Mates ready to take on the big race north


IT'S a wonder local entry B52 is able to compete in the Pittwater to Coffs Harbour yacht race after what she's been through.

A casualty of the infamous 1998 Sydney-Hobart race, B52 spent time upside-down in mountainous seas before being righted and repaired for her new life in the port of Coffs Harbour.

Owners Paul D'Olier and Steve Brown lovingly restored the Sydney 41 craft and when she's not racing, B52 is introducing new participants to the sport as flagship for Holiday Coast Yachting's sailing school.

"We're all good mates and have been in this game a long time," crewman Garry Innes said from Newport.

"B52 is beautiful to look at and she's just as beautiful to sail."

Before heading north next Tuesday, B52 is taking part in the first two races of the off-shore series being sailed off the Palm Beach circle.

But already there's been a major hiccup.

"Andrew Hillier from Wear It clothing is one of the crew but after making our sailing shirts he took ill and was rushed off to hospital," Innes said.

"He should be okay but we're suddenly looking for another spinnaker hand for the main voyage."

Beating super-maxi Wild Oats XI will be a tall order but B52 can't be written off when the off-shore series resumes around the Solitary Islands.

"The crew were last season's winners of the Coffs Harbour Yacht Club twilight series," Innes said.

"The strategy was to compete in every race, sail consistently ... and it helped us carry off the prize."

With sponsorship an integral and highly visible part of ocean yacht racing ? as much for one-upmanship as for paying the bills ? the B52 owners made a concerted effort to form a partnership with a major company.

"Steve Brown's company Harbour Design Homes is up there on the sails," Innes said, "but you don't find many Fortune 500 companies willing to get involved with a venture from the North Coast.

"But Des Taylor at Bellbowrie Motors spoke to Audi and they agreed to join us.

"Not bad to have the prestige of one of the world's top luxury carmakers come on board."

The fleet of 60 vessels leave Broken Bay at midday next Tuesday.

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