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5 January 2006, 11:53 am
No Scenery At South Solitary For Today's Sailors
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Pittwater & Coffs Habour Offshore Series 2005-2006

It was 'hard' sailing, with 20 knot winds, heavy mist and lumpy seas for the 40 boat fleet in the Pelican and Nautilus Resorts Solitary Island race, part of the Pittwater and Coffs Harbour Series races in Australia.
Today's 20 mile race started just north of Mutton Bird Hill, sailed up to Pelican and Nautilus Resorts on Campbell's Beach, then up to South Solitary and back to the finish line, via the same route. By start time, the misty rain was increasing in strength with visibility of less than half a nautical mile, the scenic island passage race was not scenic at all. John MCCONAGHY sailed his McConaghy 46 Second Time Around to line honours in the Performance Handicap Division.

On the dock, still in full wet weather gear, he commented, 'Definitely a navigators race today, we did not see a thing. We had a good spinnaker start then we just had to hang on. We had 17-20 knots and very lumpy seas.'

In the IRC fleet Steven DAVID's Wild Joe cleared out from the pack and on the way back was the only boat to round the Campbell's Beach mark. With heavy seas breaking near the beach, the inflatable mark proceeded to drift onto the beach. The following boats rounded the old mark position using their GPS co-ordinates. Richard HUDSON's, Pretty Woman came in second ahead of Bill EBSARY's Beneteau 44.7 Le Billet.

EBSARY commented, 'It was hard work out there today, we couldn't see a thing and we were working off the plotter. The boats were all bunched at the Campbell's Beach mark on the way up and it was pretty exciting, ten boats overlapped when we went around. We two sail reached up to the island and then came back down with initially a shy kite, but then went back to two sail reaching.

'When we came around and found there was no mark we searched a little and sailed right up to the reefs before we turned for the finish line. We had a booming ride home. That was the best bit of the day.'

On Performance Handicap Overall, Greg NEWTON's brand new Beneteau 523 Antipodes in only her second race, won on handicap. NEWTON was pleased with the day. 'We only sailed the boat for half and hour before we'd sailed in the Pittwater to Coffs race so we were still discovering how to get the best out of the boat. Today we went out there ready to race hard.

'The breeze we had certainly helps get a 15 ton boat going. The new set of Rolly Tasker sails and the carbon laminate headsail gave us good speed. I think we won the race by not trying to put a spinnaker up on the way back from the Solitaries, most of the fleet had hoisted kites and then had to sail up to the mark with their jibs. We just blasted down the rhumbline.'

Two local Coffs Harbour boats both performed well today. Paul D'OLIVER and Stephen BROWN's B52 followed on from their good long race form, coming third in PHS Division A. B52 is a solidly built Sydney 41 that has raced to Hobart a number of times. D'OLIVER commented, 'We enjoyed the conditions today. Last year the boat was brand new and we were still learning how to sail it and now the crew is really used to the boat and we had a lot of fun.'

Also amongst the crew was local and regular on the boat, John WATSON from Fishburn Watson and O'BRIEN, Coffs Harbour solicitors. There were young sailors too. The youngest sailor in the fleet to sail the 25th Anniversary Pittwater to Coffs race was Michael D'OLIVER and another CHYC junior, 18 year old Sarah KERR, happily finished her first long ocean race yesterday. Darren DIGNEY who owns North Coast Engines, and another Coffs Harbour local, sailed his Farr 1104 Mistress Again into third place in PHS Division B behind Phillip HARVEY's Pucker Up and David THOMAS's Turkey Shoot.

DIGNEY said he enjoyed the strong conditions, 'We were a little late for the start but we kept our number 1 heavy and full main and we had plenty of speed. At the island the swell was up to 2.5 metres and we had 22 knots of breeze, so we had a pretty good surfing ride. A lot of fun even if we couldn't see the islands.'

Rob KOTHE (As Amended By ISAF)
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