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28 December 2002, 12:47 pm
Champagne Sailing on Day One
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Strathfield Pittwater and Coffs Harbour Offshore Series
Sydney, NSW

Sydney turned on perfect conditions for Line 7 Race Day One in the Strathfield Pittwater and Coffs Harbour Offshore Series on Palm Beach circle today.
The sun was out and the nor-east sea breeze was in, making for an ideal start to this seven race event. The premier race is the running of the 22nd Strathfield Pittwater to Coffs Harbour Yacht Race, which starts off Barrenjoey headland on the 2nd of January 2003.

Forty seven yachts faced the starter for two races. They were split between two fleets, being the IRC measurement handicap division and the PHS handicap division.

Jim King's Dark and Stormy Witch took overall honours in both races in the IRC division. In the first race, Ron Jones' Sydney 40, Sledgehammer sailed into second place with the leading Sydney 38 One Design Blue Sky owned by Michael Hill taking third. The second race of the day saw the new Northshore 369, Avanti owned by Ken Murphy finish just 6 seconds behind Dark and Stormy Witch to record second on IRC handicap in that race. The well sailed 50-footer Heaven Can Wait recorded a fourth and a third place on IRC.

The performance of the Murray designed 37-footer Dark and Stormy Witch may be an ominous sign, as she was the winner overall of the Strathfield Pittwater to Coffs Harbour Yacht Race on IRC handicap last year. For line honours, Heaven Can Wait produced two big wins by more than five minutes.

Dark and Stormy Witch's owner Jim King commented "We had a great team on-board to day and that made all the difference. The whole team was strong, but special mentions go to Nathan Ellis and our mainsail trimmer Peter Antill". Avanti recovered from 12th place in the first race, before recording her 2nd placing in Race 2. "We changed headsails, got a better start and had clean air. It made all the difference" said tactician Jason Rowed. Heaven Can Wait's helmsman Jamie Wilmot was pleased with his team's consistent day out "We were beaten twice by our good mates on Dark and Stormy Witch. It was a good hit-out in great conditions."

The PHS division saw the handicap honours shared around. Race 1 saw John Bacon's Flying Colours II come out on top ahead of David Thomas's Turkey Shoot with Gonenumbyet owned by John Lockwood in third place. Race 2 saw Midnight Oil, owned by Damien Charman and Heath Campbell emerge victorious over Ron Ellis's Elliot 56 Future Shock and Brian Saunders Beneteau 40.7 Fireball. Future Shock took line honours in both races by more than seven minutes.

The progressive overall results for the PHS division are very close between the top seven yachts. Future Shock helmsman Craig Ellis commented "We are relishing the opportunity to work up to the Pittwater to Coffs Harbour Race. We have not raced on the Palm Beach course before and we are adjusting to the conditions".

Principal Race Officer Denis Thompson was very happy with the conditions he had to work with. "Champagne sailing on a pristine day" said Thompson.

Not sailing this weekend are line honours favourites for the race to Coffs Harbour are the radical 60 footer Wild Oats and the Volvo 60 Andrew Short Marine. Bob Oatley's Wild Oats is planning a crew training day on Monday, whilst Andrew Short's team are surfing down the Tasmanian east coast in their Sydney 38 of the same name in the Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. His team are expected into Hobart in the early hours of Sunday, before they board an aeroplane back to Sydney in time for the start of the "Coffs Race" on the 2nd of January.

Andrew Palfrey/ISAF News Editor
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