B52 ahead of the pack
By GREG WHITE
PITTWATER to Coffs Harbour Yacht Race candidate B52 has turned in a crackerjack final trial around local waters for the Festival of Sail beginning on December 28.
Competing against nine other yachts in the Westlawn Finance Twilight Series, skipper Paul D'Olier pulled off a major coup by importing former America's Cup and Olympic helmsman Neville Whittey to set the boat up for serious racing and give the crew an intensive hit out.
"Neville brought up the new mainsail and spinnaker from Doyle's Sailmakers and they got their first try out on Thursday," D'Olier said.
In the fresh south-easter, B52 led the fleet out of the harbour by more than three minutes and left rivals Nina and Mistress Again battling out the placings.
The result doesn't just destroy B52's handicap when racing in the Westlawn Series resumes in January but has taken the Holiday Coast Yachting flagship to within one point of the premiership lead currently held by Mistress Again.
Nina is two points adrift in third position with Escape III holding down fourth placing.
D'Olier announced B52 and the all-local crew would head down the coast on Wednesday to make final preparations.
"She'll come out of the water in Newcastle for her bottom to dry and be sanded to give her better speed through the water," he said.
"Once everything has been checked and we're happy with how she's shaping up, we'll head for Pittwater to be ready by December 27 for the first races from Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club."
The decision to hold entries open until last Friday has bolstered the final field to a fleet of 72 boats.
Current champion Wild Oats XI won't be competing after being damaged in an ocean race in Europe during the year.