Adventure on the high seas

By GREG WHITE

AS local hope B52 sails out through the heads of Coffs Harbour today, Paul D'Olier will take the helm and begin the adventure he hopes will land his crew victory in the 27th Pittwater to Coffs Harbour Yacht Race.

"First stop is Newcastle where we'll enter the Hunter River and go into dry dock on Friday," he said.

"The boat will be lifted out of the water on slings and the shipwrights will prepare her keel and under side for racing."

After drying, the bottom will be sanded back to a smooth surface and a special coating applied to increase her speed.

"It can deliver up to an extra knot and if you're not used to it, you can really feel the extra take off in the right conditions," D'Olier said.

Over the last week a new mainsail and spinnaker designed by Doyle's Sailmakers has been installed at a cost of $17,000, including the sign writing in the livery of project sponsor Harbour Design Homes.

D'Olier will lead the full crew of ten on the water while the back up team from Holiday Coast Yachting will handle things on shore when the racing series is underway.

"Everybody is local and for four of them, it will be their first experience of ocean racing," he added.

After one attempt at the Sydney to Hobart, this will be the skipper's fourth crack at the warm water Classic.

"One (Hobart) was enough," he said with a roll of the eyes.

"The Pittwater to Coffs is a more satisfying event with an increase in participants every year and the standard of those who are taking part."

Crew member Garry Innes will be making his second trip up the coast and will build on what he learned last year.

"For starters, we hope the wind is stronger after being becalmed for so long," he said.

"People may think it's strange but with B52's design as a Sydney 41 boat we will be looking for nor easters to give us an edge in speed."

If the winds drop the crew take strategies to keep the sails as close as possible to their original shape and look for storms to chase.

"If we spot storm clouds on the horizon we head for them and sit on the edge to fill the sails from the draught," Innes said.

"It's not dangerous so long as you stay away from metal parts if there's lightning about.

"There's a long copper strip that runs from the top of the mast to the keel made of lead and if we do have problems with lightning the strike goes straight down."

All this, said with a straight face and fingers crossed.

With 72 boats now entered for the series, B52 and Overdrive will be the only local entries for 2007-08.

Overdrive is owned and skippered by newly-arrived residents Andrew and Meegan Johnson who competed previously aboard Wahoo.

The Northshore 38 boat was previously named Double Trouble after starting life as Removalist and has a long history of racing with Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club (RPAYC).

B52 and Overdrive have entered in PHS Division to race as a team combination.

"If both crews get good results, we could really achieve something," D'Olier said.

During the race, RPAYC will provide regular updates on www.pittwatertocoffs.com.au and the website will offer a representation of boat positions via Google Earth, updated three times daily as competitors post their sked positions on the course.



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