Leaders rushing to line
By ROB KOTHE
COMPETITORS were greeted by a large spectator fleet and crowded headlands at the start of the 25th Pittwater to Coffs Race yesterday.
The start line itself, was located between Lion Island and scenic Barrenjoey headland, and in a strong outgoingtidal flow most of the 62 boat fleet were holding back, worried they might be swept over the line early.
Last year's race winner, the 20 metre Wild Oats X made her winning intentions known, circling at the pin end ofthe line.
Current race record holder Wild Joe (Stephen David) was lurking with equal intent up the line, along with Dick Cawse's Vanguard 60, and the Farr 40, Andrew Short Marine (Andrew Short) looking to start right on the pin.
With a gentle eight knot breeze, the starters John and Jeanette Williamson, instrumental in the start of the first ever race to Coffs Harbour back in 1981, fired the gun at 1pm this afternoon and the fleet was away in the 226 nautical mile, Silver Anniversary Pittwater to Coffs race.
A fast start from the Wild Oats X and her 78 year old owner Bob Oatley, was standing at the shoulder of helmsman Mark Richards, as she two sail reached towards Cape Three Points.
The Wild Oats team is looking to emulate their recent Hobart success and capture line honours, a handicap win and a new record for this race as well - a treble treble!
Last year's line honours second place, Dick Cawse's 60 foot Lyons/Cawse Vanguard, followed her.
Wild Joe blasted away from the Committee boat, with clear air and plenty of space.
Below her, John McConaghy's Second Time Around was clean away. Pittwater and Coffs series leader, Le Billet, Bill Ebsary's Beneteau 44.7 'cannonball', led the mid fleet pack
The Sydney 38's were well advanced as was Howard de Torres' IMX-40 Nips-N-Tux.
The yellow hulled Hick 50 Funnelweb (Sybe and Ivan MacFayden) was on the second row.
In the 38's, Daryl Hodgkinson's Uplift was fast out of the blocks, with some of the more favoured 38s including AMI Jade and Estate Master, well back.
Martin Cross's Sydney 32 If! was punching above her weight, sailing with the Coffs Harbour Farr 1104 entrant Mistress Again (Darren Digney), with David Bonallo's Roller Coaster, another Sydney 32, close behind.
As the fleet speed north Wild Oats X was extending away, with Wild Joe and Vanguard sailing close together and in pursuit.
While the softish wind speed does not suggest the record is in danger, the favourable wind angles may help keepthe leaders hot on the pace.THE Silver Anniversary Pittwater to Coffs Harbour fleet was expected to sail north with their colourful spinnakers full yesterday in what will probably be among the most 'open race' in the 25 year history of this popular Australian coastal classic.
Relief from the hot north westerlies was expected on Sunday night, with a strong southerly buster and winds in the 20-30's predicted.
If the southerly holds into Monday night the race record will be in severe danger.
The feature of the 25th race is the high standard of the fleet and the evenness across the five handicap divisions.
Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club Sailing Manager, Ryan Durman commented, 'we have a very high quality 62 boat fleet, lots of new boats, and a lot of interesting match ups'.
Last year's Pittwater to Coffs line honours winner and IRC handicap winner, the 66 footer Wild Oats X, the little sister of Hobart winner Bob Oatley's new Wild Oats XI, should be leading the fleet before Cape Three Points.
However, if conditions eased overnight tacticians will be forced to commit to a coastal course looking for overnight land breezes, or an offshore course fighting current, but hoping for more pressure.
Steven David's Wild Joe, the Reichel Pugh 60 canting keel boat, is the current race record holder.
She will be looking to take advantage of any stumble from the slightly bigger boat ahead but will need to defend as well.
She was beaten to Coffs Harbour last year by Dick Cawse's 60 footer, Vanguard.
The Lyons/Cawse designed Vanguard last year took second place on IRC handicap as well as line honours.
Cawse related how Vanguard is a nice uncomplicated, fast boat.
"Now she is seriously for sale so we are keen to show her pace tomorrow," Cawse said.
"I enjoyed the design and build process and it would be interesting to do another one."
There will be lots of boats on their first run north, including Sybil and Ivan McFayden's Melbourne to Osaka racer, the Hick 50, Funnelweb.
She has the pace to be fourth boat home.
It will be the first major offshore race for Savill's Australia CEO Walter Carpenter on his Pacific 50 Samark and, after a third on PHS in the Savills regatta a few weeks ago.