Sydney to Hobart yacht race winner Michael SPIES is faced with a dilemma having confirmed that he will be contesting the Joico Australian Offshore Championship out of Pittwater's Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club between March 3 and 7.
With just seven weeks to go to the event Spies must decide if he should compete with the Hobart race winning 'First National Real Estate' or a 'secret' yacht specially prepared for the IRC handicap division.
He believes that 'First National Real Estate', a heavily optimised Beneteau 40.7, would be hard to beat in the IMS division of the Australian Championship. But he would like to have the chance to prove a point to himself and others by optimising a 1970's vintage yacht for the IRC title.
"With this year's Hobart race likely to have IRC as the major handicap division I want to show how you can develop a small yacht that would probably be unbeatable under the rule,"
Spies said. "I have access to a 26-footer built in the 70's which all my sums tell me would easily win the Joico Australian Championship. We would only need to optimise its rating and fit new sails."
Spies, who wouldn't reveal the design of the alternative yacht, says he will make his decision on which one to race after completing the 11-metre One Design World Championship at the end of this week. He is crewing for local sailor Steve MCCONAGHY in the 11-Metre series and they are currently heading the points table.
In a change to the original plans for the Joico championship the RPAYC's sailing manager, Denis THOMPSON, has announced that all competing yachts will be eligible to enter all three divisions - IMS, IRC and Performance Handicap.
If Spies opts to go for the small yacht and contest the IRC division he will be faced with a David and Goliath struggle against Bob OATLEY'S canting keeled record breaker, 'Wild Oats', the corrected time winner of the recent Pittwater to Coffs Harbour race.
Other high profile yachts expected to contest the Joico series are the Judel VROLIJK designed 52-footer 'Yendys' (Geoff ROSS), the Farr 52, 'Ichi Ban' (Matt ALLEN), the 2002 Sydney-Hobart winner 'Quest' (Bob STEEL), and the Swan production yachts 'Loki' (Stephen AINSWORTH) and 'Joe' (Stephen DAVID).
The Joico Championship will also see the Sydney 38 One-Design Australian Championship being sailed concurrently with the IMS, IRC and PHS divisions. The Farr 40 one-designs will also be racing.
Courses will be set off Palm Beach for the offshore divisions while the 11-Metre One-Designs and Sportsboats will race on Pittwater.
This is the third year that Australia's leading professional haircare company, Joico, has been naming rights sponsor for the regatta. This year the prestigious Italian watch brand, Locman, has joined as an associate sponsor.
For more information please contact Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club on (02) 9997 1022 or www.rpayc.com.au, or Rob Mundle Promotions on (02) 9997 1126 or Rob.Mundle@bigpond.com.au