Balance takes handicap honours
By BRAD GREENSHIELDS
THE Beneteau 40-footer Balance made better use of the light conditions than most and then took full advantage of the strong southerly winds on Tuesday night to claim overall handicap honours in the 25th annual Pittwater to Coffs Harbour yacht race.
Money commentator Paul Clitheroe owns and skippers Balance which he affectionately calls his 'little fat boat' and enjoys being able to race with his friends and colleagues that he's known over the years.
Navigator Greg Boxhall studied at university with Clitheroe while Bruce Hollis, the boat's sail maker at Ullman Sails was also among Balance's crew of 10 that enjoyed their victory yesterday and almost assuredly into the evening.
Clitheroe is the first to admit that the 'beachball' boat isn't going to break any race records but he says that she handled the light conditions well and there was no substitute for old-fashioned hard work.
"Typically the wind is steady throughout the race and the faster you are the better you do," he said.
"What happened in this race is that we got some wind to start off with, some of these faster boats got away from us and then we hit a flat patch.
"They stopped, the smaller boats caught up into the flat patch and we worked really hard in the flat patches and we got out first quite often.
"As the wind picked up again we found we were in front of faster boats again, they got past us, hit another flat patch, we caught up and hit the flat patch then worked our butts off with sail changes."
The skipper has no doubt that the sail changes made all the difference between overall handicap victory or being an also ran.
"Sails are incredibly important," he said. "Where we are really fortunate is that the boat's only a couple of years old but I committed to getting a full suit of sails.
"We carried a drifter and we drifted a lot. "To be perfectly blunt some boats didn't have a drifter, particularly some of the smaller boats because every sail is expensive.
"What we were doing throughout the night is we were changing sails three and four times in the light patches and I can't tell you how important that is, at the end of the day that is my engine, the reason that this boat has gone pretty well the last couple of years is that it has a V8 in it and that's the sails."
Clitheroe is the first to admit that he sees the irony of partaking in such an expensive hobby after years of advising people to be frugal and wise with their money.
"I had some comments at Hamilton Island and I am quite amused by telling people on TV and stuff for a decade and a half to be careful with their money so we'll put it down to momentary insanity because clearly they are about the worst financial investment I've ever heard of in my life," he said.
"The good thing I do say to people who ask me is that 'it is in my budget'."