It was the third year in a row that Pittwater skipper Mark RICHARDS greeted the dockside throng, having helmed the old Wild Oats to a race record in 2003. Last year, the same crew and boat had a race handicap win and now with the win on the new Wild Oats under their belt, it seems likely an overall handicap win is also on the cards.
Yesterday afternoon Wild Oats was in soft conditions behind Targé, the original Reichel Pugh 60 foot canting keel racer, but as the southern pressure increased the new boat swept into the lead.
Close behind, the Targé crew tried to hold ground, but try as they might, they could not keep pace with the power of the new Wild Oats.
Last night Targé was leading Bob OATLEY'S new 66 footer Wild Oats, but as conditions strengthen Wild Oats swept into the lead.
Fighting with their bigger rival, the Targé crew pushed their boat hard, but in quick fire succession they blew out their spinnaker inventory.
Dick CAWSE'S new Vanguard, a Lyons/Cawse 60, slide into second place with Andrew Short's battle hardened Volvo 60 Andrew Short Marine, following only a few minutes behind.
Last night around 8pm, there was less than five miles between the four leaders, but by dawn, surfing northwards in 25-30 knot southerlies, Wild Oats had powered away averaging an amazing 4 knots fast than her 60-foot rivals.
The large crowd that edged the pathway right to the top of Mutton Bird Hill watched the pocket supermaxi drop her huge asymmetric kite just outside the breakwater. She then wheeled into the Harbour and two sail reached to the line.
As she crossed the finish line, her red shirted crew worked hard in the 20-knot southerly breeze to drop the sails in the tight confines of the Harbour, but they still managed time to punch the air triumphantly.
Dockside Mark RICHARDS explained, 'It was a great night's sail. We worked very hard, not a single crewmember had any sleep. We had constant wind shifts and adjustments; we lost count of the maneuvers at 50.'
Two hours later, the crowd on Mutton Bird Hill saw the Volvo 60 Andrew Short Marine lead Vanguard towards Korfs Island. Andrew SHORT, helming his round the world racer, sailed well north before gybing towards the Harbour entrance, while Richard CAWSE sailed inside her, to take victory by less than two boat lengths.
Vanguard crossed at 12:43:51, 17 seconds ahead of Andrew Short Marine. Targé, was fourth at 13:22:17
Handicap results may not be finalised until late on Tuesday, when the smallest boats in the fleet finish, however Wild Oats does appeared to have taken the line honours and handicap double.
Next boat to finish, will be the smallest boat in the fleet, the 31 feet flier, The Cone of Silence, last years PHS winner.
She is less than 30 minutes from Coffs Harbour, outsailing 45-50 footers as her oversize purple asymmetric kite.
Skipper James NEIL was considering using a traction kite, the same kind that AAPT considered but did not use for the Hobart race.
It seems she did not need it anyway as she flies towards the finish line.
As the southerly breezes die away along the Coffs Coast this evening, it appears that Bob OATLEY'S Wild Oats is close to unbeatable on handicap in the 24th Strathfield Pittwater Coffs race.
Settling down to a nice Rosemount Chandonnay this evening Bob OATLEY must be pleased with the day's work.
Vanguard, Andrew Short Marine and Targé cannot improve their positions from dockside. It seems that only John BACON'S Hussy, now seven miles north of Nambucca Heads, has the slightest chance.
In IRC Division 2, Geoff PAYNE and his family have sailed Risk into the lead. She is four nautical miles east of Nambucca Heads ahead of John PAUL, Peter BYFORD and Steve AXIM'S Conspiracy, sailing alongside Anthony HOOPER'S The Bigger Picture.
In IRC Division 3, the Dark & Stormy Witch looks like she's doing it again. With Bruce STAPLES and Jim KING leading the Mumm 36 Georgia Express from Ian BOX'S Toy Box.
In PHS 1, The Cone of Silence will win, unless one of fleet still at sea can grow wings. Second is Craig ELLIS' Future Shock, followed by the Flying Fish entry Let Loose, still 3 miles north of Korogoro Point.
In PHS 2, Michael PHILLIPS Poppy leads from Richard BARON'S Northshore 38 Williyama with another Northshore, this a time a 370, Colin Well's Gusto third.
For the full sked.
Rob Kothe and Al Constable