The Melbourne Osaka Cup 2018 preparations are now at fever pitch with the first of the staggered start sequences to take place on Thursday 15 March from the Portsea Pier for the non-stop double handed 5500 nautical mile race to Osaka, Japan, for the eighth edition of this iconic race. The race was first conducted in 1987 and was recently ratified by World Sailing as one of the great yacht races in the world.
Come Thursday, the first boat out of the stalls will be the smallest boat in the fleet, the S&S34 Morning Star from Tasmania with owner Joanna Breen and her co-skipper Peter Brooks on board. The starter’s gun will signal their solo start and their immediate status as race leaders as they head out through Port Phillip heads.
The S&S 34 has become a classic vessel with an enviable record of being the choice for our successful young Australian circumnavigators with Jessie Martin’s Lionheart and Jessica Watson’s Ella Bache. Jo Breen as the youngest competitor in this Osaka race has also chosen this proven design and is one of three female co-skippers amongst the 38 sailors signed on for the event.
Despite her youth, Jo is current Vice Commodore of Tamar Yacht Club, holds an RYA (Royal Yachting Association) Yachtmaster offshore certificate and works as a dinghy and keelboat instructor at her home club as well as being a delivery skipper. With 30,000 blue water miles under her belt including trans Atlantic and trans Pacific crossings and a solo delivery from the Azores to UK, Jo has a boatload of experience to undertake the voyage ahead.
Jo’s co-skipper Peter Brooks is a member of neighbouring Port Dalrymple Yacht Club (PDYC) at Beauty Point, Tasmania. Peter and Jo first raced together on a Knoop 39 in 2014 since then have clocked up several deliveries together and nailed a win in the Corinthian division of the 2016 Sydney to Hobart with Jo as navigator and Peter on the bow. They completed their qualifying passage for the Osaka Cup double handed on Morning Star in the recent 2017 Melbourne to Hobart Westcoaster.
Next start will be Sunday 18 March, with two competitors setting off to chase down the leader. The only Japanese entry in the race, the Dehler 38 Bartolome with owner Dr Keiichirou Morimura and co-skipper Masakasu Omote onboard, will tussle with the The Edge, a Sunfast 3200 Bermudan Sloop co-skippered by David Kenny (WA) and Paul Schulz (NSW).
Bartolome, named after a Pacific island in the Galapagos Islands group, has already traced out the race track with their delivery to Australia and are looking forward to sailing rather than motoring against the adverse winds and currents they experienced voyaging to the land downunder.
Bartolome’s immediate competition will be the Sunfast 3200 Bermudian sloop, The Edge, named for living ‘on the edge’. David has extensive offshore experience with sailing the entire WA coast, Great Australian Bight and around Tasmania, along with a double handed crossing from Capetown to Fremantle. His co-skipper Paul is an Australian 18ft Skiff champion.
One week later, Sunday 25 March will be the main start with all competitors bar the last boat in the fleet, Chinese Whispers, lining up. Coincidentally, it will be Jo Breen’s birthday and no doubt her birthday wish will be for Morning Star to still be wearing the race leader’s crown.
The staggered start will provide for exciting tracking as the faster boats begin to move through the fleet and the boats compact for the final dash up Osaka Bay.
To keep up with the on water action and progress of the race, the Osaka Cup Race TV channel launched this week and will deliver weekly updates of progress and highlights of the race. Hosted by former competitors and now race management officials, Martin Vaughan (Chair of the organising committee) and Simon Dryden (Race Director), the first Osaka Cup Weekly Wrap contains a wealth of excellent information for ocean racers or anyone considering embarking upon long distance voyaging, cruising the East Australian coast or just being an armchair sailor. Check it out now on the Melbourne Osaka Cup website now and keep in touch with Facebook reports from our competitors. You may even become inspired to become a part of the next edition of this iconic corinithian race – the voyage of a lifetime!
Good luck to all competitors who have put in the blood, sweat and tears for some years now to get to this point. May the start gun signal the end of preparation and the opportunity to just enjoy the moment and get racing.