Pittwater to Coffs Harbour attracts 59 starters

WITH the official close of entries on December 17, a strong fleet of 59 yachts will line-up on January 2 for the start of the 26th Pittwater to Coffs Harbour Yacht race, hosted by The Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club.

Bob Oatley's Wild Oats X1, the 30m super maxi Reichel Pugh, skippered by Mark Richards, will again attempt to complete back to back starts in the Sydney to Hobart (triple crown winner in 2005) and Pittwater to Coffs races.

The current race record of 18hrs 29mins will be under serious threat if she does indeed make it back for the race and southerly conditions are in her favour.

The super maxi ran into some trouble as she neared the end of the Hobart race last year preventing her returning for the Coffs race.

She was replaced by her little sister, the 20m Wild Oats X, who went onto take line honours in the passage race.

Skipper Mark Richards said the whole crew was looking forward to competing in back to back races and given conditions racing to Hobart and minimal gear breakages.

"The whole race crew bar one or two will sail the boat out of Hobart back for the start of the Pittwater to Coffs race. There's plenty of time for us to get back for the start," Richards said.

"Obviously, we would love to have a crack at the race record and, given the right conditions from the south, the race record can and will be smashed but the main aim is to have some fun and compete with owner Bob Oatley on board, he really enjoys the offshore race to Coffs as does the rest of the crew.

"If like last year, Wild Oats XI can't make it back from Hobart, Wild Oats X will definitely start the Coffs race. See you at the start!."

Last year's series winner and current race record holder, Wild Joe will also be sailing north to defend her IRC title and race record.

Two other yachts, the rebadged Coffs Harbour Quest, Kevin Miller's Nelson Marek 46 and Ginger, Leslie Green's Swan 60 have also posted late entries for the race.

Quest's prolific career includes a first and a second overall in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race, the 2003 IRC national offshore champion and wins in the 2003 Sydney Mooloolaba and 2004 Sydney Gold Coast Races.

After a major refit this year, she also competed in the 2006 Hamilton Island Race Week and Sydney to Gold Coast race.

Coffs Harbour Quest will be under the helm of Commodore of the CHYC, Darren Digney who said: "Kevin Miller, the owner has generously given us the keys to his yacht and we intend to be extremely competitive in the IRC Division and do the CHYC proud."

Coffs Harbour Quest will race with a crew of 12 and 10 of them are Coffs Harbour locals and members of the Coffs Harbour Yacht Club (CHYC).

"We are fortunate to have the experience of Ray Benson, a veteran of 23 Pittwater to Coffs Harbour yacht races. He knows all the short cuts so hopefully he will be able to show us the quickest way home," Digney said.

At 9.45m, Carats 'n' Kilos, a Hick 31 is the smallest yacht in the fleet with Martin and Anna Cross' Sydney 32 If, not far behind who finished a credible second in her Division in last year's series.

Pendragon, a 10.2 metre yacht built in 1982 and sailed by Andrew Cochrane, rounds out the small boat section of the fleet.

Pendragon was the overall IRC winner in the 2005 Southport race.

Strong competition in the Sydney 38 One Design Division with 6 entrants signed up including last year's Syd 38 series winner Estate Master (CYCA), winning on a countback from second placed Eye Candy (RPAYC).

Chris Dawson, co-owner and skipper of Eye Candy hopes to go one better this year.

"Rule number one is to have a great time," Dawson said

"We know we are capable of beating the best on our day. Make no mistake about it, we are definitely going for the win."

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