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6 March 2004, 10:15 am
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Joico Australian Offshore Championship

While soaking rain and a nasty sea state made sailing conditions near atrocious today the stage is set for a great finish to the Joico Australian Offshore and Sydney 38 OD championships off Sydney's Palm Beach.
With the final two races of the Sydney 38 series to be sailed tomorrow local sailors Cameron Miles and Steve Robson, sailing Rush, have set the height of the bar for their opponents in the Sydney 38 series.

But it's very much a different story in the Australian Offshore Championship. With two races remaining only five points separate four yachts - Game Set (Tony Kirby, NSW), Ichi Ban (Matt Allen, NSW), Quest (Bob Steel, NSW) and Ticket of Leave (Kevin Wood, Victoria).

And the Farr 40s, which joined the competition this weekend as part of the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club's annual Joico Regatta, are also facing a tense final day as they complete the build-up to next weekend's national championship.

The forecast gale did not eventuate today. Instead the fleet faced a widely fluctuating easterly wind that ranged from 8 to 18 knots, a grey blanket of rain and a confused sea that was by made worse by a fast flowing ebb tide from Pittwater and the Hawkesbury River.

Cameron Miles said after the racing that he'd never sailed in more testing conditions: "The rain was one thing, but I've never sailed in a worse sea. It was short, steep and nasty. You never felt confident that you had the boat going fast. All I can say is that anyone who beat us today did a bloody fantastic job."

Rush returned to the club with a fourth and ninth to its credit, the ninth being its worst place in the series. The only two boats with even a remote chance of unseating Rush from the top place - and that will only happen if the leader has two disastrous results tomorrow - are Victoria's Lou Abrahams sailing Another Challenge, and Cydon (Leon Christianakis, NSW). With each boat dropping their worst result they are on 40 points while Rush is on 25. Today Another Challenge scored a 1st and 11th while Cydon had a frustrating 9th and 12th places. Michael Hill's Blue Sky was the day's other winner.

In the Offshore Championship good crew work and a heavy hull displacement helped the Bavaria Match 38 production boat, Game Set, to 1st and 2nd places on corrected time. That elevated Game Set to 17 points, giving it a one point advantage on the table over Ichi Ban, which had a 2nd and 3rd. Quest and Ticket of Leave are another four points back.

In the Farr 40 Joico Cup event Melbourne's John Calvert-Jones returned to racing with Southern Star after a nine month absence and finished the day equal on points with Richard Perini's Corinthian Doors. Stephen Ellis's Buon Giorno is another point back in third. Calvert-Jones was more than pleased to have his regular tactician, Grant Simmer, sailing with him. Simmer is enjoying a brief break back in his hometown from his role as design coordinator for the Swiss defence of the America's Cup in 2007.

The combined fleets in the Joico Australian Championships and Joico Regatta takes the total number of competing yachts to more than 80. This makes it the largest weekend regatta ever staged by the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club.

The prestigious Italian watch brand Locman, and Holden, are associate sponsors of the Joico Australian Offshore Championship. Holden, a major supporter of Yachting Australia, is offering the chance for one lucky sailor at the regatta to win a weekend in the Hunter Valley driving a Holden Monaro.

This is the third year that Australia's leading professional haircare company, Joico, has been naming rights sponsor for a major annual regatta out of Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club.
Rob Mundle
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