Retirement has afforded David Griffith the freedom to pick and choose the
ocean races he fancies will best suit the Sydney-based Reichel/Pugh 62 called Chinese Whisper he jointly owns with Rupert Henry. The unique New
Caledonia’s GROUPAMA Race is now marked in the team’s calendar with their recent entry.
A demanding South Pacific adventure of 654 nautical miles, the GROUPAMA race
is biennial and in 2020 the event returns, timed to follow on from the
Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s PONANT Sydney Noumea Yacht Race. The CYCA’s longest bluewater race of 1,064nms made a comeback in 2018, drawing an encouraging fleet of 22 and feeding good international numbers into the GROUPAMA race that year.
“I’ve got this wonderful boat that is best used and perfectly designed for
long races,” said Griffith. “My last Hobart before 2019 was in 1983 or 84
then work and children came along so I stayed closer to home, sailing
Etchells. Now I’ve retired I can get back into having as many adventures as
we can; there’s no point having Chinese Whisper sitting there doing
Under the direction of sailing master Michael Coxon and a top-notch crew
including Stacey Jackson and Tom Braidwood, Chinese Whisper scored seventh
on line honours and fifth overall in the 75th anniversary Rolex Sydney
Hobart Yacht Race last December. The boat underwent some mods prior to the
big race, including a longer bow sprit and the bulb moved aft, which
improved performance says Griffith.
Following Port Lincoln Race Week, where Rupert Henry will step aboard,
Chinese Whisper will be tweaked again. Decisions are being finalised between
the owners, original designers Judel Vrolijk and Coxon on potential changes
with the key objective to remove weight. “It’s a 10 year-old boat so we’ll
do what’s possible to make it as relevant as we can before the two long
races, without penalizing ourselves on IRC handicap too much.”
The Whisper team have a big year planned. From the GROUPAMA race the boat
will return to Sydney for the Noakes Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race start,
then continue north for series of races and regattas. Following the 2020
Rolex Sydney Hobart the campaign could shift to Europe and/or the Caribbean.
Chinese Whisper is the largest entry so far among a joint New Caledonia and
Australian field, which is expected to expand to New Zealand and include the
2018 line honours winner Miss Scarlet.
As well as fully crewed (minimum of 3 crew) monohull and multihull
categories, organising club Cercle Nautique Calédonien is, for the first
time since the debut GROUPAMA Race in 2008, offering a shorthanded division
(minimum of 2) plus a cruising division.
Enter here before Wednesday May 20. Watch the GROUPAMA 2020 video.
A crew party on Friday June 19 marks the start of the pre-race celebrations
and on Saturday June 20 competitors will attend the official race and
weather briefing. For the planned 10am race start on Sunday June 21, New
Caledonians will be out in numbers on boats and along the waterfront, where
the international fleet parade past in the opening short legs of the course.
The race boats then make for open water, sailing anti-clockwise along the
east coast, through the beautiful UNESCO listed lagoon to the north and back
down the west coast to the finish just inside Noumea’s Port Moselle harbour.
Both the current monohull and multihull race records were established in