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2 January 2005, 09:43 am
Targé Leads Wild Oats
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Strathfield Pittwater Coffs Race

With the drum of helicopters overhead, the sixty one boat Strathfield Pittwater Coffs race fleet hit the line in soft conditions off Barrenjoey. The starting gun cannon was fired by Matthew VIDLER from the Strathfield group as the sixty footers, Wild Oats, Targé, Andrew Short Marine and the new Vanguard, jostled for position on the start line.
Vanguard on the pin had the fastest start with more pressure, with the bulk of the fleet crowded at the committee boat end under Barrenjoey, having trouble getting away.

The Volvo 60 Andrew Short Marine, back from her Flinders Island retirement in last weeks Hobart race, also started well in the six to seven knot south-easter.

A record spectator fleet of at least 150 boats watched the racing fleet as they sailed a long and short leg upwind to the first mark.

On the upwind leg, Wild Oats looked slow to windward of Andrew Short Marine and Targé led her larger rival round the first mark by almost two minutes.

Much to the chagrin of winemaker Bob OATLEY his old boat Targé held the lead from his new Wild Oats, as the two leaders sailed back down into Palm Beach.

Targé was the first retirement from the 60th Hobart race, sailing into Botany Bay with water in her electrical systems.

Smarting from their Hobart disappointment, Iain MURRAY and owner Steven DAVID were looking for a much better race north and their two minute lead was an impressive start.

500 metres behind the leaders was Dick CAWSE'S new 60 footer Vanguard under a shy white spinnaker. Andrew Short Marine was another mile back, suffering in the very light conditions.

The rest of the fleet was spread right back up to the first Strathfield turning mark.

Vanguard and the boats behind her were bringing a light north-easter down the course towards the mark.

Spinnakers were soon popping up everywhere in mid-fleet.

Targé rounded the second Palm Beach mark with Grant SIMMER calling tactics at Iain MURRAY'S shoulder.

Clearly Simmer, the ex-patriate Australian, the Alinghi America's Cup sailing manager was enjoying handing a sailing lesson to Wild Oats helmsman Mark RICHARDS.

Wild Oats was in less pressure as she sailed round the clearing mark, heading towards Coffs Harbour.

Dick CAWSE'S Vanguard was next to round, tacking deep towards the southern headlands, then jinking round the mark and heading north. This is one of the slowest starts for many years.

The soft conditions were making it tough for the bigger boats, with 40 footer Marsim Weapon, the 45 footer Pretty Woman and incredibly the little 31 footer Cone of Silence, all ahead of 56 footer Future Shock.

With the nor-easter filling in, the Palm Beach was suddenly a mass of spinnakers.

The Sydney 38 fleet soon arrived in force, led by Rush.

The first radio sked is at 17.05 and will be posted on-line shortly after 18.00.

More reports and stories will follow throughout the race.

Rob Kothe
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