Pittwater to Coffs Harbour contender Nikon Spirit Of The Maid is undergoing a damage inspection before being cleared to race.
Pittwater to Coffs Harbour contender Nikon Spirit Of The Maid is undergoing a damage inspection before being cleared to race.

Double a certainty

MILLIONAIRE yachtsman Bob Oatley appears to have a mortgage on the ‘big two’ events in Australian ocean racing.

The wine and tourism magnate was last night looking certain of line honours in the Sydney to Hobart with Wild Oats XI, while back in Sydney, the mighty maxi’s little sister, Wild Oats X, was undergoing final preparations for another assault on the 226-nautical mile run from Pittwater to Coffs Harbour, starting next Sunday.

Yacht club commodore Garry Innes yesterday ended all speculation Oatley would switch entry of the two boats and, instead, would concentrate all attention on winning the race with his 66-foot pocket maxi.

If successful, it would give the franchise line honours for the sixth time in a decade (with three different boats) including a trifecta of wins for Wild Oats X.

The boat also has the distinction of taking the line honours-handicap double in 2005.

“Bob’s simply run out of time, they won’t be able to get her back to Sydney for any minor repairs before the trip north,” Innes said.

“Still, it’s going to make very little difference as the other of his boats is still the one they all have to beat.”

As soon as Oatley’s main hope is tied up at Constitution Dock, he and skipper Mark Richards will catch the first available flight north to supervise final arrangements for their next assignment in the ‘warm water classic’.

But a scare has been thrown into the camp of Nikon Spirit Of The Maid with the other main hope for line honours involved in a collision on Sydney Harbour last Sunday.

Owner Bruce Absolon was in Coffs Harbour when the accident occurred and immediately headed south to Middle Harbour Yacht Club where the Volvo Ocean 60 was to undergo an inspection.

“Bruce organised to have her lifted out of the water and they’ll have a look underneath to make sure there’s no damage,” Innes revealed.

“Early reports are she just had a scrape along the side and there’s no apparent harm done, but they wanted to have a closer look as a precaution.”

Due to her size and Around The World racing pedigree, Nikon Spirit Of The Maid is a massive drawcard for public and media attention.

Most recently she has featured as part of a National Geographic television documentary and is the subject of numerous magazine articles.

Meanwhile, the second Coffs to Paradise race scheduled to leave for Surfers Paradise on January 7 has been called off.

It’s believed the decision was forced when insufficient entries had arrived by the December 23 closing date.



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