Highly regarded 60 footer Vanguard staged a neck and neck battle with Volvo 60 Andrew Short Marine.
Highly regarded 60 footer Vanguard staged a neck and neck battle with Volvo 60 Andrew Short Marine.

Wild Oats leads fleet into Coffs

By ROB KOTHE

BOB Oatley's Wild Oats, probably the most advanced ocean racing yacht in the world today with the latest generation in canting ballast twin foil technology was first across the finish line of the 24th Strathfield Pittwater Coffs race yesterday morning.

It was the third year in a row that Pittwater skipper Mark Richards greeted the dockside throng, having helmed the old Wild Oats to a race record in 2003.

Last year, the same crew and boat had a race handicap win and now with the win on the new Wild Oats under their belt, it seems likely an overall handicap win is also on the cards.

On Sunday afternoon Wild Oats was in soft conditions behind Targe, the original Reichel Pugh 60 foot canting keel racer, but as the southern pressure increased the new boat swept into the lead.

Close behind, the Targe crew tried to hold ground, but try as they might, they could not keep pace with the power of the new Wild Oats.

On Sunday night Targe was leading Bob Oatley's new 66 footer Wild Oats, but as conditions strengthen Wild Oats swept into the lead.

Fighting with their bigger rival, the Targe crew pushed their boat hard, but in quick fire succession they blew out their spinnaker inventory.

Dick Cawse's new Vanguard, a Lyons/Cawse 60, slide into second place with Andrew Short's battle hardened Volvo 60 Andrew Short Marine, following only a few minutes behind.

On Sunday night around 8pm, there was less than five miles between the four leaders, but by dawn, surfing northwards in 25-30 knot southerlies, Wild Oats had powered away averaging an amazing 4 knots fast than her 60-foot rivals.

The large crowd that edged the pathway right to the top of Mutton Bird Hill watched the pocket supermaxi drop her huge asymmetric kite just outside the breakwater.

She then wheeled into the Harbour and two sail reached to the line.

As she crossed the finish line, her red shirted crew worked hard in the 20-knot southerly breeze to drop the sails in the tight confines of the Harbour, but they still managed time to punch the air triumphantly.

Dockside Mark Richards explained "It was a great night's sail.'

"We worked very hard, not a single crew member had any sleep," he said.

"We had constant wind shifts and adjustments; we lost count of the manoeuvres at 50."

Two hours later, the crowd on Mutton Bird Hill saw the Volvo 60 Andrew Short Marine lead Vanguard towards Korfs Island.

Andrew Short, helming his round the world racer, sailed well north before gybing towards the Harbour entrance, while Richard Cawse sailed inside her, to take victory by less than two boat lengths.

Vanguard crossed at 12.43, 17 seconds ahead of Andrew Short Marine while Targe, was fourth at 1.22.

Handicap results may not be finalised until late today, when the smallest boats in the fleet finish, however Wild Oats does appeared to have taken the line honours and handicap double.



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