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Hancock sisters to contest Gold

SURF sisters Courtney and Bonnie Hancock are poised to write themselves into the history books.

The girls, who still call Sawtell Surf Life Saving Club home, are staring down a one-two finish in the iconic Coolangatta Gold at the Gold Coast on November 7.

Courtney has started twice in the race, finishing runner-up to Hayley Bateup in 2008 and third last year behind Bateup (second) and race winner Alicia Marriott.

Bonnie made a huge impression by filling fifth place in 2009 at her first attempt.

While Marriott is back chasing her third crown, Bateup is out of the race, still recuperating from a shoulder reconstruction, opening the door wide for the Coffs Coast duo.

Both Hancock girls attended Friday’s race launch in Surfers Paradise, but at least on this occasion, were forced to play second fiddle to Marriott, defending male champion Caine Eckstein and ironman legend Dean Mercer, lining up for his eighth crack at the race.

Mercer looked back on his 1991 victory as if it were only yesterday.

“It was a bit of a shock coming from Wollongong, even though we did compete on the Gold Coast, we were really not familiar with the race format and how it was all laid out,” he recalled.

“It was a real experience when everybody goes through that first race, not knowing what to do or what to expect.”

The Coolangatta Gold is one of the most gruelling events on the world surf sports calendar.

Open men, masters, men’s and mixed teams cover 46.65km while open women, masters, teams and under-19 men cover the almost-as-demanding 30.5km circuit.

Last year’s event showed the enormous toll it takes on competitors with the Hancock sisters’ Northcliffe teammate Elizabeth Pluimers getting into difficulties and collapsing near the finish line.

All this for a purse of $20,000 for the winning male and $10,000 to the first female athlete across the line.

A final field in excess of 700 athletes is expected to leave the starting line.