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Ears pinned, pincers poised – is URM Group poised for victory?

Ears pinned, pincers poised – is URM Group poised for victory?
SAILING - Noakes Sydney to Gold Coast 2023 29/07/2023 Ph. Andrea Francolini URM Protected by copyright

Ears pinned, pincers poised – is URM Group poised for victory?

The Johnston brothers’ custom Reichel / Pugh 72 maxi URM Group finished the Noakes Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race today, with a time of 1 day, 22 hours and 48 minutes. They arrived at Southport Yacht Club after finishing 1148hrs off Main Beach, looking just as confident as when they sailed out of Sydney Harbour.

 There were 14 crew on board, with the boat looking incredibly competitive.

“We hit the start-line with pace, we pinned our ears back and we didn’t look back,” says skipper Marcus Ashley-Jones.

“But I am refreshed after a sip of beer now and feeling I am excited to be here.”

Navigator Alice Tarnawski said that she has spent the whole week planning the race.

“This whole week has been really busy actually, because the forecast was changing the whole time. I was expecting that we would be drifting for a lot longer at the start.

“When we had the breeze come up, it was really nice to just kind of get rumbling and then it was just playing out and we were connecting to the shifts and all of a sudden we were winning!”

“I wouldn’t say it was plain sailing though,” says Marcus, “It was a tactical race. Our original plan was to head out early, and then we ended up sticking to the coast, until about Newcastle and then we decided to head out a bit more and we got up to about 60 miles off the coast.“It was a long way out, we lost phone reception! But then we came back in and met the coast around Yamba, and we have just been working up the coast overnight to get here,” said Marcus. 

The gamble to go far out appears to have paid off.

“We were upwind from Yamba. There was a lot of current coming up the coast, so we were monitoring the water temperatures to ensure we weren’t getting caught in what we call the treadmill!”

Alice says their team’s much discussed and disputed 'game plan' came into play well in the end “We felt that potentially this was going to be an outside race. And there has been a lot of discussion about it, and the when it all fell into place it was kind of little bit scary making that decision and we were just kind of thinking we would jump along the rocks.

“But it paid off going out, and I am pretty glad we stuck to our game plan. I am glad that we stuck to our guns," Alice said grinning from ear to ear, fresh from a hot post-race shower.

URM’s Anthony Johnston bought the boat in 2019 and it arrived back in Australia in September of the same year. They completed their first Rolex Sydney Hobart in the boat in ’19 making it their second Rolex Sydney Hobart start. This year they will do all six races in the Audi Centre Sydney Blue Water Pointscore.

Originally URM Group was known as Shockwave – a boat, that after being commissioned by Neville Crichton, was successfully raced overseas, including winning the IRC Maxi and Mini Maxi Division of the 2010 Rolex Giraglia Race.

American, George Sakellaris, was her next owner and he successfully skippered her to top place of the Mini Maxi division of the 2015 Rolex Giraglia Cup.

Owners David, Anthony and Nick Johnston say the boat has been through some serious preparation in off-season to get her race-ready.

“It’s a beautiful boat, it is very well put together,” said David Johnston.

“Where it is today is not where it was five years ago, it’s been on a real journey,” he added.

Together, they have completed the Noakes Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race and are now waiting to see how they will place in the IRC Division O and Overall.

We congratulate them on a great race.

Lead photo of URM Group arriving at Main Beach - Noakes Sydney Gold Coast. DH | CYCA. 

Aerial photos by Dylan Clarke for Sail Media. 

For more information on the Noakes Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race click here.