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Hobart Race winner aims for Gladstone    
Tue, 11 Apr 2006

Highly qualified Sydney ocean racing helmsman Michael Spies has experienced a number of exciting career highlights but has failed to record a Brisbane to Gladstone victory in his impressive log book.

Entries in his log book include co-skipper of Nokia when the power ocean sailing ‘skiff’ slashed the Rolex Sydney-Hobart race record with her 1-19-48-02 course time and 14.34 knot average speed in 1999 and steering First National Real Estate to an impressive outright win with the fastest corrected handicap course time in 2003.

His chase for further Hobart race honours in Sirromet Life Style Wine last year were shattered when he was forced to retire after a critical mast spreader relented while Bob Oatley’s Wild Oats, expertly helmed by Mark Richards, outpaced Nokia’s record by 1 hour 33 minutes 52 seconds.

The treasured Hobart Race performances will always remain as career highlights for the determined skipper Michael Spies, who has returned to chase the elusive honour of winning Queensland’s premier ocean race trophy, The Courier-Mail Cup, over the Easter Holiday weekend.

He has tried before, finishing second in his Hobart race champion First National Real Estate. 'Being near enough is never good enough and there is no satisfaction unless you experience the honour of victory including the traditional drink from The Cup', he said.

Skipper Spies and his capable crew are rated as a major contender, however they will be racing against a very competitive fleet including the 41 year old Gladstone sloop and four time race winner Wistari (Scott Patrick), 1968 Sydney Hobart champion Koomooloo (Mike Freebairn), and the sensationally fast Wedgetail (Bill Wild).

All of these equally determined ocean racing combinations possess the same desire to win, which paves the way for an interesting tactical battle to produce the race winning strategy, after the Lord Mayor of Brisbane Campbell Newman fires the start signal on Bramble Bay at 11 am on Good Friday.

There is never any love lost when Queenslanders are called upon to protect their sporting reputations and the champion New South Wales challenger Spies will be forced into a tactical ‘dog fight’ against his Queensland race rivals, in his personal bid to become the 58th winner of the historical Brisbane to Gladstone yacht race.

by Ian Grant

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