Race six, the Pelican and Nautilus Solitary Island Race, in the 2004 Strathfield Pittwater to Coffs race was sailed in booming 20-27 knot winds off Coffs Harbour this afternoon.
The start line was half a mile due north of Mutton Bird Island peak and the fleet sailed north along the beaches to stay out of the southern set. They struck out for South Solitary Island only to discover that there was little, if any, set at all and most of the boats overlayed the island.
Stephen DAVID'S Swan 45 Joe, started with a full main and one heavy but quickly switched to a four. They laid to Split Solitary then overlaid South Solitary by 10 degrees.
Tactician Darren JONES (Twirler) admits this probably cost them 30 seconds but their rival Richard HUDSON, Russell MURPHY and Michael LOCKLEY'S Pretty Woman, a Corel 45, sailed wide around the back of the island and Joe was able to slip inside.
Pretty Women has been increasing her boat speed over the last 12 months, however Joe beat her today by 16 seconds on corrected time.
Former Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club Commodore, Bruce STAPLES proved the virtue of an early night's sleep after an exhausting long race up to Coffs.
In bed by 5pm he was certainly bushy tailed this morning. Bruce and Jim KING proved once again that their older modified Murray 36 Dark and Stormy Witch, which has benefited from a scoop extension with a Sydney 38 rig, is very fast.
Bruce explained they went a little too far north along the beach but that they were being 'held in' by Bill EBSARYS' Le Billet and were unable to tack.
They overlaid South Solitary but went wider and gained, after seeing the Sydney 38 Risk sail into the wind shadow. On the run across to Campbell's Beach past Quality Nautilus Resort and Pelican Beach Resort Australis they sailed through all the Sydney 38's except for Blue Sky, but she wiped out spectacularly rounding the mark.
Spectators at the resorts let out audible sighs as her blue spinnaker exploded in front of their eyes. As Dark & Stormy Witch ran down to the line they made gains on Eye Candy and finished just 50 seconds behind the Sydney 38.
Team TK on the little volksball Bavaria Match 38, blasted around the course a minute and 50 seconds faster than Le Billet and took a well deserved second place.
Skipper Tony KIRBY a long time campaigner of the Swan 48 Loki said, "This little baby just gets up and boogies. We really had fun out there."
Jeff Carter's modified Super 30 Fuji Film was running in company with Gusto in about 20 knots with the crew stacked at the back of the boat, when the mast broke at the base and fell forward. No one was injured. The local Water Police were quick to provide assistance and towed her back into the harbour.
Tactician Murray WALTERS on the Northshore 370 Gusto explained that they also had overlayed South Solitary. They sailed the course with the Beneteau 40.7 First Priority and it seemed like they were tied together by a piece of string. "We were hardly ever more than 40 metres apart.
"Our owner Colin WELLS is new to the wheel but he has been increasing his skill level every single day and he handled the difficult conditions extremely well today. It's going to be a tight battle tomorrow for the PHS titles.'"
In PHS Division 1, Greg NEWTON'S Beneteau 47.7 Antipodes enjoyed the booming conditions but it was close thing with Chris DURMAN'S Granny Apple finishing only seven seconds behind her on corrected time.
Granny Apple, the 1979 built Farr 37 only just missed out on representing New Zealand Admiral's Cup team. She won the PHS division in the 1997 Melbourne to Hobart and she's certainly has pedigree.
Durman commented, "We could have picked up 20 seconds at the start. It looks like out starts cost us the race. Well positioned but late across the start. We tacked with east but didn't follow most of the fleet."
Eye Candy started to leeward of Dark and Stormy Witch. Gavin WARD was steering and co-owner Chris DAWSON called the lay line to Solitary perfectly when Eye Candy was north of the gybe mark on the beach.
Trevor HANNAH (Strathfield Group Limited) sailing on Eye Candy explained "We were first to the island but Wadadli tacked inside us and led us towards Campbell's Beach by about a boat length.
"We both set our kites cleanly we had a 1.5 ounce we had winds of 22/23 and great surf as we got to the gybe mark we caught three waves in a row and sailed right through Wadadli.
"We managed to hold our lead to the finish but as we look back we could se that Dark and Stormy Witch was closing fast. She obviously had a great day and deserved to win."