Class fleet assembled

ROYAL Prince Alfred Yacht Club's Denis Thompson is a happy man this week as he looked at preliminary entry lists for the 2004-2005 Strathfield Pittwater Coffs Harbour series.

It is a top class fleet, with a number of very fast boats and the new course of the Pittwater to Coffs Harbour race means there will be a new course record, no matter what the race conditions are like.

The starting location underneath Barrenjoey Lighthouse at Sydney's Pittwater is unchanged - as is the finish inside the harbour at Coffs Harbour, but now there are two extra little challenges.

The race will be extended from the 226 nautical miles of years gone by, by approximately eight miles, with a seaward mark a couple of miles north east of Barrenjoey and another rounding mark south off Palm Beach.

Bob Oatley's Wild Oats, now Wild Joe, set a sizzling time in her 2003 race.

It was a new record of 18 hour 29 minutes and 14 seconds, over two hour's reduction from The Office's 1984 time.

Oatley's new, third generation canting keeled 66ft Reichel Pugh racer Wild Oats, made her debut at the maxi yacht Rolex Cup in Sardinia, with a classy second behind the 86ft Pyewacket, while on Sunday, January 2 still having her finishing touches added.

Since then, Oatley's team has had the time to wrinkle out any deficiencies in Wild Oats and she should be very fast in her first Australian offshore foray.

Dockside pundits have suggested an elapsed time of 15 hours for Oatley's yacht if the hoped for running conditions prevail.

However, if conditions are that good, then Dick Cawse's new 60ft Lyons/Cawse designed Vanguard could be on record pace as well.

With a keel trim tab, she should be good competition for her larger rival.

Future Shock, the Elliot 56, will be on the start line again.

Skippered by owner, Ron Ellis' son Craig, this downwind flier sailed into third place on line in the 2001 Pittwater to Coffs race and will be hard to catching in running conditions.

Since having water ballast added, her upwind ability will be good too, and she could threaten the record if conditions suit.

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