Brothers unite on Targ? for Pittwater to Coffs

By ROB KOTHE

AFTER the problems in the 60th Hobart race, Strathfield Pittwater Coffs Race director Stephen Merrington and his wife Rosemary, from Narrabeen, will see their only sons, both professional racing sailors, on the Broken Bay startline.

This week Merrington and his wife Rosemary were following the Hobart race closely with the two boys racing on different boats.

Highly experienced ocean racers, the Merrington brothers have been sailing since they were three months old.

Both began in centreboards and have crewed regularly in some of the world's most prestigious races including the Fastnet race (UK), Kenwood Cup (Hawaii) and Volvo Round the World race 2001-2002.

Elder brother Peter Billy Merrington, 33, who has always called Narrabeen home, was in NZ with the Swedish America's Cup campaign and is moving to Valencia, for the upcoming America's Cup.

On Boxing Day, he sailed south on Skandia, last year's line honours winner and on Monday night came the news that Skandia has suffered massive damage to her canting keel mechanism.

At 7.30am, skipper Grant Wharington issued a Mayday, fearing the keel would break away capsizing the boat in the heavy ocean conditions.

One of the boats that rushed to the aid of the Skandia crew, 70 miles off the Tasmanian was one of the mid-sized boats in the fleet, Yendys, one of the handicap favourites.

Among her experienced crew was youngster Anthony Merrington, 31, Peter's younger brother.

With two helicopters hovering overhead and the Tasmanian Water Police launch Van Diemen on standby, Peter Merrington climbed into life rafts with 15 other Skandia crew, under his brother's watchful eye.

Peter said the decision was made to get off Skandia, before the keel broke away, which it later did.

"It was not a lot of fun, but we had plenty of help on hand," Peter said.

With the 16 Skandia crew safely on the Police launch, Yendys resume her race toward Hobart.

Some hours later, she suffered irreparable sail damage in the worsening sea conditions and was forced to retire to Eden, with all the crew safe and well.

This weekend their relieved parents Rosemary and Stephen will watch the two boys doing something they do rarely, sailing together, in the 232-mile race to Coffs Harbour this time on line honours favourite Bob Oatley's Wild Oats (Targe).

Stephen Merrington said the boys are rarely home these days.

n Two yachts and their crews from Coffs Harbour will line up to compete in the 2005 Strathfield Pittwater and Coffs Harbour Offshore race series.

Darren Digney takes the helm of his Farr 11.04 Mistress Again and Stephen Brown and co-owner Paul Dolier have entered their recently purchased Sydney 41 Harbour Design Homes B52.

Both are keen to compete in this year's race, not only against the other yachts in their respective divisions, but also as an added bonus to race against each other creating a race within a race for locals to follow.



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