cross paths north of the Cardinals.

The race was scheduled to start at 13:00 and all the yachts were looking ready-to-go, slowly tacking back and forth at the start line. 13:01 arrived, and the race was yet to start, so I decided to listen to the live commentary, only to discover that the race was postponed until the forecast winds arrived.

We continued to wait by the Cardinals for another 50 minutes… then finally the horn was sounded, and they were off and racing. All of a sudden you have 50+ boats charging toward you very quickly and it’s a scramble to try and capture every yacht in the fleet. Often we just have to aim for the best shots we can get with the action unfolding around us and apologise to the boats we miss.

Once all the yachts make it out of the heads; we high tail the boat back to Drummoyne, where I jump into the car and sprint to the airport. It’s only after I arrive on the Gold Coast, that I think to check where the finish line actually is. I was born and raised on the Goldie, so I a made the assumption the finish line would be within the seaway (you know what they say about assumptions). I was planning on sitting at the end of the spit, camera in one hand and a beer in the other.

However this was not the case, as I looked deeper into the sailing instructions I found that the finish was to be approximately 1 km offshore – and even further from the spit – there went the close action shots I was envisioning.

After watching the yachts creep up the coast, I had resigned to the fact that I’d probably be heading home before any boats arrived – and banging my head that I didn’t book a flexible ticket. It was 8 pm on Sunday, and I took one last look at the tracker before I went to bed and thought at best I might get to see the maxis in the afternoon.

Fast forward to 6 am Monday morning, I took a quick look at the tracker and Boy George! Wild Oats, Black Jack & Comanche, were in a tight race just off Burleigh Heads.

Before I could even think, my camera was strapped to my back, and I was running it on foot to the beach. As I walked onto the sand, I was welcomed with a spectacular view of three F1s sailing towards the finish line, with a very close showdown between Wild Oats and Black Jack, with Black Jack taking the honours.

This experience has taught me a few things, 1) always check the weather before booking flights 2) make sure those flights are flexible 3) review the sailing instructions 4) and that you can still take exciting shots from the beach 1km away.

You can check out all the photos we captured during the Noakes Sydney to Gold Coast here.

Until next time, catch you on the water.
Benjamin Williams

Categories: Sydney to Gold Coast