Wild Oats XI owner Bob Oatley hangs the race medal around skipper Mark Richards? neck after Wild Oats won the 61st Sydney to H
Wild Oats XI owner Bob Oatley hangs the race medal around skipper Mark Richards? neck after Wild Oats won the 61st Sydney to H

Change of Oats boats

By BRAD GREENSHIELDS

AS A new year's present for Coffs Harbour, especially it's yachting fraternity, there's some good news and some bad news.

The good news is that Wild Oats will be coming to Coffs Harbour as part of the Pittwater to Coffs Harbour Yacht Race.

The bad news is that the yacht that this town gets to see won't be the same monster vessel that smashed the race record for the Sydney to Hobart yesterday morning.

Before Wild Oats XI turned to enter the Derwent River yesterday, owner Bob Oatley was keen for the 30-metre yacht to make a quick turnaround and be ready for the start of the Pittwater-Coffs race off Barrenjoey Headland on Sunday.

Unfortunately on the last gybe before rounding Tasman Light, 40 miles from the Hobart finish line disaster struck.

The crew were forced to lower the mainsail just six nautical miles from the finish after strong winds broke the top batten.

Wild Oats skipper Mark Richards admitted that he was anxious during the final stages.

"It was tough," the skipper said after breaking the record by 67 minutes. "We broke the boom gooseneck and we had no vang (the control system that holds the boom down).

"Then when we tacked, the runners fouled the battens in the top of the main as it rose up. We broke battens and couldn't trim the main, it just kept getting worse. By the time we were half way up the river we had to take our mainsail down and we finished under headsail only.

"We have our delivery crew ready to take her straight back for the start of the Coffs Race. Now we will have to see what can be done."

Disappointingly for the Coffs Harbour Yacht Club it was found later that not enough could be done and now Oatley will be entering last year's winner, Wild Oats X, into the 25th running of the race.

This of course is the same yacht that won in a race record time last year.



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