Mark Richards, skipper of Wild Oats, celebrates with the trophy and a beer after being first across the line in this year?s Syd
Mark Richards, skipper of Wild Oats, celebrates with the trophy and a beer after being first across the line in this year?s Syd

Oats in race against the clock to get to start line



AS you read your Coffs Coast Advocate today, somewhere on the high seas the master and crew of Wild Oats XI are racing the clock toward Sydney for their second big engagement of the week.

There were doubts the 2006 Sydney-Hobart line honours champion would have time to turn around to make an assault on the Pittwater to Coffs Harbour Yacht Race but after docking just before 10pm Thursday night everything changed, giving skipper Mark Richards the chance to realise his dream of capturing the classic bluewater double.

Local skipper Darren Digney will challenge the super-maxi in Coffs Harbour Quest and provides a unique insight into the glamour yacht's capability.

"When she gets going it's possible to water-ski behind her," he said.

"If a big southerly gets behind I have no doubt she could make it from Sydney in eight hours which would be faster than travelling by car."

That's fast ? considering the race record holder dual-winning Wild Oats X set the pace at 18 hours 29 minutes 14 seconds in 2003, over the 230 nautical mile course.

Wild weather has rarely been a major drama on the way to Coffs, in contrast to the usual race conditions heading south.

"We don't have to contend with the strong souwesters, especially crossing Bass Strait," Digney explained.

"And they get the big swells from water running over 500 metres deep whereas the depth below us is about 120 metres.

"The difference is like chalk and cheese but you still have to be aware of what's going on about you."

Digney will arrive in Sydney tomorrow to make final preparations for sailing on Tuesday.

"The crew are under control and it's just a matter of double-checking the gear and making sure everything's tightened," he said.

"We've been in the event many times so we're pretty cool about how things will go."



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