Just the ticket!

By GREG WHITE

DEFENDING 2006-07 Pittwater to Coffs Harbour Offshore Series winner 'Le Billet' is headed for consecutive titles after thrashing her rivals in the first outing of the 27th series sailed on Friday night.

With 23 competitors in two divisions underway in perfect 10-15 knot north easters, the Bill Ebsary-skippered 'Le Billet' took both IRC line and handicap honours in the overnight race from Barrenjoey to Botany Bay and return, in an elapsed time of 13 hours, 19 minutes and 51 seconds.

On corrected time she won by one minute 20 seconds from 2000-01 series winner 'Nips-N-Tux' skippered by Howard De Torres, with 'Dark and Stormy Witch', under the helm of twenty time Coffs race veteran Brian Ellis, back in third position.

For winning skipper Ebsary, the victory is a brilliant start for what will be his 22nd attempt at the warm water classic.

"It looks like it will be competitive and exciting and we'll be going hard," he said.

"The boat's in good nick and the same crew of suspects are back from last year, bar Peter Gregg, who sailed in the Hobart.

"In the 12 crew we have 162 Coffs races between us making us the most experienced crew and they all know the track pretty well, plus a few short cuts."

Both Coffs Harbour Yacht Club entries started in PHS division with 'Overdrive' doing best to finish in fifth position.

"We had a great kite run down to Botany Bay with the crew settling in, testing new sails and tightening up on our tactics," race skipper Andrew Johnson commented.

"Unfortunately, our result didn't reflect the effort that went in as it was a tough run home and we probably covered more miles than anyone else in the race looking for breeze."

Paul D'Olier's entry 'B52' finished seventh on handicap despite having the second fastest elapsed time in the 12-boat fleet.

Yesterday, the yachts were back on the water for two windward/leeward races off the Palm Beach Circle as the final test before the 226 nautical mile ocean race begins on Wednesday.

The final list of starters and their crews will attend the mandatory race and weather briefing at Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club from 0800 hours before the starter's gun fires at midday.

Long range weather forecasts are predicting rough conditions for the trip up the coast with 'B52' crewman Garry Innes tipping some storm chasing will liven up proceedings.

"We've been alerted to the possibility of cyclonic winds and big seas coming down from Queensland and hitting us fair in the face," he said.

"If we start running into that stuff it could make things interesting."

Wind permitting, the first arrival is due in Coffs Harbour on Thursday morning.

Once the bulk of the fleet is safely in port the final race in the series around Solitary Island will be held from 11am Saturday.



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